INFONET 2021: E-ISSUE #1

Issue 0, 5/14/2021

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Session Drags On...But End May Be Close

The Iowa Legislature was scheduled to be in session for 110 days this year.  Today (May 14) Calendar with 110th Day (April 30) crossed out with red X, and 124th Day (May 14) circled in red.is the 124th day and there is still no agreement that will allow the session to end.  For baseball fans - the Iowa Legislature is in extra innings. 

That may be changing. After weeks of disagreement between the Republican-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate, there are signs that agreements may be starting to take shape.  It looks like legislators will be back in town next week (the week of May 17) to work on their tax bills, and the Appropriations Committee in the House will be meeting Monday morning to start the work of shutting the session down.    

Here is a quick rundown of where things are at this point in time:

  • Taxes:  The House and Senate each have their own tax plan (HF 893 & SF 619).  There are 22 areas where the two chambers are in complete disagreement and two where there are small differences. They agree on 14 things in the budget, including increasing funds for affordable housing and homeless programs from $3 million to $7 million, requiring private insurance (like Wellmark) to pay equally for services regardless of whether they are delivered via teleheath or in person (telehealth payment parity), increasing the number of families eligible for a child and dependent care tax credit to help pay for childcare from families earning $45,000 annually to $90,000, and making income tax cuts that were passed in 2018 go into effect in 2022 instead of waiting for state revenues to increase by 4%.  One area of dispute is the state two-year phase out of property taxes paying for the state's regional Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) System.  Last week, the Governor came out in favor of the Senate tax plan, putting the House into a difficult negotiating position.  

    • You can read details about the House Tax Plan and Senate Tax Plan (areas highlighted are where they are not in agreement).  This was not written by us, once its finalized we'll make sure to get you a "plain language" explanation!
  • Budgets:  Only two budget bills – Transportation and Administration/Regulation (with $100 million for statewide access to high speed Internet) are the ONLY budget bills that have been completed.  The other nine budgets cannot be finished until agreement is made on the tax bill (because they can't spend money without first knowing how much less money will be collected from the decrease in taxes).  The Senate-Governor compromise includes $400 million in tax relief, although about 25% of that reduction comes from property taxes.  Despite that, the House passed five budget bills last week in order to keep things moving.  Those bills were all just the House versions, not bills agreed to with the Senate. They were also all the bills the House was supposed to start this year (Agriculture/Natural Resources, Economic Development, Education, Infrastructure, Federal Block Grants).  The Senate will start Health/Human Services, Judicial Branch, Justice Systems, and Standings. Read more about what is in each budget here.

Below is a comparison of House & Senate budgets with Governor's requests.

  • Policy Bills:  There are still some bills out there that do not involve taxes or budgets; they are called policy bills.  These are bills that may be quickly thrown overboard if an agreement is made on taxes and spending, so if one of these is important to you, you may want to send your legislators a quick email (of course, if you don't like the bill, you might be happy that time will run out on it).

    • Landlord/Tenant Bill: (HF 866): Allows a landlord to move a person who requests a support/assistance animal to another unit if needed to accomodate other resident requests.  This is in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

    • Guardianship/Conservatorship Bills (SF 348): Another round of changes to guardianships and conservatorships, to fix some of the problems that arose from the last two years' changes. This is on the House Unfinished Business Calendar, so can be brought up for debate at anytime.
    • MH/DS Regional Boards (SF 461): If the tax bill passes with the buyout of the MH/DS regional system, this may be unnecessary.  The bill only allows county supervisors to vote on spending of tax dollars for regional MH/DS services; the rest of the regional governing board still votes on the plans and other items.  This too is on the House Unfinished Business Calendar ready for debate.
    • Occupational Therapist (OT) Licensure (SF 463): This bill establishes a licensure compact between other states and Iowa, so that if an occupational therapist is licensed in one of the states, they can practice in any of the states. This helps those communities on the border of Iowa, who may have more professionals working on the other side of the river or border.  It too is on the House Unfinished Business Calendar ready for debate.
    • Professional Licensure Review (SF 487):  Every job that is regulated and licensed by the state will get a review over the next five years if this bill passes; the Legislature would need to look at each license and decide if it needs to be licensed and if licensing standards should be lowered.  The Senate wants the licenses to end automatically after the review (called a "sunset"), unless the Legislature votes to keep it.  The House doesn't like that part, and does not think some of the more time-consuming parts of the bill should be applied to health care professionals like doctors, nurses, therapists, etc.  This bill is on the House Unfinished Business Calender, but its future is uncertain. There is still a lot of concern about this and it could be done without legislation through an interim review panel.

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Action Needed for Direct Care Worker Database

Iowa's direct care givers, health professionals, and other "essential workers" like public bus drivers all deserve praise for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They risked their lives and their family's health to make sure individuals with disabilities and older Iowans were supported.  Surveys tell us that many direct care workers were burned out before the pandemic began, and there are concerns Iowa will lose more of these important professionals.  Iowa CareGivers is an association that represents these direct care workers; they asked the Legislature to consider expanding the current Direct Care Worker Registry in the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, and create a public portal that would allow Iowans to search for caregivers that meet their needs.  That portal would also allow caregivers to work in various settings, without losing their credentials (so their training is "portable" and goes with them).  This was included in a bill (HF 692) that died during the second funnel deadline, despite having been voted unanimously out of the House Human Resources Committee.  

With just days left in the session, HF 692 may still have a chance. As state legislators now work on budget bills, there is a brief window of opportunity. There will be an amendment to the House Health/Human Services (HHS ) Budget filed. This simply means that HF 692 can be added to the HHS budget bill. We don't have an amendment number for you to reference yet, but if this is important to you, contact your legislators NOW! It could be debated in the House next week so there is no time to waste.

We have already prepared an email for you - just update it with your own personal reason why this is important, and click send!  Easy Peasy!


If you want to write your own message, here is some information: 

  • 3 Key Components of HF 692:
    • Expands Iowa’s Direct Care Worker Registry
    • Creates a Public Portal of Caregivers
    • Establishes Collaboration Between Departments to Streamline Health Workforce Data

 
Who Benefits:

  • Direct care workers by providing a place for the permanent keeping and portability of their various trainings or certifications, whatever those may be, so they don’t have to take the same training over and over again. Older workers, seasonal workers, college students, and people with disabilities may find employment opportunities by being part of the voluntary public portal.
  • People with disabilities, older Iowans, parents of children with disabilities, and family caregivers who are placed in dire circumstances when they can’t find caregivers with the needed skills and experience will have access to a public portal of caregivers who opt in, to enhance access to care/support and perhaps prevent premature institutional care (details will need to be worked out with the state, of course).
  • Health and long-term services and supports (LTSS) employers, experiencing serious worker shortages and sometimes high turnover, by enhancing the hiring and onboarding of new staff, and by also having access to a pool of workers to fill gaps.  Other employers benefit by having family caregivers supported (and not having to choose between caring for a family member & work).
  • State of Iowa by having more accurate and reliable direct care workforce data to help inform state plans on how to meet the growing demand for the health and LTSS workforce and be better equipped to respond to state emergencies such as COVID-19 and any future disasters. 

The Request:

  • Support an amendment to add language from HF 692 into the Health & Human Services budget bill, and if needed, vote to suspend the rules to allow this to happen. 

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June & July Capitol Chats Set

 

We've had a great time sharing information and hearing from you during our Capitol Chats this year, and the events aren't over yet! Even after this legislative session ends, we want to continue the advocacy conversations.  Join us throughout the summer to learn more about what happened at the end of this session, how you can keep advocating for yourself and others, and additional ways to get involved in the community. 

Upcoming Events 

Friday, June 4th | 11 AM 
Friday, July 9th | 11 AM 

If you plan to attend both events, you will need to register separately for each one.

Did You Attend a Previous Chat?  Let us know what you thought! Click the button below to share your feedback so we can continue sharing the best information and updates for our community. 

 

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Federal Update: Things are Happening in Washington DC

It took a pandemic to dislodge the gridlock in Washington DC, but it happened and there are a lot of bills that we'll be tracking for you over the summer.  We have a couple that we wanted to let you know about.

SENIOR CARE (TICKET TO WORK).  US Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the bipartisan Supporting And Empowering the Nation to Improve Outcomes that Reaffirm Careers, Activities, and Recreation for the Elderly (SENIOR CARE) Act (S.1476). This bill would get rid of the Ticket To Work Program's Medicaid age restriction to allow individuals with disabilities who are over the age of 65 to continue to work and keep their Medicaid coverage. Senators Portman and Casey first introduced the SENIOR CARE Act in 2019. 

   Plain language:

  • This bill would help older adults with disabilities to have Medicaid while still working.

   What it means to you:

  • Under current law, when individuals with disabilities reach 65, they are often forced to make a choice between their job and their Medicaid benefits. Unfortunately, the advantages of meaningful employment are not enough to offset the increased healthcare costs that would result from a loss of Medicaid benefits. While many individuals find meaning in their work well into their later years, the current system discourages workers with disabilities from staying on the job they enjoy.

   Action steps:

  • Contact Senators Charles Grassley & Joni Ernst to urge support by email here, or by calling the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
     

CARE OPPORTUNITY ACT. Representatives Bobby Scott (VA-03), Susan Wild (PA-07), and Susie Lee (NV-03) introduced the Direct Creation, Advancement, and Retention of Employment (CARE) Opportunity Act (H.R. 2999). This bill would invest more than $1 billion over five years in training for direct care workers. 

   Plain language:

  • This bill would help direct care workers get training.

   What this means to you:

  • This bill can be a part of the conversation about the $400 billion investment in HCBS as proposed in the American Jobs Plan.

   Action steps:

  • Learn more:

o   Fact sheet on the Direct CARE Opportunity Act.

o   Bill text of the Direct CARE Opportunity Act.

  • Email or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 (voice) or (202)224-3091 (tty) and ask to be connected to your Senators and Representative. 

o   You can find your Members of Congress on www.congress.gov.

o   Leave a brief message sharing the Home and Community Based Services and Competitive Integrated Employment are important to you. Ask to be updated on how the Member plans to vote on the Direct CARE Opportunity Act.

 

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