This Week in Public Policy: February 22 - 26, 2021

This Week in Public Policy, written by DD Council staff person Paul Jarvis, provides a summary of policy and legislation in Ohio and at the federal level that is of interest to people with disabilities.

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In Ohio

On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee held SPONSOR Testimony on House Bill 31 (Accessible Parking). The bill would make changes to Ohio’s accessible parking law, including increases in penalties for violations, clarifying that person for whom a placard was issued must be in vehicle to be eligible for accessible parking, and would create a citizen enforcement group, among many other changes. There were several questions about how some of the bill’s new requirements would work in the real world, especially focusing on enforcement. 

On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services held a hearing on the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities’ budget proposal. Director Jeff Davis testified the budget proposal was a maintenance of effort that kept intact all of the new investments in DD programs that were made in the previous state budget. Following Davis’s testimony, the Subcommittee heard testimony from an invited panel of organizations, including the Ohio Association of County Boards of DD, the Ohio Provider Resource Association, the Arc of Ohio, and the Ohio Health Care Association. With the subcommittee’s hearing comes the introduction of the agency’s Red Book, a complete description of every program and line item in the Department’s budget, as introduced. Also submitting written testimony in support of the Department of Developmental Disabilities’ budget was I Am Boundless, Cleveland Sight Center, Groundwork Ohio and Creative Housing, Inc. The Subcommittee’s public comments on the budget were generally encouraging in regards to finding ways to improve the DSP wage. 

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, the Senate Health Committee held SPONSOR Testimony on Senate Bill 58 (Esther’s Law). The bill would allow electronic monitoring of a resident’s room for individuals living in long-term care facilities. Senators Nickie Antonio and Andrew Brenner provided comments on why they introduced the bill, clarifying during questioning that when some families ask to place cameras in their family member’s room in a nursing home, the facility tells the family it is against the law. Senators Antonio and Brenner indicated the bill would be a step forward on reducing elder abuse.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee held OPPONENT Testimony on Senate Bill 17 (SNAP Eligibility). The bill would make changes to the eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), create work and education requirements for certain Medicaid recipients (Medicaid Group VIII), add a photograph to SNAP benefit cards, and make other changes. There were 10 witnesses present to testify in opposition to the bill and written testimony was submitted by more than 30 other individuals and organizations. Organizations that testified or provided written opponent testimony included: Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Saint Paschal Baylon Catholic Church, Greater Cleveland Foodbank, Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland, Advocates for Ohio’s Future, Norther Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality, Local Matters, The Hunger Network, American Cancer Society, Secular Humanists of Lake Erie, American Heart Association, The Foodbank, INC, National MS Society, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Montgomery County Commissioners, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, West Ohio Foodbank, Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio, Oho Council of Churches, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network, American Diabetes Association, Ohio Poverty Law Center, Lutheran Social Services and LSS Food Pantries, United Way of Summit and Medina, Second Harvest Foodbank of North Central Ohio, Ability Center of Greater Toledo, Franklin County Commissioners, Ohio United Food and Commercial Workers, Community Legal Aid Services, Mid-Ohio Food Collective, Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, Human Service Chamber of Franklin County, Franklin County Auditor, Southeaster Ohio Legal Service, Ohio Bleeding Disorders Council, UHCAN, National Organizations for Rare Disorders, Policy Matters Ohio, Equitas Health and Four individuals representing themselves. Interested Party testimony was offered by the Ohio Job and Family Services Director’s Association, the Ohio CSEA Director’s Association, Ohio Domestic Violence Network, Community Legal Aid Services and the Center for Community Solutions.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services held a hearing on the Opportunity for Ohioans with Disabilities’ budget proposal. OOD Director Kevin Miller reminded the committee of Governor DeWine’s Executive Order encouraging employment of people with disabilities. Miller also reviewed the agency’s activities during the pandemic, creating opportunities for people to work via an “Urgent Jobs List.” The Subcommittee did not have a panel established for OOD’s budget. However, they did hear from a panel of aging organizations because Director Ursel McEllroy was scheduled to testify, but ended up not testifying. Also, the Red Book for OOD was released.

On Thursday, February 25, 2021, the House Finance Committee accepted a substitute Transportation Budget (HB 74 – Transportation Budget). Included in the substitute bill was more funding for public transportation ($193.7 million over the next two years). Other changes included in the bill is the elimination of registration fee increases, elimination of language that would have made distracted driving (while handling a cell phone) a primary enforcement offense (primary enforcement means a police officer can pull you over if they witness you violating the law). The increase in funding nearly matches the increase proposed in a bill introduced on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 by Rep. Michael Skindell (HB 141 – Public Transit Funding) that would have provided public transit funding of $100 million per year.

In Washington

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, the House Committee on the Budget passed HR 1319 (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021). This is the next round of COVID stimulus that includes a variety of other items. The House was expected to vote on the measure Friday afternoon, but at publishing time, this had not occurred yet. The $1.9 Trillion package includes a handful of items directed specifically at people with disabilities, including:

  • No new Subminimum Wage Certificates may be issued beginning on the effective date of the Act.
  • Phases in minimum wages, starting at $5 in year one, $7.50 in year two, $10 in year three, $12.5 in year four and $15 in year 5.
  • Appropriates $1.8 Billion for COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing and Mitigation Activities in Congregate Care Settings.
  • Increases FMAP for HCBS services from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. HCBS Services under this provision include:
    • Home health care services
    • Personal Care Services
    • PACE Services
    • 1915 and 1115 Waiver Services
    • Case Management Services
    • Rehabilitative services, including those related to behavioral health
    • Such other services specified by Secretary of HHS
  • Each state is required to implement the following in order to be eligible for the enhanced FMAP:
    • Increase rates for home health agencies, PACE organizations whose members provide direct care, and agencies or beneficiaries that employ direct support professionals (including independent providers in a self-directed or consumer-directed model) to provide HCBS.
    • Provide paid sick leave, paid family leave, and paid medical leave for home health workers and DSPs.
    • Provide hazard pay, overtime pay, and shift differential pay for home health workers and DSPs.
    • Reduce HCBS waiting lists
    • Purchase PPE
    • Recruit new home health workers and DSPs
    • Support family care providers with purchase of PPE
    • Pay for training for home health workers and DSPs specific to COVID
    • Pay for assistive technology, staffing, and other costs to mitigate isolation during COVID
    • Prepare information and public health and education materials about prevention, treatment, recovery and other aspects of COVID for individuals served by Area Agencies on Aging, Centers for Independent Living, non-profit HCBS providers, and other entities providing HCBS.
    • Pay for ASL and other interpreters to assist providing HCBS and inform general public about COVID.
    • Pay for retainer payments for HCBS providers, including home health workers and DSPs (regardless of whether such payments directly benefit a beneficiary).
    • Other expenses deemed appropriate by Secretary of HHS.
    • Support (including by paying for moving costs, first month’s rent, security deposits, etc.) transitions from institutional settings, congregate community settings, and homeless shelters or other temporary housing for individuals who are eligible for HCBS.
    • Assist eligible individuals in receiving mental health services and necessary rehab to regain skills lost during COVID
    • Assist eligible individuals who were forced to move to an institutional setting or nursing facility due to COVID to move back to their own home or to continue serving people who were served from a waiting list.

On Thursday, February 25, 2021, the Government Accountability Office issued a report entitled, “Low-Income Workers: Millions of Full-Time Workers in the Private Sector Rely on Federal Health Care and Food Assistance Programs.” The report finds that out of the 12 million wage-earning adults enrolled in Medicaid and the 9 million wage-earning adults enrolled in SNAP, roughly 70 percent are people who work full-time (35-hours or more) on a weekly basis and about half worked full-time on an annual basis. The report is pertinent to discussions at the Ohio level related to a large number of DSPs who work but are still eligible for Medicaid and other government assistance.

NEXT Week in Public Policy: March 1 - 5, 2021

In Ohio

On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the Senate Transportation Committee will hold ALL Testimony on House Bill 74 (State Transportation Budget). The hearing will take place at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Finance Hearing Room.

On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the Senate Health Committee will hold PROPONENT Testimony on Senate Bill 58 (Esther’s Law). The bill would allow families to install electronic monitoring systems into a family member’s room in a long-term care facility. The hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. in the North Hearing Room of the Ohio Senate Building.

On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee will hold SPONSOR Testimony on House Bill 2 (Broadband Expansion). The bill would provide grants to Internet Service Providers to install broadband services in un/underserved areas of the state. The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in the South Hearing Room.

On Thursday, March 4, 2021, the House Families, Aging and Human Services Committee will hold SPONSOR Testimony on House Bill 120 (Visitation in Long-Term Care Facilities). The bill would require long-term care facilities to grant access to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic if certain requirements are met. The hearing will take place at 11:00 a.m. in Room 116 of the Ohio Statehouse.

In Washington

On Tuesday, March 2, 2021, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, will hold a hearing entitled, “The Future of Telehealth: How COVID-19 is Changing the Delivery of Virtual Care.” Scheduled to testify are: Megan R. Mahoney, MD (Stanford Health Care), Ateev Mehrotra, MD (Harvard Medical School), Elizabeth Mitchell, President and CEO (Purchase Business Group on Health), Jack Resneck, Jr., MD (American Medical Association), Frederic Riccardi, President (Medicare Rights Center. The hearing will take place at 10:30 a.m. via Cisco WebEx. It will also be streamed live.

Upcoming Dates/Events

The DD Awareness and Advocacy Day is scheduled to be a VIRTUAL event on March 2, 2021. The event will still have a formal program beginning at 10:00 a.m. and offer advocates from across the state an opportunity to meet with their legislator via video chat throughout the day. Registration has closed for this event. The event will be live streamed on the event Facebook Page!!!

Facts That May Only Interest Me

In 1983, the city of Redondo Beach adopted a resolution declaring the Good Year Blimp as the official bird of the city. And speaking of weird bird laws, in Great Britain, all unclaimed swans officially belong to the Queen of England. In fact, during the third week of July, all the swans in the River Thames are counted during the Swan Upping.