At week’ s end, congressional leaders reported uneven steps in their negotiations over the fiscal year 2011 budget, which is currently authorized by a continuing resolution only through April 8. Some House Republicans continue to push for significant budget cuts, with H.R. 1 their official starting point. That legislation, which the House passed but the Senate rejected last month, contains over $61 billion in reductions from current FY 2011 levels. If no agreement can be reached in time, the government would shut down after midnight on April 8. In the Senate, Democratic leaders signaled a somewhat more optimistic outlook, saying that work in progress there on a compromise would bear fruit in time to avoid a crisis. They pointed to negotiations under way by the House and Senate Appropriations committees and White House officials to craft a package with $33 billion in cuts. Leaders on both sides of the aisle have indicated their wish to avoid any more stopgap measures and to have a new agreement cover federal spending all the way through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2011.At week’ s end, congressional leaders reported uneven steps in their negotiations over the fiscal year 2011 budget, which is currently authorized by a continuing resolution only through April 8. Some House Republicans continue to push for significant budget cuts, with H.R. 1 their official starting point. That legislation, which the House passed but the Senate rejected last month, contains over $61 billion in reductions from current FY 2011 levels. If no agreement can be reached in time, the government would shut down after midnight on April 8. In the Senate, Democratic leaders signaled a somewhat more optimistic outlook, saying that work in progress there on a compromise would bear fruit in time to avoid a crisis. They pointed to negotiations under way by the House and Senate Appropriations committees and White House officials to craft a package with $33 billion in cuts. Leaders on both sides of the aisle have indicated their wish to avoid any more stopgap measures and to have a new agreement cover federal spending all the way through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2011.
In a published report, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said the Senate will proceed on its own schedule on reauthorizing the farm bill, which expires on Sept. 30, 2012. The legislation includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Stabenow said her committee would finish the bill as quickly as possible, but she will not promise to do so in 2012. She said she would "move this as responsibly and quickly as we can and work with our counterparts in the House."
In a reference to budget cuts that agriculture may face, Stabenow said that "…agriculture has already given. We have contributed $4 billion to the deficit" through the renegotiation of the crop reinsurance agreement. Last month, the House Agriculture Committee also said that agriculture programs have undergone recent cuts already but cited SNAP as something that could be considered for possible cuts. Stabenow made no comment about the nutrition title in her remarks. The House panel’ s chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), indicated in a March 15 budget views and estimates letter that the SNAP benefit increases passed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act might be reduced earlier than their currently scheduled expiration date of Nov. 1, 2013. The committee’ s Democratic members dissented, including Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who called again on March 28 for the SNAP program to remain off limits to further cuts. McGovern spoke at the press conference launching the Bipartisan Policy Center’ s Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative (see article below).
On March 28, the Bipartisan Policy Center launched the Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative, co-chaired by former secretaries of Agriculture Dan Glickman and Ann M. Veneman and former secretaries of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt and Donna E. Shalala. The initiative is taking aim at the more than one third of adults and 17 percent of children in the United States who are obese. The initiative plans to bring together key experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to identify opportunities for bipartisan collaboration on food, health and fitness issues. The effort will culminate in the release of a set of policy recommendations for the administration, Congress, and the private sector to consider. The initiative will also issue several white papers throughout the year and review potential opportunities to affect legislation, including the reauthorization of the farm bill and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The initiative will focus on four key issue areas: improving nutrition education; developing mechanisms to promote access to healthy food choices; the role of institutional players and opportunities for partnerships between the public and private sectors; and removing obstacles to increased physical activity. The first forum will be held on April 20, 2011, at the University of Miami. More details are posted at http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/projects/nutrition-and-physical-activity-initiative/about.
Effective April 1, Audrey Rowe was appointed administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service. She replaces Julie Paradis, who has retired. Paradis previously worked for the House Agriculture Committee, Feeding America, and at FNS during the Clinton Administration. Rowe, who previously was deputy administrator for special nutrition programs at FNS, is a former deputy mayor for human resources in New Haven, Conn.; commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Social Services; and commissioner of Income Maintenance for the District of Columbia. She also served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the National Urban League.
On March 25, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released final regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008. The ADAAA was passed on Sept. 25, 2008, and became effective on Jan. 1, 2009. The legislation made a number of significant changes to the definition of "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under them, the definition of disability under the ADA will be construed in favor of broad coverage to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA as amended, and the determination of whether an individual has a disability should not demand extensive analysis. The Amendments Act makes important changes to the definition of the term "disability" by rejecting the holdings in several Supreme Court decisions and portions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’ s ADA regulations. The effect of these changes is to make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA. To implement Congress’ intent regarding the definition of disability and the determination of whether a disability substantially limits a major life activity, two significant changes include:
- With one exception (ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), the determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures, such as medication or hearing aids.
- An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
For more information, see http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/adaaa_info.cfm
On Feb. 28, the Government Accountability Office published a report on the financial and available measureable constraints affecting the approximately 5 percent of the country’ s adults aged 60 and older receiving meal services and home-based care through Title III of the Older Americans Act. Title III is due for reauthorization in 2011 and the projections of the older adult population to become eligible for Title III services continues to grow; as a result, GAO was asked to look at the needs and potential unmet needs of home- and community-based service recipients; state agency utilization of funds toward the provision of these services; and how need and unmet need are measured by both the state and federal government. Many state agencies utilized funds made available through ARRA to fund Title III services; ARRA funds expire on June 30, 2011. GAO recommends that the secretary of HHS study the financial burdens of the implementation of cost sharing for these services and to provide guidance to states choosing to implement them. GAO also recommends that the secretary of HHS work with other federal agencies providing services under the OAA to develop consistent definitions of need and unmet need and to propose interim and long-term uniform data collection procedures to capture the types of needs of older adults receiving services through Title III. The full report is available at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-237.
This Week in Washington is published by the American Public Human Services Association each week Congress is in session and on other dates. Editors: Larry Goolsby and Amy Plotnick. Writers: Rashida Brown (child care and child welfare), Robert Ek (TANF and child support), Megan Lape (health), Bertha Levin (children and family services), Anita Light (children and family services), Nanette Relave (health), Alex Tenaglio (legislative intern), Gary Terpstra (SNAP), and Jessica Wiecezak (health).