After months of negotiations, the House passed a $1.75 trillion social policy and climate change bill called the Build Back Better Act. The act includes historic policy initiatives focused on the care infrastructure, combatting climate change, income supports and taxes, early childhood education, housing, and many more. The act has many exciting and historic proposals including steps towards universal health coverage, steps towards halving carbon emissions by 2030, universal preschool plans, etc.
Here is what the proposal would mean for people with disabilities and their families:
Home and Community-Based Services
$150 billion is being invested in Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) over 10 years to eliminate waiting lists for services and bolster pay for direct care workers. Additionally, the bill assists making the Money Follows the Person program permanent to help people with disabilities who want to leave congregate care and transition to live in their own home and community with the services and supports they choose.
Education and Child Care
The act would invest $390 billion in universal pre-school for all 3- and 4-year-olds. Additionally, $160 million is being invested in IDEA Part D (legislation that ensures students with disabilities are provided with free, appropriate, tailored education) to help develop training for personnel working with students with disabilities. $25 million is being invested for behavioral health needs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Under the universal preschool plan, parents will be able to send their children to a public school or childcare program of their choice. The effort is to ease financial burdens facing millions of families, particularly low-income parents with children. Moreover, States will need to create plans that prioritize increasing accessibility to inclusive childcare and pre-school programs for children with disabilities.
$150 billion investment in affordable housing supports, including funding for vouchers, rental assistance, and other public housing improvements. The proposed funding for new vouchers is estimated to help 138,000 people with disabilities receive affordable, accessible housing. The proposal also includes a $100 million investment in the Section 811 and 202 programs for people with disabilities and seniors to provide rental assistance to create more supportive housing.
4 weeks of guaranteed paid and medical leave for all workers, which will help people with disabilities take time off for medical reasons and will help family members to provide care for a loved one without risk of losing their job.
Child Tax Credit
Extending the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which provides more than 35 million households up to $3,600 per year in tax cuts per child; the proposed legislation will extend this program for the year of 2022, providing payments to nearly 90% of American children. The legislation includes permanent refundability for the CTC.
Earned Income Tax Credit
The act will extend the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for around 17 million low-wage workers, which will help low-wage childless workers, many with disabilities, who have previously been taxed into deeper poverty.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Reforms
The proposed text would extend SSI to residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, which would finally eliminate a critical gap in SSI coverage and provide access to hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities who live in U.S. territories.
The act would permanently expand Medicaid eligibility to millions of Americans who previously fell within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage gap; closing this coverage gap will allow up to 4 million uninsured Americans to gain access to coverage.
Other Disability Policy Proposals
The act includes disability employment supports, including funding for pre-apprenticeship programs and funding to businesses and organizations that are working to phase out programs that pay people with disabilities sub-minimum wage. It encourages transformation to competitive integrated employment and the phasing out of subminimum wage through providing grants to states. Additionally, investments would be made for Administration for Community Living grants to help expand community mental and behavioral health programs and funding for projects to upgrade the accessibility of public transportation services.
The proposals explained above could help improve the lives of millions of people with disabilities and their families. While it’s important that each of these proposals are well-funded, it is also important that in addition to proposals like this, we are actively transforming our systems to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. We must continue to work and strategize to identify flaws in these systems and create real and lasting change by thinking outside of systems solutions.
Written by Grace Seifert, State and Federal Policy Intern