INFONET 2021: Issue #5

Issue 5, 3/19/2021

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The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (aka "HUD") has a program called the "Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program" to help very low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities afford rental housing.  The Arc estimates that one in three individuals using these vouchers are people who are not elderly and have a disability. Nationally, two out of every three people using these housing choice vouchers are either elderly or have a disability.

The voucher program is an important program to Iowans with disabilities, helping them live in the community.  As The Arc notes, "Being part of the community and living as independently as possible are among the most important values and goals shared by people with disabilities, their families, and advocates. A home of one’s own – either rented or owned – is the cornerstone of independence for people with disabilities."

Some Iowa communities passed local laws (called ordinances) to stop landlords from discriminating against people who use these vouchers to pay their rent.  Iowa City, Des Moines, and Marion have all adopted these laws, and others have been considering it.  Unfortunately, the Iowa Legislature has chosen to pass a bill (Senate File 252) telling cities and counties they cannot adopt these local laws.  In other words, the bill allows landlords to refuse to rent to anyone using a housing voucher.  Since one in three voucher users are people with disabilities, this has a big impact on their ability to find safe and affordable housing in their community.

The bill passed on a party-line vote in both the House and Senate.  The Governor has only three days to sign a bill into law once she has received it, so if you are concerned about this, now is the time to act!  

  • You can see how your legislators voted here.
  • You can watch the recording of the debates here: House & Senate.
  • You can ask the Governor to veto this bill and stop it from becoming law here.

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This time of the legislative session some bills move very fast, and others just seem to suddently stop as if they are stuck in mud.  That is exactly what the funnel (deadline) process is all about; killing bills that are slow-moving or at a standstill, and keeping a focus on those that have the legislature's attention.  We wanted to let you know where some of these bills are as of March 19, to give you time to advocate for them before the April 2 deadline hits.

The following bills are already safe from the funnel and have a good chance of passing:

  • Companion bills (HF 839 & SF 583) that set up a process to report financial exploitation of a person who is older or has a disability (when a caregiver or someone you know uses your money without your permission, or manipulates you into giving them your money). 
  • Companion bills (HF 796 & SF 390) fund the Governor's plans to bring high-speed (broadband) Internet to all areas of Iowa, including plans to make access affordable.
  • Bills that offer two slightly different ways to give people with disabilitis new savings options. SF 527 allows someone other than the person with a disability to establish an ABLE Account in their name, and manage that account for the person with a disability.  HF 835 goes further and allows people to convert their Special Needs Trusts or Supplemental Needs Trusts into an ABLE Account and protects them from Medicaid recovery after the person dies.  Sen. Mark Costello is the floor manager for SF 527, and Rep. Megan Jones is the floor manager for HF 835.
  • HF 843, which addresses service animals, is safe from the funnel because it was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee (deadlines don't apply to bills coming out of this committee).  The bill just requires a person's request for a service animal accommodation be reasonable and allows a landlord to move the tenant in order to accommodate others (i.e. if an existing tenant has a severe allergy to the animal, the landlord may move the person making the animal request in order to accommodate both tenants).  

The following bills are in good shape to beat the funnel deadline; they have passed one chamber and just need to be voted out of committee in the next two weeks:

  • HF 263 caps cost sharing for insulin at $100/month, but does give insurers some room to increase that based on dosage needed and for some of the more expensive options.  This bill is in the Senate Human Resources Committee.
  • HF 294 requires insurers to pay equally for mental health services delivered in-person and virtually via telehealth. This bill is in the Senate Human Resources Committee, but is facing a lot of opposition in the Senate.
  • HF 604 requires the Department of Education to work with local schools, teachers, and parents to develop literacy language tools, resources, and specialized development plans to help students who are deaf or hard of hearing. This bill is in the Senate Education Committee.
  • HF 707 requires sign language interpreters to be present at all legal proceedings involving individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. This bill is in the Senate Appropriations Committee, but has a subcommittee scheduled to review the costs associated with this requirement (estimated at $500,000).
  • Schools with students who have epilepsy or a seizure disorder would be required to train any staff member that has direct supervision of these students on seizure management and response protocols if HF 795 passes. This billi is in the Senate Education Committee.
  • Only the elected county officials serving on MH/DS Regional Boards would be allowed to vote on the spending of tax dollars under SF 461.  This bill, which is in the House Human Resources Committee, is the original intent of the regional board system.  Other board members will still vote on services and plans; it's just the actual votes to SPEND the money have to be from elected county officials

There are several bills that are facing an uphill (but not impossible) climb to beat the April 2 deadline.  These bills are still awaiting debate in their original chamber; they must be debated and get through the other chambers' committee process in the next two weeks.  They will need some extra advocacy to make that happen.

  • HF 492 is in the House ready for debate, but it's not on the debate list yet.  This bill, which passed the House unanimously last year before getting stopped by the COVID shutdown, requires all modern Interstate rest areas to have an adult changing station available.  Rep. Ann Meyer is the floor manager.
  • HF 692 asks stakeholders to get together to develop an implementation plan and budget to create a public portal and centralized database of direct care workers.  Decades in the making, this bill is stuck in the House. Rep. Mike Bergan is the floor manager.
  • HF 784 requires all health care services (not just mental health) to be reimbursed equally, whether delivered in person or via telehealth.  It's facing a lot of opposition in the Senate, so that may be the reason the bill's floor manager (Rep. Joel Fry) has not yet been asked to bring the bill up for debate.

If one of these bills matters to you, remember you can use our Action Center to let your legislators know what you think. 

Remember - silence means everything is okay! 

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In his weekly blog post, Bill Kallestad, the Iowa DD Council's public policy manager, gives some important advice for advocates:

It is important to GIVE THANKS when you send a letter, make a phone call or meet in person -- tell legislators that you are thankful for their time, thank them for listening to you and finally show appreciation for the difficulty of their job.  Advocacy at its best is working together, appreciating one's contribution is a sign of respect. Always express your gratitude!

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President Signs New Relief Package

This week, Congress passed and President Biden signed a $1.9 TRILLION package to help respond to the economic impact of COVID-19. The following information is from the Center for Public Representation

American Rescue Plan Act and Disability Priorities
Last updated: March 11, 2021
On March 10, Congress passed new coronavirus relief legislation, the American Rescue Plan Act. The bill is slightly different than the version that the House passed on February 27. A comparison of the final version of the bill and the original version can be found here.  Please note that this is a non-exhaustive list that will continue to be updated as the legislation is reviewed. You can find additional information on the American Rescue Plan Act here.

What’s in the bill?

  • Dedicated funding for home and community based services (HCBS) - federal funding for HCBS will increase by 10% until March 31, 2022.
  • Additional federal Medicaid funding for mobile crisis intervention services.
  • Additional federal Medicaid funding for states that have not yet expanded Medicaid that choose to do so.
  • Medicaid coverage of COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and treatment.
  • Funding for infection control in nursing facilities, including funding for strike teams.
  • Additional nutrition assistance.
  • Additional education funding.
  • Includes dedicated funding for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Emergency rental assistance and aid to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
  • Funding for substance use prevention and treatment, suicide prevention, and community mental health services, and homelessness services.
  • $1400 “recovery rebate” payments, which are direct payments meant to provide financial assistance to people during the crisis. Adults with disabilities who are claimed as dependents are eligible to receive these recovery rebates. However, they were not eligible for recovery rebate payments included in prior coronavirus relief packages and will not receive retroactive eligibility for those payments
  • Expansion of income-based subsidies to purchase qualifying health insurance through Affordable Care Act marketplaces.
  • Extension of supplemental unemployment compensation.
  • This bill provides an additional $300 per week in unemployment compensation until September 6, 2021.
  • Funding for state and local governments to help with crisis response.
What's NOT in the bill?
  • Additional general federal funding for states’ Medicaid programs.
  • Inclusive paid sick and family and medical leave. Instead, the bill extends tax credits to employers who voluntarily provide leave through September of 2021.
  • Increased funding for Social Security and SSI.
  • Hazard pay for direct care workers.
  • Data collection on demographics for testing, infections, and death from both federal agencies and states that includes disability status.
  • 90-day refills of prescriptions and medical supplies - The CARES Act did include this for Medicare, but not for Medicaid, CHIP, or private insurance or people with disabilities who rely on controlled substances and this bill does not expand on that coverage.
  • Disaster relief that is responsive to the needs of the disability community, which will be disproportionately impacting by additional disaster events that occur during the COVID19 pandemic, as in the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act (S. 1755) and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) (HR. 3215/S. 1754)

You can see this in PDF here. 
You can read more about this here.
You can read the Capitol DIspach article on Iowa's share of this here. 

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The Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council believes all Iowans with disabilities, as well as their families, should be included in the communities where they choose to live. To achieve this vision, they have developed a five-year plan that outlines their goals and the ways they aim to create positive change throughout Iowa. Visit their website to read the plan and share your thoughts:

The opinions of the community are very important to the Iowa DD Council, so they are also hosting several events to discuss this plan and get feedback from the public! The dates and registration links are posted on their website:

Additionally, if you would prefer to receive a copy in the mail or set up a time for the DD Council to meet with your organization privately, please contact them at or 800-452-1936. Alternative formats are also available upon request. 

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Be sure to join us for our next two virtual Capitol Chats on Friday, March 26 and Friday, April 23.  More than 40 advocates joined us for the second Capitol Chat to talk about everything from the future of ABLE transfers to telehealth and Medicaid.  

Click here to register for all the remaining Capitol Chats (if you haven't already):
Friday, March 26 @ 11 a.m.
Friday, April 23 @ 11 a.m.

You can watch the last two Capitol Chats on the ID Action YouTube Channel.

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Bills that survived the funnel include the bill making clarifying changes made last year to the Consumer Directed Attendant Care (CDAC) program, a bill moving the state forward in the development of mental health crisis stabilization programs, the MH/DS redesign technical bill, and anti-bullying legislation.

Check out these and other disability-related bills that survived the funnel  - click here to go to our Bill Tracker.

Status has been updated - all bills that didn't make the second and final funnel deadline have been made "inactive."  You can still look at these "inactive bills" in our bill tracker. Status is updated daily, so come back often!

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