by Shannon McCracken, Vice President of Government Relations, ANCOR
While the new year has not exactly been the reset button we all hoped it would be, it has certainly ushered in some significant changes and opportunities with a new presidential administration and the 117th Congress. President Biden and the Democtatic majorities in the House & Senate have coronavirus and economic recovery at the top of their to-do lists. Similarly, ANCOR’s most immediate priorities focus on vaccine allocation and the financial sustainability of providers through and beyond the pandemic.
From post-election through the inauguration, our team has worked to establish relationships with the incoming administration and within Congress as staffers and appointees settle into new committee roles or shift from the majority to minority or vice versa. Through it all, our work remains focused and nonpartisan. It is encouraging to see some friends we worked with in the Obama era back in roles well-positioned and well-informed on disability issues.
With the Biden administration, circumstances require us to immediately address COVID-19 pandemic-related issues around vaccine allocation, delaying the implementation and penalties of EVV, extension of retainer payments and encouraging the continued use of technology beyond the public health emergency. We are still able to focus on our specific longer-term asks that would improve long-term services and supports and improve quality outcomes in Medicaid.
With the 117th Congress, we also are addressing COVID-19-specific issues in the form of targeted funding in the current American Rescue Plan Act, which includes a 7.35% FMAP bump dedicated to HCBS programs, expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program, and $350 billion for state and local governments. The latter provision would help fill budget shortfalls that might otherwise trigger cuts to Medicaid services.
Meanwhile, our longer-term goals include:
Reintroduction the bipartisan “SOC Bill,” the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act. Initially introduced in the 116th Congress, this legislation would direct the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to create a designated Standard Occupational Classification for DSPs.
Establishing pipeline initiatives that recruit, train and retain DSPs.
Expanding access to HCBS.
Our team has begun laying the groundwork for these priorities and some of them are well underway, as in the American Rescue Plan Act that, if passed, will provide much needed relief as we get closer to the end of this unprecedented pandemic. Nevertheless, the bulk of our work still lies ahead of us!
We love it when you, our members, ask how you can assist in moving the agenda items forward and over the finish line! The answer to this question lies in our grassroots advocacy.
Grassroots advocacy is about strength in numbers. When we harness that strength to influence and create action, we are most effective, as evidenced by our successful #ForgottenFaces campaign in 2020! Grassroots activities we rely on our members for include reaching out to lawmakers via our action alerts, spreading messages by sharing content on social media posts, writing letters or making phone calls to your legislators, participating in virtual congressional visits, participating in virtual town halls and more. In 2020 alone, more than 55,000 of you sent more than 193,000 emails, Tweets and calls and participated in 20 virtual town halls!
If you’re already taking these actions, we want to thank you and we look forward to your continued support in 2021. If you’re looking for ways to get more involved in shaping policy and affecting change, I encourage you consider joining the Government Relations Committee and to participate in the robust conversations among members on the ANCOR Connected Community.
Shannon McCracken is the Vice President of Government Relations at ANCOR. She can be reached at [email protected].
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