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CFILC Issues

Core to the mission of Independent Living Centers is advocacy! The members of CFILC develop positions regarding issues that impact people with disabilities, and we join our allies in advocating for access and equal opportunities for people with disabilities. To learn about the current issues see below, please contact Henry Contreras, CFILC's Public Policy Director.

CFILC Letter of Opposition: American Health Care Act (AHCA) March 10th, 2017

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and the disability community as a whole are carefully monitoring congressional legislation to block grant or cap Medicaid and to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We are also concerned that these proposals are being fast-tracked without careful and deliberate consideration about the extreme negative effects most of proposals would have on the health and lives of people with disabilities.

CFILC is a membership association representing 21 Independent Living Centers (ILCs) in California that provide programs and services to over 100,000 people with disabilities annually.

We strongly oppose the AHCA proposals that repeal or phase-out many of the ACA's essential provisions, including the individual and employer mandates, the 10 Essential Health Benefits, Medicaid expansion, and most importantly, the Community First Choice Option (CFCO).

We oppose the AHCA proposals that would repeal the ACA's subsidies and replace them with age-based tax credits. There are proposals to introduce continuous coverage requirements and create a Patient and State Stability fund that states can use for a variety of activities, including the creation of high-risk pools. The legislation essentially pays for these changes, plus millions in tax cuts, by restructuring Medicaid into a per-capita cap system, which will result in drastic cuts that will increase exponentially over time.

Proposals to Cut and Place Caps on Medicaid: Funding caps on the Medicaid program would be devastating to people with disabilities. We ask that you carefully evaluate how this would impact your constituents and people throughout the nation.

Medicaid is a program that provides health care services and long-term services and supports (LTSS) that maintain the health, function, independence and well-being of 10 million enrollees living with disabilities and their families. The ability to access essential and timely health care can be a matter of life or death.

Block granting, per capita caps, or significant cuts to the Medicaid program would shift huge costs onto states and consumers. They would inevitably lead to drastic reductions of Federal support for Medicaid and a projected 25 to 40 percent cut over 10 years. States that are currently in fiscal crisis would be unable to absorb additional expenses to sustain their Medicaid program. Instead, they would be forced to shift costs to consumer or cut services and eligibility for their growing and aging population.

We are equally concerned that state funding shortages would worsen over time. The gap between actual costs and available Federal funding would also steadily increase and put states in an ever-increasing bind to cover these differences. It is critically important to understand that people with disabilities and older adults typically have the most extensive health care needs and rely upon important coverage for optional Medicaid services. They are the most likely candidates for cuts in services and eligibility.

People with disabilities would also be at-risk of losing access to Assistive Technology. Medicaid is one of the largest providers for a wide range of Assistive Technology devices and technology to live independently and work in their communities as a viable alternative to significantly more costs institutionalization in nursing homes and other institutions.

Opposition to the Repeal of the ACA's Protections for People with Disabilities: CFILC urges you to carefully analyze proposed health care reforms from the disability community's perspective. The ACA's health care reforms made significant progress in expanding access to health care for people with disabilities. They incorporated consistency with long-standing core principles that include:

Non-Discrimination: People with disabilities of all ages and their families must be able to fully participate in the nation's health care system;

Comprehensiveness: People with disabilities and their families must have access to benefits that provide a comprehensive array of health services, including behavioral health, rehabilitation and habilitation, assistive devices, LTSS, and services across all service categories and sites of service delivery;

Continuity: People with disabilities of all ages and their families must have access to health care that responds to their needs over their lifetimes, and provides continuity of care that helps treat and prevent chronic conditions;

Appropriateness: People with disabilities and their families must be assured that comprehensive health, rehabilitation, and LTSS are provided on the basis of individual need, preference, and choice;

Equity: People with disabilities and their families must have equitable access to health coverage programs and not be burdened with disproportionate costs; and

Efficiency: People with disabilities and their families must have access to health care that is effective and high quality with a minimum of administrative waste.

The ACA made significant progress in expanding access to health care in ways that were aligned with these principles. States were given flexibility to expand their Medicaid program to childless adults earning up to 138% of poverty that has helped millions of Americans, including people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. These Federal contributions expanded Medicaid's ability to help additional enrollees without harming existing programs that provide supports and services to people with disabilities.

In addition, the ACA's reforms in the private sector enabled people with disabilities and chronic conditions to obtain affordable access to private health insurance which was the first opportunity to do so for many. Among other things, the ACA expanded mental health parity provisions, created health insurance market places, and improved accessibility to medical diagnosis equipment.

The ACA also expanded access to LTSS by creating the Community First Choice Option that allowed states to provide participant-directed home and community-based attendant services and support as part of their state Medicaid program. It also provided enhancements to the state plan home and community-based services option, extended Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration, and created the Balancing Incentive Program to give incentives for states to increase access to non-institutional LTSS.

There are numerous provisions in the ACA that are important for people with disabilities. It has unquestionably improved access to care for people with disabilities and chronic conditions to help them live healthy, independent, and full lives.

For all of these reasons, we ask you to oppose the American Health Care Act which eliminates protections for people with disabilities and puts at risk existing access to comprehensive and affordable coverage.

Respectfully,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc:
Ana Acton, Chair, CFILC Board of Directors
Sheri Burns, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Joins With Countless Other National Disability Organizations to Protect Health Care January 10th, 2017

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers joins with the Consortium for with Disabilities and the National Council on Independent Living and countless other disability organizations throughout the nation to:

ACT TODAY TO PROTECT HEALTH CARE

Congressional leaders have declared that one of their first goals in the new Congress is to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) and “replace” it. While Congress has passed many bills to repeal the ACA in the past, it was clear that President Obama would veto them. But this is not the case with President-elect Donald Trump who says he will sign an ACA repeal bill.

The Senate is planning to pass a budget that will begin the process of repealing the ACA as soon as JANUARY 11. This is the first step in taking health care away before having a plan to replace it.

We must educate our Members of Congress before January 11th about why the ACA is so important to everyone, but especially to people with disabilities. There are key provisions in the ACA that support the health and well-being of people with disabilities that we cannot lose:

• Because of the ACA, health insurers can't deny you health insurance if you have a disability or chronic condition.

• Because of the ACA, there aren't arbitrary financial limits to how much health care you can get in a year or in your lifetime.

• Because of the ACA, more people with disabilities receive supports and live in the community, not institutions.

• Because of the ACA, 20 million adults and children now have health insurance, thanks to the Medicaid Expansion and the health insurance subsidies, and millions of young adults have been able to stay on their parents’ health insurance.

• Because of the ACA, health insurers started to provide people with the services they need—like mental health services and rehabilitation and habilitation services and devises

There are countless other provisions in the ACA that are important to people with disabilities. The ACA has unquestionably improved access to care for people with disabilities and chronic conditions to help them live healthy, independent, and fulfilling lives. Learn more here.

TAKE ACTION

Call the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator’s office. Tell your Senator:

• Vote NO on the Budget package that leads to eliminating the Affordable Care Act.

• People with disabilities need access to comprehensive and affordable health care.

• Congress must include the disability community in any discussion about repeal and replace to ensure that any changes meet the needs of people with disabilities.

SAMPLE TWEETS TO YOUR SENATORS

Vote NO on Senate budget. People w #disabilities rely on #ACA for comprehensive health care http://bit.ly/2jjeZau

Affordable Care Act = affordable comprehensive care for people w/#disabilities. Don’t repeal it! http://bit.ly/2jjeZau

11 million at risk of losing Medicaid if #ACA repealed http://kaiserf.am/2gacF4c

CFILC Post-Election Statement November 29th, 2016

Our nation’s recent and unexpected presidential election results will lead to a great deal of unknowns for people with disabilities. It is too soon to determine the exact impact the new administration will have on disability rights and the Independent Living Movement, but we can look to the divisiveness in the campaigns, and the current fear and protests to understand that we have a lot to be concerned about.

The Disability Rights Movement is a civil rights movement for everyone. Anyone who lives long enough will experience some sort of access or functional limitation in their lifetime. We value and derive power from the fact that we are everywhere. Our community crosses all lines, and the “disability vote” was cast for all candidates.

As a movement created by, for and about people with disabilities, this election offers us the opportunity to reflect on the diversity of our experiences as a community, our intersections across communities, and the critical aspects of independence and interdependence in our daily lives.

The disability community prides itself on doing things differently, adapting to change and getting on with living our lives. Our movement was founded on liberty, freedom, justice, and human rights. We will not allow fear, discrimination or hate to tear us down or pull us apart.

The presidential campaign drew upon deep chasms of dissatisfaction with our political system—one in which many voters sought change after years of feeling forgotten, lied to, neglected and ignored. Many people in America are feeling the sting of ableism, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-semitism, ageism, religious persecution and anti-immigration sentiments that emerged as a result.

The Disability Community suffers from the stigma of being mocked, and the denial of opportunities for education, employment, transportation, housing and healthcare. Our money is often turned away due to a lack of access in storefronts, hotels and restaurants. It is simple to see that we have a long way to go to achieve true access, equality and independence in America.

The battle for independence, economic justice and the alleviation of poverty lies in the road to employment. Yet the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities is a dismal 20% compared to 68% for people without disabilities. The poverty rate of people with disabilities is 28% compared to 12% for the non-disabled. Clearly, we have work to do!

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) is doubling down on our values of community, inclusion and justice. We commit to protecting and promoting policies, programs and services that increase access and equality for people across all disabilities, ages and ethnicities, sexual identities, genders, citizenship and religious beliefs. We commit to connect our agenda to like communities to build our power and help define the policies and programs that will impact our lives, and lead us to true independence, freedom and equality.

We remain resolved to ensure that nothing about us, happens without us!

CFILC Letter of Opposition Unless Amended: SB 2002 (Monning) - End of Life Options Act May 20th, 2016

Dear Senator Monning:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am writing to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Senate Bill 1002 and have voted to take a formal OPPOSE, UNLESS AMENDED on this well-intended bill that is follow-up legislation to the End of Life Option Act (AB x2 15; Chapter 1, Statutes of the 2015-15 2nd Extraordinary Session) that authorized eligible adults with terminal illnesses to make a request for, and self-administer, end-of-life prescription medications.

SB 1002 would require the State Department of Public Health to post a toll-free telephone number on its Internet Website for the purposes of receiving and responding to inquiries in multiple languages regarding the Act. The bill further specifies that the telephone number may be an existing one staffed by the department or an existing one of another state department with consumer assistance telephone lines. Finally, it requires the telephone line to follow prescribed protocols for responding to callers in crisis.

As you are aware, CFILC and other disability rights advocacy organizations strongly opposed your SB 128, as well as its successor legislation, AB X2 15, that enacted the End of Life Options Act. We and our allied partners expressed concerns that the Act could lead many people with disabilities to be subjected to errors, undue pressure, or abuse in making these irreversible decisions to end their lives. Furthermore, we argued that the Act lacked any essential safeguards to prevent such negative outcomes.

Nevertheless, CFILC appreciates the fact that it is your intention to utilize SB 1002 as a vehicle to reduce these potential threats by establishing the informational, neutral telephone line. We support providing accurate and unbiased information about all of the factors and considerations related to an individual’s decision-making in this regard, if they elect to do so.

Turning next to the disability community’s recommendations to further refine SB 1002 to protect consumers, we support and respectfully encourage you to agree to accept additional proposed amendments that disability community advocates have submitted for your review. The proposed amendments would incorporate essential safeguards to ensure that the toll-free telephone line is utilized as an effective public clearinghouse of information about the Act. It is possible that CFILC could move to a neutral or support position if the amendments are adopt.

It is our hope that you will give serious consideration to these amendments, as well as others that may be proposed to ameliorate potential threats. We greatly appreciated your past efforts to reach out to the disability community to take our issues of concern into consideration after you introduced SB 128. While we continue to oppose the End of Life Options Act, we appreciate the fact that you are making a good faith effort to address our some of our public policy concerns.

Thank you in advance for reviewing this letter.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: SB 946 (Leyva) Pupil Attendance - Service on Precinct Boards May 20th, 2016

Dear Senator Leyva:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Senate Bill 946 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation that may encourage more youth to become involved and regularly participate in the electoral process.

The Office of the Secretary of State is the sponsor of this bill and views it as an opportunity to encourage and recruit eligible students to volunteer to help staff voter polling sites. California’s county election officials are responsible for recruiting over 80,000 poll workers to staff over 20,000 polling places across the state for every election. Many of these officials rely upon high school student volunteers to meet these important needs.

SB 946 would facilitate the recruitment of these students by authorizing the calculation of school financing average daily attendance (ADA) for students who volunteer to participate in these activities. More specifically, it would deem a student serving in a member of a precinct board for an election to be participating in independent study for no more than 5 consecutive days for purposes of counting his or her school’s ADA. This would allow the school district to continue to generate state apportionment payments for the student’s absence.

Encouraging students with disabilities to become more active in civic engagement is one of CFILC’s public policy priorities because it is a vital component of protecting their civil and constitutional rights. This is especially important given the overall, ongoing trend of very low voter turnout for students with and without disabilities. A recent report estimated ed that only 52 percent of eligible Californians aged 18-24 are registered to vote and that only 8.2 percent actually voted in the latest statewide election.

Research has also indicated that there is a strong relationship between a student’s high school civic education experience and their future political participation into adulthood. SB 946 acknowledges these trends and seeks to encourage more students and school districts to be part of these practical civic engagement activities.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue. We look forward to working with the bill sponsor and your office in moving SB 946 through the legislative process.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 2866 (Gatto) Autonomous Vehicle Pilots May 20th, 2016

Dear Assembly Member Gatto:

On behalf of the 24 member organizations of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC), I am writing to inform you that we are in SUPPORT of your Assembly Bill 2866. This bill will require the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to adopt regulations setting forth requirements for the testing and operation of a fully autonomous vehicle using technology that does not require the physical presence of a driver.

AB 2866 will ensure that California is remains competitive with other states in supporting the continued development of this unique and emerging technology. This will enable California to reap the economic and public safety benefits of autonomous vehicles and to provide new options for accessible transportation for people with disabilities.

In December 2015, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) proposed draft regulations that would effectively eliminate incentives for manufacturers to proceed with research and development on fully autonomous vehicle technology within California. For example, the proposed draft regulation would require the presence of a licensed driver to be present at all times and would therefore only authorize semi-autonomous vehicles. Another proposed regulation would require the installation of gas and brake pedals a steering wheel, the need for which would be rendered obsolete in a fully autonomous vehicle that is operated and controlled by advanced computer technology.

CFILC and other disability rights advocacy organizations strongly believe that the promulgation of these provisions, if finalized, will function as a de facto ban on the continued development of fully autonomous vehicles. If high tech companies that are currently working on those vehicles believe that they will be illegal in California, they may very well follow through on their promises to relocate ongoing research, development, and manufacturing of these vehicles to other states.

This is a critically importance issue for seniors and people with disabilities. It’s why advocates stated their opposition to the proposed draft regulations at two recent public hearings on the regulations earlier this year. Witnesses offered testimony that urged the DMV to reevaluate their proposed regulations in order to acknowledge how public transportation systems, privately-owned fully autonomous vehicles, and publicly and privately-owned fleets of fully autonomous vehicles could dramatically transform transportation options for our community.

For all of these reasons, we strongly support your legislation because blocking further development of this technology would eliminate the probability that more than 4 million seniors and people with disabilities who are currently ineligible to obtain a drivers’ license could utilize some form of fully autonomous vehicles. Moreover, it is projected that this population will increase 8.3 million individuals by 2030.

In closing, we appreciate your leadership and thank you for efforts on this important issue.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 2565 (Salas) Independent Living Center Funding May 19th, 2016

Dear Assembly Member Salas:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers (ILC) statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Assembly Bill 2565 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation that would help close the an existing funding inequity for 3 of California’s 28 ILCs.

The affected ILCs are the Disability Resources Agency for Independent Living (DRAIL), serving Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties; the Independent Living Center of Kern County (ILCKC), serving Kern County; and Placer Independent Resources Services, Inc., serving Placer, El Dorado, and Alpine Counties.

ILCs work with people with all types of disabilities to help them to live, learn, and work independently in their communities. Consumers receive: (1) Independent Living (IL)Skills Training; (2) Information and Referral Services; (3) Direct and Systems Change Advocacy; (4) Peer Counseling and Support; (5) Personal Assistance Services; (6) Accessible Housing Referrals; (7) Assistive Technology Services; (8) Transitions to Community Based Living Assistance to Remain Living in their Communities; and (8)Youth Transition Coordination.

Your bill would resolve a long-standing funding inequity that resulted when 3 ILCs were founded after the original state enabling legislation governing IL programs and services. Under current law, these ILCs do not receive the minimum base state funding level that is available to the other 25 ILCs. Although they receive funding from other funding sources, addressing this funding equity is part of a larger effort to address the broader issue of the underfunding of all ILCs.

AB 2565 would also delete a provision that is subject to differing interpretations. One such interpretation, if actually implemented by DOR could result in some ILCs receiving increased funding, while others could lose significant funding. Clarifying the law would avoid disrupting in the state IL network. The bill does not make a General Fund appropriation. Instead, the total amount necessary ($705,000 annually) to fund the 3 centers would come from federal Social Security Program Income dollars that are issued based upon successful job placements of people with disabilities by the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). It is important to note that last year the Legislature authorized the hiring of 31 new DOR Field Office Benefit Planners and their successful job placements of people with disabilities have generated millions of dollars of additional Social Security Reimbursement Funds that could be utilized to fund the ILCs.

Historically, a small number of ILCs were created with federal establishment grants and the first State General Fund allocation was $2 million in 1979. Since 1997, the minimum funding commitment to ILCs has been $9.7 million annually. FY 2014-2015 funding is $12.5 million to support a total of 28 ILCs in 50 locations throughout California for over 100,000 people with disabilities.

No state General Fund dollars are currently appropriated for ILCs because they are primarily supported with federal Social Security reimbursements through the Department of Rehabilitation. In 1998, an annual base state funding level (referred to as “AB 204” funding) was set at $235,000, with the exception of the 3 ILCs. All 28 ILCs receive federal funding directly from the Administration for Community Living in the form of Title 7C grants. The total amount of funding California ILCs receive is approximately $7.7 million annually.

However, there is an enormous difference in the amount of funding that each ILC receives. The highest amount is $531,000 and the lowest $68,000 annually. The 28 ILCs share a total of $20.2 million dollars through state and federal funding annually, which is about $900 per individual receiving direct services.

Although ILCs must provide mandatory core services to people with disabilities, funding has failed to keep pace with the demand for IL services. Moreover, the lack of any funding increases or COLAs and rising costs to staff and operate an ILC has left substantial numbers of un-served and underserved people with disabilities in the catchment areas of all 28 ILCs. For example, the 3 ILCs are overwhelmed with demands for IL services. If state funding is available, they would hire more staff and open branch offices in large rural underserved and un-served populations.

CFILC believes that the modest annual funding level of $705,000 would be a wise and prudent investment to bring the 3 ILCs up to the minimum base funding level. We thank you for your leadership in generating broad-based bipartisan support on this important issue.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Members of the Assembly Human Services Committee
Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 2606 (Grove) - Crimes Against Children, Elders, Dependent Adults, and Persons with Disabilities May 19th, 2016

Dear Assembly Member Grove:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Assembly Bill 2606 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation that would be aimed at the perpetrators of abuse and neglect against elders and people with disabilities.

Although the existing Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act mandates that law enforcement agencies that receive a report of child abuse submit that information to the appropriate licensing agency, there is no such requirement that applies to elders and people with disabilities. AB 2606 would require law enforcement agencies that receive or make a report to send them to an authorizing state agency for specified authorized individuals alleged to have committed abuse or neglect against a child, elder, or person with a disability.

Reports and studies have document that people with disabilities are subjected to violent crimes, including sexual assault and abuse at much higher rates than the general population. Your AB 2606 would make it easier to launch criminal investigations by requiring law enforcement agencies to cross-report alleged violations to the authorizing agencies to give the opportunity and sufficient time to initiate investigations.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 2682 (Chang) Autonomous Vehicles - Model State Policies May 19th, 2016

Dear Assembly Member Chang:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Assembly Bill 2682 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation that would facilitate the adoption of California model state policies for autonomous vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently in the process of developing safety standards for autonomous vehicles and is also crafting model state policies in order to ensure regulatory uniformity among the States. In light of this development
AB 2682 would require the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to consider and hold public hearings on state model policies for autonomous vehicles that are guided and fully operated by sophisticated computer systems that do not require that the vehicle be controlled by a driver.

It is expected that the model state policies may be released in July of this year. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has unveiled a plan to invest $4 billion in the development of safe vehicle automation and California is well-positioned to seek some of that funding.

CFILC strongly supports AB 2682 and the continued research and development of autonomous vehicles. We have commented upon and testified in public comment hearings held by the DMV on its initial draft regulations that we required to be promulgated by SB 1298 (Padilla) of 2012. .

The disability community believes that private ownership or the development of publicly and privately-owned fleets of such vehicles could address many of the serious transportation barriers and obstacles people with disabilities encounter every day. The technology offers some hope that today’s public transportation Para-Transit systems could be replaced or supplemented by continuously operating fleets of autonomous vehicles.

People with disabilities and their families know that existing public transportation and Para-Transit are insufficient to meet the basic transportation needs of people with disabilities, especially in rural regions where these systems are limited or unavailable. The schedules and routes make it inconvenient or impossible for people with disabilities to utilize them on a regular basis as part of their efforts to live independently in their communities. Conversely, if safe and fully autonomous vehicles were made available, people with disabilities would have more options and ready access these systems.

This is why CFILC opposed the DMV’s initial draft regulations that would have required a licensed driver to be present in the vehicle in the event of an emergency. We believe that restricting the continued development of these “semi-autonomous” vehicles would inhibit researchers and manufacturers from moving in the direction of continued development of fully autonomous vehicles.

While many low-income people with disabilities would find private ownership of these autonomous vehicles unaffordable, we believe that fleets of these vehicles operating with a version of the Uber or Lyft transportation models could solve many of these problems. CFILC understands that it may take a number of years to fully develop a truly safe technology for the operation of autonomous vehicles. However, we believe that California should take advantage of every opportunity to incentivize their manufacture. AB 2682 moves us in that direction.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 1758 (Stone) Telecommunications - Internet for All Now Act of 2016 May 18th, 2016

Dear Assembly Member Stone:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 22 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Assembly Bill 1758 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation that would help close the Digital Divide that disproportionately impacts people with disabilities.

CFILC strongly supports the Internet for All Now Act of 2016 because it will help ensure that California will be able to meet the statutorily-prescribed goal of 98 percent deployment of broadband services. It would emphasize reaching out to un-served households to help transition them to higher speed Internet networks, while setting a new objective of bringing 90 percent of all households online by 2023. Moreover, it would authorize funding to be made available to assist low-income households in accessing online services to that they can be included in today’s digital economy.

AB 1758 would also authorize a modest investment of $50 million per year over the course of seven years to be collected to renew and improve the management of the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). This will help to close the Digital Divide and set performance standards and accountability for results.

These collections are not an increase in fees or taxes, but rather a continuation of the existing authorization for the billing and collection of a few pennies each month to broaden the base of telecommunication consumers. CASF was enacted into law in 2008 and reduced the previously authorized collection of fees to subsidize telephone. AB 1758 would redirect these fees to the broadband infrastructure and it represents a sound investment for consumers.

The disability community’s commitment to close the Digital Divide for people with disabilities is one of the most important issues facing our community in California and throughout the nation. For example, according to 54 percent of adults with disabilities use the Internet, compared to 81 percent of non-disabled adults. In addition, only 41 percent of disabled adults have access to broadband services at home, while 69 percent of those without a disability have such access.

The failure to close this divide for people with disabilities would result in significant, negative consequences. More so than ever before, people with disabilities are increasingly dependent upon having access to affordable Internet service plans and broadband technology. Improvements in Assistive Technology have enabled people with disabilities to live independently in their homes and communities as a viable alternative to more costly and dehumanizing institutionalization in nursing homes and other institutions. Access to affordable Internet services is a vital part of acquiring the advanced technology that supports in Assistive Technology devices, software, and hardware because they require sufficient, minimum, broadband capacity to operate and maintain those applications.

For all of these reasons, CFILC thanks you for your leadership on this important issue and we are pleased to lend our support to your bill.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 2252 (Ting) Accessible Vote-by-Mail Balloting May 18th, 2016

Dear Assembly Member Ting:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Assembly Bill 2252 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation that would make the electoral process more accountable and more accessible to people with disabilities.

AB 2252 would enact a number of reforms to current law that regulates the applicable voting procedures for members of the military forces or overseas voters who desire to register as a voter or to cast a vote by mail ballot in any state election. Your legislation would rename the existing “ballot marking system” as a “remote accessible vote by mail system” that would be defined as a mechanical, electro-mechanical, or electronic system and its software developed for the purpose of marking an electronic vote by mail ballot remotely for voters with disabilities and military and overseas voters. These voters would be eligible to print the paper voting record to be transmitted to the local elections officials.

CFILC strongly supports your bill because the current vote by mail system is inaccessible to far too many eligible voters with disabilities. These include, among others, those who are blind or visually–impaired, those with manual dexterity disabilities, and those with developmental or learning disabilities.

Current law is such that these voters encounter de facto discrimination because they cannot read or mark their ballots without assistance from others. This limitation is contrary to the requirements of the Federal “Help American Vote Act” because these disabled voters cannot vote privately or independently.

AB 2252 would make the appropriate statutory changes to allow these voters with disabilities to receive a vote by mail ballot that they can actually mark privately and independently on par with non-disabled voters. Giving these voters genuine opportunities to exercise their right to vote is critically important to CFILC because maximizing opportunities for our community to vote is one of our main public policy priorities.

We look forward to continuing to work with other disability rights advocacy organizations and members of your office to further refine AB 2252 as it makes its way through the legislative process. The disability community greatly appreciates your leadership on this important issue.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at (916) 325-1690 or at Teresa@cfilc.org if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 2395 (Low) Telecommunications: Replacement of Public Switched Telephone Network May 18th, 2016

Dear Assembly Member Gonzalez:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am writing to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed Assembly Bill 2395 by Assembly Member Evan Low and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation that will advance communications technology to improve the lives of California consumers as a whole, as well as people with disabilities.

AB 2395, the “California Telecommunications Reduction and Modernization Act,” would require California to make an investment in the advanced telecommunications technology that drives our technology innovation economy. CFILC strongly supports this bill because advancing equal access to improved communications technology is one of the most important issues affecting the disability community.

The bill acknowledges the critical need to transition from public usage of Plain Old Telephone Services (POTS) to advanced Internet Protocol (IP). This is due in large part because reliance upon POTS has dropped by 85 percent since 1999. AB 2395 would establish a clear process for the transitions from POTS to next generation IP networks no sooner than 2020.

More specifically, the bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure that these alternate services provide two-way voice services, connectivity to existing networks, access to 911 and emergency services, and a universal connectivity program to ensure its availability. Furthermore, it requires transitioning providers to offer consumer education and outreach as a major component in making this transition. The consumer education and outreach requirements are particularly important for people with disabilities in rural communities where there are existing gaps in POTS reliability.

Today, most telecommunications consumers have adopted more the energy-efficient IP and mobile communications systems to meet their telecommunication needs. The availability of such improved systems is important for people with disabilities because high-speed broadband enabled networks are capable of delivering vital accessibility services such as WATSON voice-recognition, Natural Voiced test-to-speech, and “Telepresence” and other videoconferencing solutions.

Moreover, in contrast to traditional wire line telephone networks that can only offer voice service, these high-speed broadband networks can provide the seamless communication of voice, data, and Internet application. AT & T and other providers are in the process of expanding and enhancing their networks to bring these new services and technologies.

The expansion of high-speed broadband networks will provide better and faster coverage, increased reliability, and expanded access throughout the nation. This could be an especially important development for the disability community because it is estimated that 29 percent of people with disabilities throughout the nation could join the workforce if telecommuting with advanced IP services become a reality. It has other potential benefits because a Pew Research Center report found that 78 percent of users with disabilities use the Internet to gather health information. Moreover, 79 percent of caregivers have access to the Internet and 88 percent of them go online for health information.

For all of these reasons, CFILC applauds your leadership on this important legislation and we are pleased to take a formal position in support of AB 2395.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Honorable Evan Low
Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 488 (Gonzalez) California Fair Employment and Housing Act - Sheltered Workshop and Rehabilitation Facility Employees May 17th, 2016

Dear Assembly Gonzalez:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Assembly Bill 488 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation that allow employees retained By Sheltered Workshops and Rehabilitation Facilities to file employment discrimination.

Under existing provisions of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), disabled individuals employed under a special license in a nonprofit Sheltered Workshop or Rehabilitation Facility are exempted from the non-discrimination protections of the Act. These disabled individuals are generally paid subminimum wages based upon the assumption that they cannot be integrated into the workforce because of the nature of their disabilities.

The question of whether these employees should be paid a sub-minimum wage has generated substantial controversial within the disability community. Many believe that the exemption should be eliminated because it forces these disabled workers to work in isolation in segregated environments. Others argue the work gives them opportunities to be gainfully employed and to acquire social and employment-related skills.

The disability community’s position has changed since the time when the FEHA was originally enacted. More importantly, it directly contradicts the emerging national disability community perspective that values independent living and giving people with disabilities the right to work in competitive, integrated employment settings with the opportunity to earn a livable wage.

Unfortunately, the exemption for the facilities is an outdated vestige and Congress and many states are now seeking to phase out these sheltered workshop and rehabilitation facility workplaces in favor of integrated, competitive employment. Indeed, the Federal Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) enacted a number of limitations on placements in these facilities. More specifically, it prescribes that people with disabilities age 24 and younger shall no longer be allowed to earn sub-minimum wages unless they are first provided pre-employment transition services and attempt vocational rehabilitation services first.

On a related note, CFILC supports AB 488 because we see no public policy justification to exempt these disabled workers from its non-discrimination and sexual harassment prohibitions. The removal of the exemption would put the rights of these disabled workers on par with all other protected workers.

For all of these reasons, we thank you for your leadership on this important legislation that would strengthen and protect the rights and protections for sheltered workshop employees who work in highly restrictive settings and are not afforded the same rights as all other employees..

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 1655 (Dodd) Medi-Cal - Personal Allowance Increase May 17th, 2016

Dear Assembly Dodd:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Assembly Bill 1655 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation.

AB 1655 would increase the monthly personal needs allowance for Medi-Cal eligible individuals who live in a medical institution, nursing facility, or who receive services from a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) organization. Furthermore, the bill would require the Department of Health Care Services to annually increase this allowance based on the percentage increase in the California Consumer Price Index.

CFILC supports this increase the allowance used by these individuals to cover the costs of clothing, shoes, reading materials, personal care items, and meals outside of these facilities. The current allowance does not adequately fund these personal items and thereby limits recreational opportunities and improved health outcomes emanating these improvements and enhancements in the recipient’s quality of life.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Support: AB 1667 (Dodd) Home Care Services - Background Checks May 17th, 2016

Dear Assembly Member Dodd:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 24 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services for over 100,000 people with disabilities in California each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has reviewed your Assembly Bill 1667 and have voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT on this important legislation.

AB 1667 would include home care aide domestic referral agencies under the auspices of the Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act. It would therefore require, among other things, that independent home care aides be listed on the existing home care aide registry to ensure they meet all requirements relating to licensing, background checks, and testing for communicable diseases prior to being placed in direct contact with a client.

CFILC shares your concerns about ensuring that all home care aides are qualified to assist clients in living independently. The Home Care Aide Registry became operational at the beginning of this year and would bring these workers into conformity with the registration and licensing requirements applicable to all other home care aides.

Moreover, the bill would close and existing loophole in the law to ensure that their clients can benefit from comparable consumer protections. Conformity with these requirements is particularly important, given the projected future growth in the number of consumers in need of these services.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.

Best regards,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

Submission of Programmatic Request to Fund Assistive Technology (AT) Act Programs at $38 million in the FY 2017 House Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Budget February 26th, 2016

Dear Members of Congress:

I am writing on behalf of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC). We are the nonprofit contractor that works with the California Department of Rehabilitation to administer California’s State Assistive Technology (AT) Act Program, known as “Ability Tools.”

As you may be aware, AT Act Programs provide essential funding to assist people with disabilities acquire the critically important assistive technology they need to live, work, and attend schools in their local communities. In the last year, California’s Ability Tools program provided services to over 14,361 persons with disabilities throughout the state.

More specifically, we respectfully urge you to consider placing a programmatic request with the House Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee to fund the AT Act at $38 million. The programmatic request must meet an upcoming March 24, 2016 deadline.

We greatly appreciated that the final FY 2016 budget provided an increase for the AT Act Programs and specifically $58,887 for the State of California. If Congress authorizes this FY2017 funding request it would enable us to expand the scope of our Ability Tools program to maximize AT Reuse Activities and build a meaningful distribution infrastructure to get used AT equipment to people with disabilities and their families.

Unfortunately, the amount provided in FY 2016 remains insufficient for all States to receive the minimum grant amount authorized by law in 2004 ($410,000). An appropriation of $38 million would allow for this minimum award to be met.

Furthermore, it would directly affect the ability of AT Act Programs to provide the breadth of services required by statute. If the AT Act were fully funded, California would receive close to $1,397,824 to enable Ability Tools to provide the continuum of services and serve over 20,000 people with disabilities.

When the Assistive Technology Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2004, State AT Programs were responsible for providing more services to bring Assistive Technology directly to those who need them. The programs are required to operate statewide programs that would be available to persons with all types of disabilities, to all age categories, and in all types of environments (e.g. education, employment, community living, and information technology).

In addition, State AT Programs are required to provide a continuum of services to increase public awareness of, and access to, Assistive Technology. This includes state financing activities such as, but not limited to, financial loans, cooperative buying programs, and operating as funding of last resort. Other required services include device utilization, (including recycling, repair, refurbishment, and device exchange) and device loans and device demonstration services.

These state-level activities are provided in addition to the previously required activities. They include information and assistance, training, technical assistance, and coordination and collaboration activities. Although people with disabilities and their families and guardians are the primary beneficiaries of these services, the AT Act requires State AT Act Programs to offer a wide range of other targeted individuals such as educators, employers, health care providers, rehabilitation specialists, technology experts (including web designers), procurement officials, and Assistive Technology manufacturers and vendors.

Although the 2004 amendments in the AT Act Reauthorization legislation have had a positive effect by improving the availability and consistency of the continuum of services nationwide, it has been extremely difficult for the State AT Programs to provide three additional core activities without any increase in funding. This has effectively prevented the program resources from meeting the congressional intent in authorizing, but not fully funding, these additional requirements. Nevertheless, the State AT Programs continue to provide cost-effective services and supports to improve the independence of people with disabilities and provides the fiscal and public policy justifications to warrant a continuing Federal investment in these activities and supports.

The AT Act is critically important because it places Assistive Technology in the hands of people with disabilities whose lives and livelihood depend upon its availability. CFILC believes that the $38 million appropriation request for FY 2016 will be well-spent and it will also help generate matching investments in funding by the States and the private sector.

Thank you for the opportunity to bring this important issue and request for your office’s assistance in placing a programmatic request to fund the AT Act at $38 million in the FY 2017 House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee by the March 24, 2016 deadline. These funds will be well-spend and will generate matching investments from States and from the private sector.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you or your designated staff members have any questions, need additional information, or wish to confirm your willingness to submit the programmatic request. I can be reached by telephone at (916)325-1690 ext. 313 or via email at Teresa@cfilc.org.

Best regards,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

Advocating for the FCC’s Support for a New Lifeline for Broadband Program February 4th, 2016

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) respectfully urges the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to support the establishment of a Lifeline for Broadband Program to meet the Internet service plan needs of people with disabilities. The following comments are submitted as part of a coordinated effort to demonstrate broad-based support by various communities of interest throughout the nation for the creation of a new “Lifeline” program that would ensure that advanced communication services are affordable, provide genuine consumer choice, and offer competitive options to meet today’s communications needs.

CFILC is a statewide non-profit membership organization of 21 Independent Living Centers located throughout the State of California. Our centers provide programs and services to over 100,000 people with disabilities annually. We also advocate on federal and California state legislation, regulations, and budget issues to support and promote independent living and the community integration of people with disabilities.

In addition, CFILC is a member organization that has partnered with the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) on a number of issues that have been considered by the FCC. Our most recent collaboration with CETF strongly supports the establishment of an Internet Lifeline Inclusion Program that addresses the three major barriers affecting broadband adoption by people with disabilities. They include: (1) Cost; (2) Relevance, (3) Digital Literacy, and (4) Access.

Accordingly, we urge the FCC to establish an Internet Lifeline Inclusion Program that offers affordable high-speed Internet Service Plans for all low-income households offered by and through all broadband providers within a $10 per month range that is also available to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities that require video rely services in order to communicate with the hearing world. Concurrently, there is also a need to ensure the capitalization of an independent fund to support community-based organizations (CBOs), schools, and libraries as trusted messengers to assist in the enrollment of eligible low-income households and to participate in genuine public/private partnerships. Finally, CFILC supports the creation of an oversight advisory body to ensure transparency and accountability among a broad base of stakeholders and community leaders knowledgeable about broadband adoption.

The creation of such an Internet Lifeline Inclusion Program is critical because closing the existing Digital Divide is one of the most important issues affecting people with disabilities as a community that is disproportionately affected by the divide. According to the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), 54 percent of adults with disabilities use the Internet, compared to 81 percent of non-disabled adults. In addition, only 41 percent of disabled adults have access to broadband services at home, while 69 percent of those without a disability have such access.

The failure to close this divide for people with disabilities would result in significant, negative consequences. More so than ever before, people with disabilities are increasingly dependent upon having access to affordable Internet service plans and broadband technology. Improvements in Assistive Technology have enabled people with disabilities to live independently in their homes and communities as a viable alternative to more costly and dehumanizing institutionalization in nursing homes and other institutions. Access to affordable Internet services is a vital part of acquiring the advanced technology that supports in Assistive Technology devices, software, and hardware because they require sufficient, minimum, broadband capacity to operate and maintain those applications.

Enabling people to live independently is an issue that warrants bi-partisan support. Advanced technology and adequate broadband services allow people with disabilities to pursue and compete for educational and job training opportunities and avoid institutionalization that is often up to eight times more expensive than living at home with appropriative supportive services.

For all of these reasons, CFILC urges the commission to adopt initiatives that will bridge the affordability gap and create links to technology that connects, empowers, and supports independent living for people with disabilities.

Today, advanced technology has the promise of becoming the greatest equalizer for genuine independence and educational and job opportunities. The Lifeline Program that was originally established over 30 years is outdated and no longer meets the growing demand for access to advanced technology. If the FCC takes decisive action in this regard it can help lead our nation in new directions that will reshape access to affordable Internet services that will reap dividends for all Americans.

Written Comments Submitted for the December 1st Conference Committee on AB 2x 1 (Bonta) and SB 2x 2 (Hernandez) Informational Hearing on the Overview of the Managed Care Organization Tax to Urge State Funding for ADRCs From Available MCO Tax Proceeds December 2nd, 2015

Dear Chairman Bonta and Members:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) thanks you for your leadership in addressing the critical need to amend California’s Managed Care Organization (MCO) Tax statutes to conform to Federal law. Your effort to avoid the State’s potential loss of $1.1 billion in Federal funding is critically important to California.

I am writing in support of public comments CFILC representatives will offer at the December 1, 2015 Informational Hearing on the MCO Tax. We respectfully urge the conference committee to incorporate, in any final compromise bill, authorization for funding to support Aging and Disabled Resource Centers (ADRC) from available MCO Tax proceeds. State funding would support the establishment of a statewide network of ADRCs in California to assist seniors and people with disabilities acquire the most suitable and affordable Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS).

CFILC worked with the California Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Assembly Member Levine’s office this year to add such statutory authorization in AB 2x 4 (Levine), as amended August 31, 2015. The proposed language is attached and it would help fund ADRC’s innovative model that leverages the services of ILCs and AAAs as part of the Federal Administration’s (ACL) “No Wrong Door” service system of Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS). I have attached ACL Fact Sheets regarding this system.

ADRCs are a partnership between an Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and an ILC, as well as a network of other local community stakeholders. There are 28 ILCs in California and 33 AAAs. Each serves seniors and people with disabilities across all health plans and at all ages and income levels. They are also an essential component of California’s health care safety net and service delivery systems for Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) and LTSS.

The ACL oversees the establishment and administration of ADRCs. They are part of the California Community Choices program in the California Health and Human Services Agency.

One of the key goals of the California Aging and Disability Resource Connection’s strategic plan for implementation is to ensure that ADRC partnerships statewide streamline access to LTSS that support consumer choices. This includes options to remain in their community or transition back to their community from a health care facility with the most appropriate supports.

Accessing the funding necessary to implement such a state why network of ADRCs is why CFILC and the California Association of AAAs strongly supported Assembly Member Levine’s AB 2x 4. It is our understanding that this bill will not be acted upon in the Second Extraordinary Session, so we urge you and the conference committee members to adopt amendments to support this statewide network of ADRCs.

There is ample public policy justification in support of identifying sources of state funding to assist seniors and people with disabilities in acquiring access to LTSS. The projected future growth of California seniors and people with disabilities in need of LTSS buttresses its critical importance.

Accordingly, CFILC and the California Association of AAAs would welcome the opportunity to explain the reasons for funding for ADRCs in further detail. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any additional information.

Respectfully,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director


cc: Ana Acton, Chair, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee
Derrell Kelch, Executive Director California Association of Areas Agencies on Aging

Attachments

CFILC Letter of Support: Inclusion of $38 million for the Assistive Technology (AT) Act in the FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Bill November 19th, 2015

Dear Rep. Farr:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) is the nonprofit statewide membership association of 23 Independent Living Centers located throughout the State that provide programs and services to over 100,000 people with disabilities annually. CFILC is also the entity that implements California’s Assistive Technology Network Act project, known as Ability Tools.

Assistive Technology (AT) includes any device, gadget, hardware, or software that gives people with disabilities the tools necessary to live, work, learn, and play as independently as possible. Each State AT Program is required to carry out a continuum of four specified state-level and state leadership activities that promote the ability of people with disabilities to be aware of, and to be better positioned to, acquire the Assistive Technology they need.

Accordingly, I am writing to respectfully urge your support for the inclusion of $38 million in the FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Appropriations bill for the Assistive Technology Act. The newly increased spending caps provided in the most recent congressional budget deal offers the opportunity to allocate the additional $7 million necessary to fully fund the AT Act. The AT Act provides critical funding for programs to give people with disabilities access to this vital technology that enables them to live independently.

We are asking Members of the California Congressional Delegation to support this request because California would realize an additional $376,554 if the AT Act is fully funded. This increase would positively impact the ability of AT Act programs in California and throughout the nation to provide the statutorily newly required breadth of services. In the past year, California’s AT Act program provided direct services to 8,427 Californians and provided community education services to 28,103 individuals.

Especially in these difficult and challenging economic times, we are appreciative of the fact that the final FY 2015 budget provided level funding for the AT Act programs. However, that amount is still insufficient for all States to receive the minimum authorized grants prescribed in the law when it was enacted in 2004 ($410,000). An appropriation of $38 million would allow for this minimum award to be met by every State.

When the Assistive Technology Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2004, State AT Programs were responsible for providing more services to bring Assistive Technology directly to those who need them. The programs are required to operate statewide programs that would be available to persons with all types of disabilities, to all age categories, and in all types of environments (e.g. education, employment, community living, and information technology).

In addition, State AT Programs are required to provide a continuum of services to increase public awareness of, and access to, Assistive Technology. This includes state financing activities such as, but not limited to, financial loans, cooperative buying programs, and operating as funding of last resort. Other required services include device utilization, (including recycling, repair, refurbishment, and device exchange) and device loans and device demonstration services.

These state-level activities are provided in addition to the previously required core activities. They include information and assistance, training, technical assistance, and coordination and collaboration activities. Although people with disabilities and their families and guardians are the primary beneficiaries of these services, the AT Act requires State AT Act Programs to offer a wide range services and supports to other targeted individuals such as educators, employers, health care providers, rehabilitation specialists, technology experts (including web designers), procurement officials, and Assistive Technology manufacturers and vendors.

Although the 2004 amendments in the AT Act Reauthorization legislation have had a positive effect by improving the availability and consistency of the continuum of services nationwide, it has been extremely difficult for the State AT Programs to provide three additional core activities, thereby mandating seven core activities without any increase in funding. This has effectively prevented the programs from acquiring the resources to meet the congressional intent in authorizing, but not fully funding, those additional three requirements.

Nevertheless, the State AT Programs continue to provide cost-effective services and supports to improve the independence of people with disabilities and provides the fiscal and public policy justifications to warrant a continuing Federal investment in these activities and supports. The AT Act is critically important because it places Assistive Technology in the hands of people with disabilities whose lives and livelihood depend upon its availability. CFILC believes that the $38 million appropriation request for FY 2016 will be well-spent and it will also help generate matching investments in funding by the States and the private sector.

Thank you for the opportunity to bring this important issue to your attention. Please do not hesitate to contact me by telephone at (916)325-1690 ext. 313 or via email at Teresa@cfilc.org if you have any questions or need additional information.

Best regards,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Opposition: AB 2x 15 (Eggman, Alejo, and Mark Stone), as Introduced Physician Assisted Suicide August 27th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Bonta

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 300,000 Californians with disabilities each year. I am writing to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take an OPPOSE position on Assembly Bill 2x 15 that has been introduced in the 2nd Extraordinary Session by Assembly Members Susan Talamantes Eggman, Luis Alejo, and Mark Stone.

This bill is substantially similar to SB 128 (Monning and Wolk) of the 2015-2016 Regular Session. It was in this Special Session after the bill was withdrawn by the authors from its scheduled hearing before the Assembly Health Committee. Like SB 128, AB 2x 15 would legalize assisted suicide under California law by giving patients diagnosed with a terminal medical condition for which he or she has a prognosis of living for six months or less the legal option to end their lives after voluntarily ingesting the necessary medications prescribed by a physician.

CFILC’s opposition to this bill and SB 128 is consistent with our opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) legislation in prior years. AB 2x 15 sets forth the applicable requirements and mandates certain procedural safeguards for an eligible adult with such a terminal condition to end their lives with aid-in-dying medications.

The bill confers immunity from civil or criminal liability, or professional disciplinary action, for a physician’s good faith compliance with the request and would require their participation to be voluntary. Furthermore, it would impose criminal liability and penalties upon anyone who knowingly alters or forges a request for the end of life medication, for anyone found guilty of concealing or destroying a rescission of the forms, or for anyone who knowingly coerces or exerts undue influence upon the individual to make such a request.

The Disability Community’s Social Injustice Concerns About Physician Assisted Suicide: It is incontrovertible that there is growing public support for the “concept” of PAS. Many people believe that anyone with a diagnosed terminal medical condition should be allowed to exert control and choice by selecting the time, place, and setting to end their life. However, CFILC strongly believes that these considerations are far outweighed by significant countervailing social injustice risks people with disabilities will face as the population segment most susceptible to be encouraged, pressured, or unduly influence to choose PAS due to the high costs associated with treating complex medical conditions and living with a disability.

There are many legitimate reasons why the disability community has taken this position on PAS. We know that throughout our nation’s history people with disabilities have been segregated and ostracized from living in their communities because they were disabled. Large numbers of children and adults with disabilities were involuntarily removed from their homes and communities to be placed in nursing homes and other institutional settings where they were expected to remain for the rest of their lives.

There has also been a shameful legacy of society viewing them as unworthy of living because they were disabled and dependent upon others for their care. In many instances, people with severe disabilities have been shunned by their communities and their families have been pressured, coerced, or unduly influenced to abandon continued care or otherwise end their lives. The dominant societal perception has been that “Death is better than living with a disability.”

Today, the supporters of PAS genuinely believe that our society has changed and that PAS will not result in people with disabilities being abused in this manner to consider suicide. They point to Oregon’s existing voter-passed PAS initiative and SB 128, both of which incorporated certain procedural safeguards and imposed criminal sanctions to prevent such abuse.

We do not share that optimism or confidence about the effectiveness of these, or any, procedural safeguards. Our concerns are that people with disabilities and their families will still encounter forms of societal pressure or coercion to choose medications to end their lives. There are no guarantees that the bill’s procedural safeguards will actually prevent abuse and coercion.

The disability community knows that the notion that death is preferable to living with a disability is still pervasive. People with disabilities have lived with the discrimination and consequences associated with this societal norm throughout their lives. We also know that medical diagnoses of terminal conditions are not always accurate, so there is a risk that many people could end their lives prematurely. The prescribed 6-month period that triggers eligibility for PAS is arbitrary.

Indeed, there are many disabled adults diagnosed with terminal conditions in childhood or adolescence who are still alive today and live independently today. Given the large number of misdiagnosed terminal conditions, we know that there are valid reasons to question the terminal diagnoses. Even if it was proven that such diagnoses are accurate 95 or 98 percent of the time, it begs the question of why should the Legislature ignore the hundreds or thousands of Californians could choose PAS who will survive and could live full lives even while disabled.

Data from States with legalized PAS shows that are substantial numbers of people are improperly diagnosed with a terminal condition each year. If AB 2x 15 becomes law, many patients who could survive would still qualify to receive those lethal prescriptions. Still others who actually are in the process of dying could be better served by Hospice and Palliative care to ease their transition.

The sheer numbers of misdiagnoses, those who survive medical conditions or are later cured by medical improvements, and the real possibility that even those who acquire or remain disabled can still live productive lives must be taken into serious consideration before California takes the radical step to authorize PAS. The data compiled by hospice organizations shows that approximately 15 percent of those with a prognosis of 6-months or less to live survive for months or years beyond.

CFILC is also concerned that the dangers of misdiagnoses and premature or needless choices to opt for PAS will only increase as California’s population ages. The issue of social injustice arises because most people with disabilities are predominantly poor or extremely low-income. They receive poorer quality of care and are often denied treatments because they are disabled. How many otherwise preventable conditions will lead to a terminal diagnosis because of such inequities? Caring for people with disabilities is extremely costly, so we are especially concerned that pressures for people with disabilities to opt for PAS will increase if it is legalized and readily available.

We are also concerned about increased social injustice risks arising as California continues the current process of transitioning hundreds of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities into mandatory Medi-Cal managed care plan plans. Still others who are part of the “dual eligible” Medicare/Medicaid population are being enrolled in the Coordinated Care Initiative as yet another means to control medical care costs.

These mandatory managed care systems have replaced the traditional “fee-for-service” system that was deemed too costly to the State. Most people with disabilities can no longer choose their own medical providers because of managed care, even though most plans cannot provide equivalent specialty care. The pressure to achieve significant cost savings through these transitions could place pressure on managed care plans to encourage PAS as an option to keep the managed care system operational costs manageable and could limit authorizations for health care services. Will this also result in deteriorating health conditions for people with disabilities and make PAS an incentive?

There is Broad-Based Disability Community Opposition to PAS: The Legislature must take into consideration the fact the proposed benefits associated with PAS would only affect a small number of people with an actual imminent terminal condition and those in severe, untreatable pain who want to end their lives and require the involvement of a physician. On the other hand, the disability community is convinced there are immense and inherent dangers in legalizing PAS.

Our concerns are shared by the National Council on Disability (NCD), which is the independent Federal agency that makes recommendations to the President and Congress on disability issues. A NCD Position Paper titled “Assisted Suicide: A Disability Perspective” updated in 2005) outlined the reasons for NCD’s opposition to PAS.

Among other things, the report examined the problems encountered by the Netherlands after it legalized PAS. It found that people with diagnosed terminal conditions encountered difficult family pressures to end their lives and that it often rose to the level of coercion and involuntary euthanasia.
Despite the best intentions of PAS supporters and proposed procedural safeguards, NCD concluded that legalized PAS inevitably will threaten the lives of people with any disability stereotyped as being too expensive or too difficult to continue living. NCD was particularly concerned that these threats will disproportionately impact people without support systems, the poor and low-income earners, and those from racial and ethnic minority groups.

The Ineffectiveness of Procedural Safeguards: As has been the case with other PAS initiatives, AB 2x 15 sets forth a number of good faith statutory safeguards designed to prevent any abuses or the inappropriate promotion of PAS as an option. However, the disability community knows that patients diagnosed with a terminal condition or severe, untreatable are, by definition, nearly always disabled.

Regardless of whether the disability is genetic or newly acquired, those patients are extremely vulnerable to the influence of medical and legal practitioners and their own families. Many have depression or related mental health conditions caused by the nature of their terminal diagnosis, disabilities, and the chronic pain they may endure.

Although the procedural safeguards are designed to prevent abuse or undue influence, it’s impossible to ensure that they will work in every case where patients are considering PAS. The disability community has first-hand experience with the challenges in making critically important medical decisions under these emotional and psychological clouds. Sound decision may also be influenced by the side effects of their medications.

Those procedural safeguards may prove to be inadequate because life-ending decisions would be influenced by the human nature and the dynamics and complexities of inter-personal relations. CFILC is also concerned because oversight of the PAS selection process may vary significantly and, as a result, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to adequately monitor and enforce compliance with these safeguards, even with the mandatory filing of forms prescribed by AB 2x 15.

The NCD report similarly questioned the effectiveness of any form of statutorily-prescribed procedural safeguards. They concluded that in order to be truly effective, those stringent prerequisites would sacrifice an individual’s autonomy to decision-making by medical and legal professionals. Thus, they argued that any purported “benefits” of PAS are heavily outweighed by the inevitability that procedural safeguards will be thwarted or misapplied to unnecessarily end the lives of people with disabilities. The NCD described this as a situation where the proverbial cure is worse than the disease.

NCD’s report explained that the procedural safeguards would remain highly susceptible to outside influences or the patient’s concerns about the financial burdens continued care would place on caregivers. Indeed, the limited data available from States with legalized PAS shows that the top five reasons that patients apply for PAS prescriptions are related to having acquired a disability.

Two of them are related to the “loss of autonomy” and “being a financial burden” on their families and loved ones. Still others fear the loss of “control” and the dilution of their self-image, or the very prospect of living their remaining days in a nursing home or other institution. Many of those who are living alone without any family or support systems are even more prone to choosing PAS, even though Hospice and Palliative care could aid them in dying without pain or discomfort.

Finally, the NCD report also questioned the effectiveness of the requirement that the patient must be given an explanation about all alternatives to PAS and all available programs, resources. To most people with disabilities this safeguard is an ineffective way to protect patients from inappropriately opting for PAS. It is also unlikely be a disincentive to choosing PAS because people with and without disabilities know that, more often than not, these programs, resources, and options are extremely limited or non-existent.

The Legislature Must Consider Alternatives to PAS to Support People with Terminal Conditions and Severe, Untreatable Pain: Given the totality of the moral and ethical implications of PAS, it is clear that the disability community is concerned that insufficient attention is being paid to viable alternatives to overcome the fears of dying in pain and discomfort that have prompted public support for PAS. We do not believe that PAS should be the only option for people who are in the process of dying.

The medical profession is divided on the ethical issue of PAS, but there is growing recognition that our society has been too slow to embrace the practice and principles of Hospice and Palliative care that can help people die with the dignity they desire. Therefore, rather than enacting a PAS statute, the Legislature should embrace and help fund hospice organizations and promote best practices for palliative care. These industries need improvement, but such investments are sound public policy.

These issues cannot be addressed simply by legalizing PAS. At a minimum, we must overcome existing deficiencies and reform our health care long-term care delivery systems. We must overcome reimbursement disincentives for comfort care; make Hospice and Palliative care a viable alternative to PAS; and to find ways to balance the cost-control pressures that discourage spending for long-term care.

Accordingly, for all of these reasons, CFILC must respectfully oppose AB 2x 15. Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Respectfully,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director


cc: Members of the Assembly Public Health and Developmental Services Committee
Members of the California State Assembly
Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Letter of Opposition: AB 2x15 (Eggman) is Not Appropriate for Health Care Finance Special Session August 21st, 2015

Sacramento, CA - California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC), an organization representing 23 Independent Living Centers statewide issue the following statement on AB2x15 inclusion in the special legislative session on health care financing:

"While we oppose AB 2x15 (Eggman) from a fundamental policy perspective, we also strongly agree with the Governor's office that this bill is not appropriate for the special session on health care financing," noted Teresa Favuzzi, Executive Director.

"In this special session, the Governor proposes that the Legislature enact permanent and sustainable funding to provide at least $1.1 billion annually to stabilize the state's General Fund costs for Medi-Cal, sufficient funding to continue the restoration of the 7 percent of In-Home Supportive Services hours and funding for additional rate increases for providers of Medi-Cal and developmental disability services; items that we support. However, it is wholly inappropriate and troubling that AB2x 15 (Eggman) authors have included assisted suicide in this special session health care funding conversation."

CFILC Letter of Support: Managed Care Organization Tax (AB 2x4) August 11th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Levine:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 23 Independent Living Centers (ILCs) statewide that provide vital programs and services to over 100,000 people with disabilities each year.

CFILC supports AB 2x 4 which would create a flat Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax to generate $1.878 billion in annual revenues. As introduced, the bill would generate $1.1 billion to fully fund the state's needs for the Medi-Cal Program; restore Medi-Cal rates to pre-AB 97 levels; reinstate reduced In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) hours; and increase Developmental Services funding.

CFILC applauds your leadership on this important issue, and we appreciate amendments that you have agreed to accept that include funding for Aging and Disabled Resource Connections (ADRC) is a program of California Community Choices located within the California Health and Human Services Agency. The goal of ADRCs is to ensure that "every community in California has a highly visible, reliable, universal access point that provides information to facilitate access to long-term supports and services, and this includes services for individuals with disabilities of all ages."

In California, ADRCs have at their core a partnership between an Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and an Independent Living Center (ILC), as well as other organizations depending on specifics of the local community. These Core Partners are joined by a network of "extended" partners. Collectively, ADRC partner organizations become recognized as sources of comprehensive, trusted, and objective information, counseling, and assistance. ADRCs empower consumers to consider all options, make informed decisions, and access community LTSS that help them meet their personal goals for independence ? regardless of the source of financing (Med-Cal, Medicare, private insurance, federal or state-funded programs or consumer fees).

The overarching goals of ADRC partnerships are the following:

• Improve awareness of long-term care options, especially community- based alternatives to inpatient facility care.
• Provide access to information and services on many topics and across programs and service networks.
• Provide assistance through ADRC core services, namely, Enhanced Information and Referral and Awareness (I&R/A), Options Counseling, Short-Term Service Coordination, and Transition Services.
• Streamline access to Critical Pathways Providers creating expedited application assistance, or other ways of eliminating barriers to critical services that enable independent living.

Currently there are 28 Independent Living Centers (ILCs) in California who receive funding through the U. S. Administration for Community Living, and the California Department of Rehabilitation. ILCs provide a comprehensive range of services to people with disabilities including, direct services, independent living skills training, peer counseling, personal assistant services, housing assistance, and systems change. ILCs will be delivering new services as a result of the passage of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act of 2014, which includes transition services to disconnected youth with disabilities that lead to education, employment and/or independent living. In addition, ILCs will be providing community living transitions for individuals seeking to leave institutionalized living, as well as assistance to individuals with disabilities who are at risk of entering institutions so that they may remain living in the community.

The Department of Aging contracts with the network of 33 Area Agencies on Aging, who directly manage a wide array of federal and state-funded services that help older adults find employment; support older and disabled individuals to live as independently as possible in the community; promote healthy aging and community involvement; and assist family members in their vital care giving role.

It is important to note, however, that while WIOA imposed these new mandatory core services, Congress failed to appropriate any additional federal funding. Funding derived from the MCO Tax would allow ILCs to provide these services as a part of the Aging and Disabled Resource Connections breadth of services.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss how best to integrate our amendments to bill as it progresses. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me at (916) 325-1690 ext. 313 or at Teresa@cfilc.org if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC Letter Supporting SB 324 (Pavley): Income Taxation - ABLE Savings Plans July 13th, 2015

Dear Senator Pavley:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 Californians with disabilities each year.  I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take a SUPPORT position on your Senate Bill 324. 

SB 324 would authorize California’s implementation of the Federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 as part of the state Revenue and Taxation Codes.  Commencing after January 1, 2016 and before January 1, 2021, the bill would conform state law to the Federal personal and corporation income tax law provisions.  Your bill would establish a Qualified ABLE Program and the Qualified ABLE Fund to implement these provisions into law.  In addition, the State Treasurer would administer the program in conformity with the Federal ABLE Act until its sunset date of January 1, 2022.

CFILC strongly supported the Federal ABLE Act and we are pleased to lend our support to your bill.  As a cross-disability disability rights advocacy organization, we are well aware that eligible persons with disabilities would benefit from the savings contributed and accumulated for essential expenses that will help them achieve the goals of living independently in their homes and communities.  The ABLE accounts would help provide for essential expenses relating to, among other things, medical and dental care, education, community-based supports, housing, and transportation.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue. 

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC Letter Supporting AB 449 (Irwin): Income Taxation - ABLE Savings Plans July 13th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Irwin:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 Californians with disabilities each year.  I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take a SUPPORT position on your Assembly Bill 449. 

AB 449 would authorize California’s implementation of the Federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 as part of the state Revenue and Taxation Codes.  Commencing after January 1, 2016 and before January 1, 2021, the bill would conform state law to the Federal personal and corporation income tax law provisions.  Your bill would establish a Qualified ABLE Program and the Qualified ABLE Fund to implement these provisions into law.  In addition, the State Treasurer would administer the program in conformity with the Federal ABLE Act until its sunset date of January 1, 2022.

CFILC strongly supported the Federal ABLE Act and we are pleased to lend our support to your bill.  As a cross-disability disability rights advocacy organization, we are well aware that eligible persons with disabilities would benefit from the savings contributed and accumulated for essential expenses that will help them achieve the goals of living independently in their homes and communities.  The ABLE accounts would help provide for essential expenses relating to, among other things, medical and dental care, education, community-based supports, housing, and transportation.

Thank you for your leadership on this important issue.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC Letter Supporting AB 683 (Low): Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee July 13th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Low:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 Californians with disabilities each year.  I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take a SUPPORT position on your Assembly Bill 683.

Existing law required the Secretary of State (SOS) to establish a “Visually Impaired Voter Assistance Board to make recommendations to improve the availability and accessibility of ballot pamphlets, audio recordings, and elections materials for delivery to visually impaired voters.  In addition, current law allows city and county elections officials to provide election-related information via email or by making them accessible on their Internet websites.

Unfortunately, while some audio materials have been made available to visually impaired voters pursuant to these requirements, other cities and counties have not met the requirement to provide those materials in accessible formats.  Similarly, while some cities and counties have adopted processes for emailing election materials or making them available on websites, there is substantial need for improvement to maximize the participation of voters with disabilities in the elections process.

In order to better address these issues, AB 683 would rename and reconstitute the membership of a new “Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee” that would be required to make recommendations for consideration by the SOS to improve the accessibility of elections materials to all voters with disabilities.  Therefore, in addition to assisting voters who are blind or visually impaired, AB 683 would expand the categories of targeted voters to include a broader and much more inclusive range of eligible voters with disabilities, including those who are deaf or have a hearing loss; and those with learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, or any combinations thereof.

AB 683 would also specifically require the advisory committee to make additional recommendations to the SOS to improve the accessibility of election materials that are made available over the internet and would specify that the accessibility requirements for those materials shall be in accordance with prescribed standards and guidelines.  Finally, the bill would require the advisory committee to make recommendations for providing voters with disabilities the same access and participation as non-disabled voters, including the ability to vote privately and independently.

As a cross-disability organization, CFILC strongly supports your legislation because it would promote the enfranchisement of people with all types of disabilities. Accessibility to those elections materials and other means to overcome any existing limitations that infringe upon the ability of voters with disabilities to fully participate in the elections process is an issue of paramount importance to the disability community, so we are pleased to join you in moving AB 683 through the legislative process.

In closing, CFILC applauds you for your leadership on this important issue.  We look forward to working with you to ensure that AB 683 is enacted into law.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC Letter Supporting AB 1461 (Gonzalez) Voter Registration: The California New Motor Voter Act July 13th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Gonzalez:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 Californians with disabilities each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take a SUPPORT position on your Assembly Bill 1461.

AB 1461 would enact the California New Motor Voter Act to facilitate the registration of eligible individuals who are qualified and meet all of the applicable requirements to be deemed as registered California voters. More specifically, it would specify that every person who has a valid California driver's license or state identification card and who is otherwise eligible to register to vote shall be automatically registered as a voter, unless that person opts out in accordance with specified procedures.

It would require the Secretary of State (SOS) to consult with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to establish a schedule for the DMV to provide electronic records to the SOS regarding every person who is issued an original or a renewed driver's license or state identification card. The sharing of these records would be exchanged and there would be a determination that the person has been able to provide prescribed proof to the DMV about his or her legal status as a citizen of the United States and has fulfilled all of the other legal requirements to register to vote.

Following the receipt of this data from the DMV, the SOS would make the final determination regarding the person's eligibility to vote and would send that information to their local county elections officials. In turn, the SOS would be required to notify each person whose records are sent by the SOS to their county elections official that they will be registered to vote, unless they take action to specifically decline such a designation within 21 days after the date the SOS issued the notification.

The need for such legislation is long overdue. Although Congress enacted the Federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 more than 20 years ago to increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote, to date no State has taken a proactive approach in meeting these goals. The State of Oregon is the first State that has taken action this year to implement an "automatic voter registration" system and AB 1461 would move California in this automatic voter registration direction.

CFILC and the disability community strongly support legislation that increases the number of eligible registered voters because people with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in registering as voters and casting their votes. By making the physical logistics associated with registering to vote even easier, your AB 1461 would greatly improve the numbers of people with disabilities who become registered voters. This will help ensure that the voice of the disability community is heard when candidates seek their support.

For all of these reasons, we are pleased to support AB 1461. We applaud you for your leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with you to help enact the bill into law.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC's Letter Supporting SB 450 (Allen and Hertzberg) Elections: All-Mailed Ballot Elections July 13th, 2015

Dear Senator Allen:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 people with disabilities each year. I am writing to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take a formal position of SUPPORT, IF AMENDED on SB 450.

SB 450 would authorize counties, on or after January 1, 2018, to conduct any election as an All-Mailed Ballot (AMB) election under specified conditions. It is based upon the fundamental precepts behind the emerging "vote center" mode. CFILC has been actively involved in an advisory capacity to assist the Secretary of State in improving the voter accessibility for people with disabilities.

CFILC generally supports the intent of SB 450 in this regard. We are supportive of many of the provisions in the current bill because they: (1) would require counties opting into AMB election to engage in a public process in developing plans for such elections, with an emphasis in providing that the vote centers and drop off boxes shall be available at suitable accessible locations and in proximity to public transportation; (2) would require participating counties to develop plans for an accessible alternative for people with disabilities to Vote by Mail utilizing prescribed assistive technology; (3) participating counties would be required to use a mobile option to allow people with disabilities to cast their votes privately and independently; (4) vote centers would be required to be open for 10 prior to an election to increase opportunities for people with disabilities who rely upon public transportation or need to juggle their schedules to have more time to cast their votes; (5) each vote center would be required to have multiple accessible voting machines; and (6) that the vote center model could result in higher voter turnout for people with disabilities because of the extended periods of time to vote and with the aid of increased numbers of accessible voting machines.

However, like our allies at Disability Rights California and the California Council for the Blind we have serious concerns about the bill in its current form. We are in support of specific technical and clarifying recommendations, as well as substantive amendments.

The California Council for the Blind (CCB) has submitted a letter stating that they cannot support the bill unless it: First, requires counties to make accessible Vote by Mail ballots a prerequisite for its decision to opt into AMB elections; Second, they urged the Legislature to enact companion or follow up legislation to require the creation of a Vote by Mail ballot that blind and visually impaired voters can both read and mark; and Third, the bill is amended to clarify the definition of "accessible formats".

Similarly, Disability Rights California (DRC) expressed other related concerns about the bill in its current form and urged the adoption of amendments that would: First, to make it clearer that counties that opt in to the vote center model would be required to establish "mobile polling" places; Second, to amend the bill to require blank replacement ballots that enable voters with disabilities to both read and mark their ballots privately and independently; and Third, to establish an interactive process with respect to enabling voters with disabilities to specify which accessible formats they need in order to access voter information or to make public comments on the plans to implement SB 450.

We understand that there is a limited window of opportunity for the authors to review and consider whether or not that they can accept these amendments. CFILC is committed to continuing to work with the Secretary of State in our advisory role, so we urge the authors to meet with CFILC, DRC, CCB and other organizations such as the ACLU that have expressed concerns about the bill. If we can reach an agreement on some or all of these suggestions, we hope that the authors will consider accepting a motion and a vote for any such amendments for adoption as Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee amendments. If the amendments are accepted the CFILC Board of Directors will move to a formal SUPPORT position on SB 450.

If an agreement cannot be reached prior to, during, or after the bill?s scheduled July 15th hearing, we respectfully urge the authors to consider introducing follow up legislation to strengthen and clarify access for people with disabilities. CFILC believes additional time and thought may be necessary in order to maximize the accessibility of voter information and to implement the vote center model for people with disabilities.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC Letter to Oppose SB 251 Unless Amended July 7th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Stone:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 Californians with disabilities each year. I am writing to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to change our prior formal position to OPPOSE Senate Bill 251 (Roth), as amended in Senate June 2, 2015.

We have worked with the author's office, disability community advocacy organizations, and your committee counsel to negotiate amendments to address certain provisions opposed by the disability community. Throughout that process, we have sought to protect the rights of people with disabilities to enforce Federal and State law governing equal access to places of public accommodations. However, we also believe that the proposed amendments strike a fair balance to protect the interests of small businesses and to offer them financial relief to comply with the law.

CFILC supports the proposed amendments to SB 251 that are summarized in the most recent Committee Analysis by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chief Counsel, Alison Merrilees. Thus, at the July 7th Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing, CFILC will take an OPPOSE, UNLESS AMENDED position on the bill.

Our position change is conditioned upon the author's acceptance of the proposed amendments and the committee's vote on final passage to transmit SB 251, As Amended, to its next policy committee hearing. If the amendments remain in effect, CFILC will consider taking either a NEUTRAL or SUPPORT position on SB 251.

We greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with the author and your committee.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC's Support Letter to Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee on AB 683 July 5th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Low,

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 Californians with disabilities each year. I am pleased to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take a SUPPORT position on your Assembly Bill 683.

Existing law required the Secretary of State (SOS) to establish a ?Visually Impaired Voter Assistance Board to make recommendations to improve the availability and accessibility of ballot pamphlets, audio recordings, and elections materials for delivery to visually impaired voters. In addition, current law allows city and county elections officials to provide election-related information via email or by making them accessible on their Internet websites.

Unfortunately, while some audio materials have been made available to visually impaired voters pursuant to these requirements, other cities and counties have not met the requirement to provide those materials in accessible formats. Similarly, while some cities and counties have adopted processes for emailing election materials or making them available on websites, there is substantial need for improvement to maximize the participation of voters with disabilities in the elections process.

In order to better address these issues, AB 683 would rename and reconstitute the membership of a new ?Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee? that would be required to make recommendations for consideration by the SOS to improve the accessibility of elections materials to all voters with disabilities. Therefore, in addition to assisting voters who are blind or visually impaired, AB 683 would expand the categories of targeted voters to include a broader and much more inclusive range of eligible voters with disabilities, including those who are deaf or have a hearing loss; and those with learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, or any combinations thereof.

AB 683 would also specifically require the advisory committee to make additional recommendations to the SOS to improve the accessibility of election materials that are made available over the internet and would specify that the accessibility requirements for those materials shall be in accordance with prescribed standards and guidelines. Finally, the bill would require the advisory committee to make recommendations for providing voters with disabilities the same access and participation as non-disabled voters, including the ability to vote privately and independently.

As a cross-disability organization, CFILC strongly supports your legislation because it would promote the enfranchisement of people with all types of disabilities. Accessibility to those elections materials and other means to overcome any existing limitations that infringe upon the ability of voters with disabilities to fully participate in the elections process is an issue of paramount importance to the disability community, so we are pleased to join you in moving AB 683 through the legislative process.

In closing, CFILC applauds you for your leadership on this important issue. We look forward to working with you to ensure that AB 683 is enacted into law.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC Action Alert: Letter to the Assembly Judiciary Committee Opposing SB251 July 2nd, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Stone:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 Californians with disabilities each year. I am writing to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take an OPPOSE, UNLESS AMENDED position on Senate Bill 252 by Senator Roth, which has been set for a hearing before your committee on July 7, 2015.

SB 251 is legislation that, once again, revisits the longstanding controversy over the enforcement of the civil rights of people with disabilities to have equal access to privately owned places of public accommodations. These are places of business that include restaurants, hotels, and other building and facilities that may have physical accessibility barriers or other obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from freely and safely frequenting them because they do not meet physical accessibility standards. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and comparable state disability access laws and regulations have been the law of the land for 25 years, compliance with these accessibility requirements still lags far behind and many business owners and associations generally oppose any imposition of compliance with these standards.

Unfortunately, a small number of plaintiff and defense attorneys have engaged in legal practices built upon the filing or the defense of multiple lawsuits filed against multiple defendants alleging multiple violations of accessibility standards. Although the primary purpose of those lawsuits are to secure monetary settlements for statutory damages, rather than actually achieving compliance, it has given rise to allegations about "rampant, frivolous" ADA lawsuits that are targeting small business owners.

The Legislature has acknowledged that reforms were necessary to curb these abusive practices, primarily because Congress did not include any enforcement mechanisms to address violations of the ADA. This, in turn, requires injured parties to resort to private litigation as the only means to enforce their civil rights.

Two major reform efforts, SB 1608 (Corbett) of 2009 and SB 1186 (Steinberg and Dutton) of 2012 have sought to enact a broad range of provisions designed to protect both the interests of people with disabilities and business owners and promote voluntary compliance. SB 251 is yet another effort to impose new restrictions on the ability of plaintiffs with disabilities to pursue these lawsuits.

CFILC has worked in conjunction with Disability Rights California, the ACLU, and Californians for Disability Rights to raise specific concerns we have identified in the current version of SB 251. We have also offered good faith recommendations and met with the author to discuss those recommendations in the hope that we could balance our common objectives to end abuse of the ADA lawsuit process, protect genuinely small and economically disadvantaged business owners, facilitate voluntary compliance, and to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities.

We are also currently working in conjunction with your committee consultants. During our discussions we have identified a number of specific public policy bases for our opposition. For a number of stated reasons, we strongly oppose, among other things, the bill's "Notice and Right to Cure" provisions, its proposed 90-day moratorium before a plaintiff can pursue his or her lawsuit, its overbroad definitions of what constitutes a "minor" ADA disability access violation and a "small business" concern, and the lack of prohibitions against the "stacking" of Certified Access Specialist (CASp) reports. Perhaps more importantly, we are concerned that from a practical standpoint, the collective provisions of SB 251 will make it difficult, if not impossible, for plaintiffs to find legal representation.

Although we hope that we can achieve a compromise that possibly could enable CFILC to support such an amended bill, we regret to inform you that, at the time of the writing of this letter in advance of its scheduled July 7th hearing date, we have not yet been able to reach such a compromise. Indeed, we can accurately predict at this time whether or not the author would accept such amendments.

Accordingly, CFILC has taken a formal OPPOSE, UNLESS AMENDED position on SB 251. We will continue to work with both sides and we will notify you and Members of your committee if we can change our formal position.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC Advocates for "Lifeline" Affordable Broadband Service July 1st, 2015

We are writing to ask you to join us in support of Internet For All Now to secure an affordable Broadband Lifeline Program for all low?income households from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Attached is a suggested letter for you to consider sending to the FCC.

We know you are well aware of the importance of technology today to empower low?income residents in poor neighborhoods. More than 20% of all California households remain offline and in a Digital Age are being left behind at an accelerating pace—increasingly being disenfranchised from the democracy itself because so much government information and many public services are online. The Digital Divide persists for disadvantaged
communities with large percentages of households not connected at home—35% of low?income households (under $20,000 annual income); 30% of Latino families (37% for Spanish?speaking households); and 41% of people with disabilities. Participation in daily life requires broadband access at home—job and college applications, school homework, healthcare coverage, workforce training, and education scholarships.

We also know from first?hand experience that it takes a “trusted messenger” to reach offline households. Research shows that there are 3 primary barriers to broadband adoption: (1) Cost; (2) Relevance; and (3) Digital Literacy. Thus, an effective Broadband Lifeline Program must provide dedicated funding for community?based organizations (CBOs), schools and libraries to assist providers with in?language and in?culture outreach, digital literacy training, and sign?ups for subscriptions to successfully close the Digital Divide. And, there must be transparency and accountability to achieve tangible results.

Therefore, we request your endorsement of the Internet for All Now proposal to the FCC for a successful Broadband Lifeline Program:

  • Establish an affordable high?speed Internet service plan for all lowincome
    households offered by and through all broadband providers (in
    the $10/month range) with sufficient speeds and a wireless modem for
    compatibility with school?issued devices. A Broadband Lifeline Program
    should augment Telephone Lifeline and not force consumers to choose
    between the two necessary technologies and programs.

  • Capitalize an independent fund to support community?based
    organizations (CBOs), schools and libraries (as “trusted messengers”)
    through performance?based grants to assist in enrolling eligible lowincome
    households and participate in true public?private partnerships.

  • Appoint an oversight advisory body to ensure transparency and
    accountability with a broad base of stakeholders and community leaders
    knowledgeable about broadband adoption.

Please join Internet For All Now with your endorsement to help us mobilize support throughout California and the country and by writing to the FCC to encourage establishment of a workable Broadband Lifeline Program.


Sincerely,

[Signed]

Sunne Wright McPeak
President and CEO
Caliifornia Emerging Technlogy Fund

Cecilia Aguiar?Curry
Mayor
City of Winters

Bob Cabeza
VP Community Development
YMCA of Greater Long Beach

Serita Cox
Executive Director
iFoster

Oscar Cruz
President & CEO
Families in Schools

Charon Davis
Interim Executive Director
Oakland Technology Exchange West

Mike Dozier
Executive, San Joaquin Valley
Regional Broadband Consortium,
California Partnership for the
San Joaquin Valley

Teresa Favuzzi
Executive Director
California Foundation for
Independent Living Centers

Pat Furr
Executive Director
Computers for Classrooms

Kami Griffiths
Executive Director
Community Technology Network

Barrie Hathaway
Executive Director
Stride Center

Arlene Krebs
Board President
Loaves, Fishes & Computers Inc.

Arabella Martinez
Interim CEO
Latino Community Foundation

Hugo Morales
Executive Director
Radio Bilingue

Joseph Mouzon
President
Giving Sphere

Nate Greenberg
IT Director, Mono County
Eastern Sierra Connect Regional
Broadband Consortia

Ortensia Lopez
Executive Director
El Concilio of San Mateo County

KG Ouye
Library Consultant
Ouye?Mingram Consulting Partners

Shelly Hance
Executive Director, ATCAA
Central Sierra Connect

Connie Stewart
Executive Director
California Center for Rural Policy

Olga Talamante
Executive Director
Chicana Latino Foundation

Revlyn Williams
Executive Director
Manchester Community Technologies

Cesar Zaldivar?Motts
Executive Director
Southeast Community Development Corporation

CFILC Action Alert – Call To Support ILC Funding! June 2nd, 2015

After Governor Brown released his revised May Budget proposal ("May Revise") the Senate and Assembly both adopted a respective budget proposal this past week. The two legislative budgets will now enter hearings held by a Budget Conference Committee comprised of three Assemblymembers and three Senators. They will reconcile the different budget proposals into a single, legislative budget that must be presented to Governor Brown before midnight on June 15th. The governor must sign the budget by June 30th.

We are advocating for Independent Living Center Kern County, Placer Independent Resource Services and Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living to get $235,000 in base funding just like the other 25 ILCs receive. These ILCs server a total of 10 counties, and their communities have less access to IL services as a result of less funding.

It is now time to ADVOCATE with phone calls to the conference committee members!

ACTION ALERT: Call each of the six committee members listed below it should not take more than 1-2 minute call. Ask to speak the staff who is covering the Budget Conference Committee, but if that person is not available, ask the person answering the phone to register your support and pass that on to the appropriate staffer. Tell them your name, where you live and that you feel ALL ILCs should receive base funding! We support the request for a DOR budget augmentation of $705,000 annually to support 3 Independent Living Centers serving 10 counties.

The Assemblymembers selected for the Budget Conference Committee are:
• Shirley Weber (D) - (916) 319-2079
• Richard Bloom (D) - (916) 319-2050
• Melissa Melendez (R) - (916) 319-2067

The Senators selected for the Budget Conference Committee are:
• Mark Leno (D) - (916) 651-4011
• Ricardo Lara (D) - (916) 651-4033
• Jim Nielsen (R) - (916) 651-4004

Background
Currently, 3 of the 28 ILCs serving 10 counties do not receive $235,000 in annual state funding, even though they are required to provide all of same ILC services.
• Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living, serving Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Mariposa Counties;
• Placer Independent Living Resources, serving Placer, El Dorado, and Alpine Counties;
• Independent Living Center of Kern County, serving Kern County.

Request for Support to Equalize Base State Funding for All Independent Living Centers June 1st, 2015

I am writing on behalf of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) to request your support regarding an ongoing, bipartisan effort to address an issue of critical importance to 3 Independent Living Centers (ILCs) that serve people with disabilities residing in 10 counties spread across a number of legislative districts. Assembly Member Tom Lackey is taking a leadership role on this issue and is working with his colleagues on the Assembly Budget Committee whose counties are served by the affected ILCs. The core objective is to change the existing funding formula that currently prevents them from receiving California base funding appropriated to support independent living services.

CFILC is a statewide non-profit membership organization of 21 ILCs located throughout the State of California. Our centers provide programs and services to over 100,000 people with disabilities annually. We also advocate on federal and California state legislation, regulations, and budget issues to support and promote independent living and the community integration of people with disabilities.

This long-standing funding inequity has prevented 3 of California’s 28 ILCs from receiving $235,000 in annual state funding which is derived from Social Security Reimbursement Funds pursuant to existing language found in Section 19806 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

These 3 ILCs are required to provide all of the same services as the other ILCs around the state. The lack of base funding means that people with disabilities in these 10 counties have less access to services that include Peer Counseling, Independent Living Skills Training, Advocacy, Information & Referral, Housing and Personal Assistance Services.

The affected ILCs include:
-Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living, serving Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Mariposa Counties;
-Placer Independent Living Resources, serving Placer, El Dorado, and Alpine Counties;
-Independent Living Center of Kern County, serving Kern County.

A modest investment of $705,000 annually could help resolve this funding inequity. It is important to emphasize that this annual funding could be allocated without any impact on the General Fund. This is because the funding could come from the Department of Rehabilitation’s (DOR) federal Social Security Reimbursement Funds. DOR projects a continuing upward trend in the receipt of these federal reimbursements, so the funding inequity can be stabilized and more independent living services can be provided in a cost-effective manner.

Achieving this important objective will require conforming amendments to Section 19806 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. I have attached a draft proposal that contains proposed Trailer Bill Language to make the necessary changes to equalize the existing funding inequity.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (916) 325-1690 ext. 313 or via email at Teresa@cfilc.org if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Respectfully,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Members of the Assembly Budget Committee
Jazmin Hicks, Consultant, Assembly Budget Committee

Ana Acton, CFILC Board of Directors Chair
Louis Frick, CFILC Public Policy Committee Chair

Enclosure

ATTACHMENT

ILC Base Funding Proposed Trailer Bill Language

19806. (a) An independent living center shall not be required to provide any matching funds through private contributions as a condition of receiving state funds except to acquire state incentive funds.

(b) Each Independent Living Center, except those centers which have been both established and maintained using federal funding under Title VII(c) of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended as their primary base grant, as determined by the department, shall receive to the extent funds are appropriated by the Legislature, at least two hundred thirty-five thousand dollars ($235,000) in base grant funds allocated by the department. The department shall allocate to those centers with Title VII(c) base grant funds of less than two hundred thirty-five thousand dollars ($235,000) an amount that, when combined with the Title VII(c) grant, equals two hundred thirty-five thousand dollars ($235,000).

(c) State funds described in subdivision may be replaced by reimbursements under the Supplemental Security Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security Income programs provided for under Titles II and XVII of the Federal Social Security Act, Subchapter II (commencing with Section 401) and Subchapter XVII (commencing with Section 1381) of Chapter 7 of Title 42 of the United States Code to the extent appropriated by the Legislature and allocated by the department to Independent Living Centers under this chapter. Beginning with the 1998–99 2015-16
fiscal year, and each year thereafter, to the extent these funds from the Social Security Act are not appropriated by the Legislature as were appropriated in the 1997–98 2014-15 fiscal year, an amount equal to the combined state and federal fund allocation to Independent Living Centers in the Budget Act of 1997 2014 shall be appropriated to, and allocated by, the department to Independent Living Centers under this chapter. No Independent Living Center shall have its annual
allocation of funds reduced as a result of providing annual base funding of $235,000 to each
Independent Living Center.

(d) (1) Available state incentive funds shall be allocated at the beginning of each fiscal year based upon the average amount of private contributions received by the independent living center in the second and third preceding fiscal years.
(2) The maximum amount of incentive funds that may be allocated to any independent living center in any single fiscal year shall be computed as follows:
    (A) “Pool One” is defined as 60 percent of all state incentive funds. “Pool Two” is defined as 40 percent of all state incentive funds. Each independent living center shall be entitled to an equal portion of Pool One, not to exceed the amounts raised pursuant to paragraph (1).
    (B) Incentive funds from Pool One not used after the initial allocation pursuant to subparagraph (A) shall be added to Pool Two for allocation among all centers that had unmatched private contributions after distribution of Pool One funds. Pool Two funds shall be awarded in direct proportion to each center’s percentage of the total remaining unmatched private contributions raised by those independent living centers.
(3) For the purpose of determining eligibility for state incentive funds, any independent living center that uses a fiscal year other than the state fiscal year may elect to use a different fiscal year so long as the closing date of the fiscal year so elected does not precede the closing date of the equivalent state fiscal year by more than 11 months.
(4) The amount of private contributions claimed by an independent living center for each fiscal year shall be verified by the department by utilizing appropriate financial records including, but not limited to, independent audits. Audits may be performed by the department up to three years from the close of the fiscal year during which state incentive funds were received by the independent living center being audited.
(5) State incentive funds that are not distributed to independent living centers shall not be allocated or retained by the department for distribution as state incentive funds in later fiscal years.

(e) For purposes of this section:
(1) “Private funds” does not include any funds originating from any entity of the federal, state, city, or county government or any political subdivision thereof. Notwithstanding the provisions of this
section, fees from any source for services provided may be included as private contributions by an independent living center for purposes of determining its allocation of incentive funds.
(2) “State incentive funds” means state funds appropriated by the Legislature for purposes of this chapter, except those funds allocated by the department pursuant to subdivisions (b) and (g) of this section.

(f) Any funds allocated under this chapter to any independent living center, other than as part of the initial allocation for each fiscal year, shall be made by contract amendment. Any contract amendment shall require the provision of services in addition to those required by the contract being amended. All those services required by contract amendment shall not be performed prior to the date the contract amendment is approved by the state.

(g) To the extent funds are appropriated by the Legislature for the purpose of providing assistive technology services described in subdivision (d) of Section 19801, two hundred ten thousand dollars ($210,000) of those funds shall be allocated to the nonprofit contractor selected by the Department of Rehabilitation to coordinate delivery of assistive technology services and the remainder shall be allocated equally among independent living centers. The nonprofit contractor shall provide statewide assistive technology information and referral and serve as a resource to the independent living centers’ assistive technology service programs.

(h) To the extent funds are appropriated by the Legislature, after allocation of base grant and incentive funds and assistive technology funds, remaining funds shall be allocated by the department among independent living centers on the basis of the ratio of the total of the general population in an independent living center’s geographic service areas as compared to the total of the general population in all independent living centers geographic services area statewide. The department shall adopt regulations for the distribution of population funds by June 30, 1999.


CFILC Advocates for ILC Increase in Federal Funding April 29th, 2015

House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies


    I am writing to support the National Council on Independent Living’s request for Congress to reaffirm your commitment to the more than 57 million Americans disabilities by increasing funding in the HHS budget for Independent Living Centers (ILCs). The 21 ILCs that are members of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) respectfully request asking an increase in funding by $200 million, for a total of $306 million for the Independent Living line item in FY 2016.

    ILCs are cross-disability, non-residential, community-based, nonprofit organizations that are designed and operated by individuals with disabilities. ILCs are unique in that they are directly governed and staffed by people with all types of disabilities, including people with mental, physical, sensory, cognitive, and developmental disabilities. Each of the 356 federally funded centers provides five core services: information and referral, individual and systems advocacy, peer support, independent living skills training, and the newly added transition services. From 2012-2014, ILCs provided the four core service to nearly 5 million people with disabilities, and provided additional services such as housing assistance, transportation, personal care attendants, and employment services to hundreds of thousands of individuals.

    Transition services were added as a fifth core service with the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act within WIOA. Transition services include the transition of individuals with significant disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions to home and community-based residences with appropriate supports and services, assistance to individuals with significant disabilities at risk of entering institutions to remain in the community, and the transition of youth with significant disabilities to postsecondary life. This core service is vital to achieving full participation for people with disabilities.

    Every day, ILCs are fighting to ensure that people with disabilities gain and maintain control over our own lives. We know that this cannot occur when people reside in institutional settings. Opponents of deinstitutionalization say that allowing people with disabilities to live in the community will result in harm. We know that the 13,030 people with disabilities who ILCs successfully transitioned out of nursing homes and institutions from 2012-2014 prove otherwise. Additionally, when services are delivered in an individual’s home, the result is a tremendous cost savings to Medicaid, Medicare, and states. Community-based services enable people with disabilities to become less reliant on long-term government supports, and they are significantly less expensive than nursing home placements. We are grateful that Congress demonstrated their understanding and support for community-based services when WIOA was passed and transition was added as a fifth core service.

    Since transition services were added as a core service, the need for funding is critical. Moreover, ILCs need additional funding to restore the devastating cuts to the Independent Living program, make up for inflation costs, and address the increased demand for independent living services. In 2015, the Independent Living Program is receiving nearly $3 million less in funding than it was in 2010. It is simply not possible to meet the demand for services and to effectively provide transition services without additional funding. Increased funding should be reinvested from the billions currently spent to keep people with disabilities in costly Medicaid nursing homes and institutions and out of mainstream society.

    Independent Living Centers play a crucial role in the lives of people with disabilities, and work tirelessly to ensure that people with disabilities have a real choice in where and how they live, work, and participate in the community. Additionally, ILCs are an excellent service and a bargain for America, keeping people engaged with their communities and saving taxpayer money. NCIL and CFILC are dedicated to increasing the availability of the invaluable and extremely cost-effective services ILCs provide, and they have submitted written testimony with a similar request. We strongly support NCIL’s testimony.

CFILC Leads TBI Funding Advocacy April 22nd, 2015

Subject: Item 5160, Traumatic Brain Injury Services

Dear Senator Mitchell:
The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) and the Disability Rights California (DRC) and Traumatic Brain Injury Services of California (TBISCA) would like to call your attention to significant need for funding to support brain injury services as identified in the attached 2010 report titled "Advancing California’s Traumatic Brain Injury Service System: Next Steps."

In 2013 the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) was granted a Budget Change Proposal in which they analyzed the problem and posed a series of possible solutions. The DOR made a $1.25 million dollar proposal for FYs 14-15 and 15-16 to allocate funding to the Traumatic Brain Injury fund from the Driver Training Penalty Assessment fund, which would support 1.0 (PY) limited-term position that would allow the department to meet the mandates of AB 398.

The department received $500,000, for FY 14-15, which allowed the department to stabilize the funding for Traumatic Brain Injury services for one year. However, one of the key purposes to support the limited-term position was to develop a HCBS TBI waiver that was required with the passage of AB 1410 (Feuer) in 2007, and AB 398 (Monning) 2009. Unfortunately, DOR was unable to develop a TBI waiver and they have indicated that they no longer plan to pursue the development of a waiver. This leaves Traumatic Brain Injury services in an untenable situation with decreasing Penalty Fund dollars and no pathway to capture additional federal funds to fill the gap.

The current allocation of 0.66 percent of the Seatbelt Penalty Account is not sufficient to sustain both local assistance and state operations of the TBI program. However, the Driver Training Penalty Assessment Fund is no longer active with the California Department of Education, these dollars are retained administratively for other purposes relating to the Seat Belt Penalty Account and are allocated through Budget CS 24. 10(b)(a) to other funds. We are strongly advocating that the TBI program be included in the allocation of Driver Training Penalty Assessment Fund dollars.

CFILC, DRC and TBISCA respectfully request the committee consider augmenting the TBI Fund by $1 million annually through the Driver Training Penalty Assessment Fund to maintain the program over the next 4 years. This would mean that TBI services would remain funded at current levels through the existing sunset date of 2019, and would provide funding for the Department of Rehabilitation to appropriately staff the TBI program. This would provide time to develop additional solutions for program sustainability which include DOR working in collaboration with the Department of Health Care Services to integrate TBI services into the current efforts to create a “HCBS Super Waiver.”

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to connect with us:
teresa@cfilc.org 916-325-1690

Best regards,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
CFILC Executive Director

Cc:
CHHS Secretary Diana Dooley
DOR Director Joe Xavier
SILC Director Liz Pazdral

Advocate for Disability Access: Voice Your Concerns About AB52 and AB54 April 20th, 2015

On Tuesday, April 21, 2015 the Assembly Judiciary Committee will hear testimony about two bills that seek to chip away at our civil rights protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Below is a list of the committee members with phone numbers. Please call their offices in advance of the hearing to let them know you "oppose AB52 and AB54." Talking points are provided below.

The Hon. Mark Stone (D) (Chair)
Capitol Office
916-319-2029

The Hon. Donald P. Wagner (R) (Vice Chair)
Capitol Office
916-319-2068

The Hon. Luis A. Alejo (D)
Capitol Office
916-319-2030

The Hon. Ed Chau (D)
Capitol Office
916-319-2049

The Hon. David Chiu (D)
Capitol Office
916-319-2017

The Hon. James Gallagher (R)
Capitol Office
916-319-2003

The Hon. Cristina Garcia (D)
Capitol Office
916-319-2058

The Hon. Chris R. Holden (D)
Capitol Office
916-319-2041

The Hon. Brian Maienschein (R)
Capitol Office
916-319-2077

The Hon. Patrick O'Donnell (D)
Capitol Office
916-319-2070


ADVOCATING FOR DISABILITY ACCESS

OPPOSE: AB 52 (Gray) is a bill that encourages businesses to ?wait till they get caught?, it lowers the cost of violating the law, and protects so called small businesses with budgets up to $10 million dollars. This bill does nothing to increase access and makes it easy to do nothing.

OPPOSE: AB 54 (Olsen) is another ?wait till I get caught? bill, requesting 30 years plus an additional 60 days to comply with existing law. However, the tax credit for business to pay for CASp inspections is a solution that promotes access.

BARRIERS TO ACCESS
• If you roll down just about any city street in California you will experience a lack of access to businesses and services.

ENFORCEMENT
• Despite 30 years of disability access laws in California, and 25 years of the ADA businesses continue to say they need more time and more notice.
• It?s nobody job to notify businesses that about access laws.
• The only tool for enforcement are lawsuits by people who have experienced a barrier.
• Most people who experience barriers do not file lawsuits.
• Laws already exist to deal with "frivolous" lawsuits. People with disabilities should not have our civil rights limited or delayed because of the actions of a few.
• Businesses do not need 60 more days to fix an access barrier, they have had 30 years!
• By allowing businesses to fix problems once a person has experiences them, we create a law that says it is okay to do nothing until they are caught.

PROMOTING ACCESS
• New Access laws should assist businesses to identify barriers and fix them.
• Support a business license fee to fund inspections.
• Impose a sale fee on commercial property to create an Access Construction Trust Fund.
• Require commercial property leases identify if the space has been CASp inspected.
• Increase Tax Credits to assist businesses to become accessible.

CFILC Advocates for ILC Funding Equity April 16th, 2015

Subject: Item 5160, Issue 1, BCP to fund 31 Work Incentive Planners

Position: Conditional Support

Dear Senator Mitchell:

The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) has requested 31 new, permanent, full-time Work Incentive Planner positions. The California Foundation for Independent Living (CFILC) would like to be able to support this request; and, would be able to do so if several revisions to the proposal are made. Proposed revisions include the following:

• Provide increased, stable and ongoing funding for California’s 28
Independent Living Centers (ILCs) that would establish equity in
base funding among the ILCs and fund Assistive Technology at
the fiscal year 2003-04 level;

• Approve some or all of the requested 31 positions, but only on a
3-year, limited-term basis, pending a complete analysis of the
current pilot program’s outcomes.

These proposed revisions would require budget trailer bill language. Proposed draft language is attached. The reasons for these proposed revisions are outlined below.

Currently there are 28 Independent Living Centers (ILCs) in California. They provide a comprehensive range of services to more than 100,000 people with disabilities annually. Services include, among other things, independent living skills training, mobility training, housing and personal assistance, and counseling — all services designed to help people with disabilities live and thrive independently in the community.

ILCs are funded with federal Social Security Reimbursement funds that flow through DOR. The current annual funding level is $12.5 million. In 1997 (18 years ago), Welfare and Institutions Code Section 19805 (c) was amended to mandate that ILC funding not fall below that which was appropriated in fiscal year 1997-98. If federal reimbursements fall below this level, it would create a General Fund obligation.

Annual federal reimbursements to California have been trending upwards and are expected to reach approximately $15.6 million in the 2015-16 Budget Year. Therefore, there are sufficient federal funds (now and expected to continue) to increase the annual funding level of the ILCs to $14.2 million. Because there is apparently a new federal requirement that mandates that Social Security Reimbursement dollars be spent within a specified period of time, it is to California’s advantage to increase ILC funding. It would also be possible for DOR to use any funding that exceeds that needed for the ILCs to temporarily fund its Budget Change Proposal (BCP) request.

DOR has submitted a proposed BCP for 31 additional, full-time positions to expand its current pilot project statewide. The pilot has been operating for almost two years in three areas of the state with 9 limited-term positions that have been funded with DOR’s temporary help budget. There is no specific legislative or budget authority for this pilot as it is being conducted within the auspices of DOR’s ongoing authority. DOR is proposing to use federal Social Security Reimbursement dollars to fund its BCP, which represents a significant departure from how their State Support budget has been funded in the past.

The 9 staff have been used to provide financial literacy and benefits planning services. Detailed data that includes methodology and performance outcomes and are not currently available for this pilot. Because Social Security Reimbursements to California were trending upward before the pilot began and continue to do so, it is impossible to discern if any of the increased funding is a result of pilot project efforts or simply better economic and employment conditions, or a result of DORs implementation of significant Vocational Modernization reforms.

Therefore, we would recommend that, if the BCP is approved, it be approved using 3-year, limited-term positions with clear performance objectives and evaluation/reporting requirements before considering making it a permanent program. We also recommend that use of federal Social Security Reimbursement dollars by DOR for this effort be limited to the amount above a new minimum annual funding level for the ILCs of $14.2 million. We have also stated that DOR’s BCP is a good candidate for a short-term General Fund investment.

It is important to note that, with the passage of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) of 2014, ILCs are now mandated to provide new transition, diversion and youth services as described: (i) facilitate the transition of individuals with significant disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions to home and community-based residences, with requisite supports and services; (ii) provide assistance to individuals with significant disabilities who are at risk of entering institutions so that the individuals may remain in the community; and (iii) facilitate the transition of youth with significant disabilities who were eligible for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and who have completed their secondary education or otherwise left school, to postsecondary life. Although new mandates were imposed, no additional federal funding has followed.

In addition to the above, WIOA (Section 416) establishes six common performance standards for all core programs and includes fiscal sanctions if these standards are not met. Because ILCs in California play a critical role in the delivery of core program services, it is now even more imperative that ILCs be adequately funded to do this important work. If some part or all of DOR’s BCP request is approved and it does, in fact, result in a significant increase in federal dollars coming to California, ILCs should be allocated additional funds to provide newly mandated transition services and to meet new federal performance standards.

DOR should work with CFILC and the State Independent Living Council (SILC) to determine the appropriate funding level for ILCs and an annual allocation methodology. It should also be noted that WIOA (Section 419) requires states to use at least 15 percent of Section 110 state allotments for provision of pre-employment transition services and that none of these funds can be used for administrative costs. DOR can provide an estimate of this funding for the Budget Year and beyond.

Included with this letter are several attachments: (1) list of ILCs and the geographic areas they cover; (2) numbers of consumers served by the ILCs and services provided; (3) funding levels for each ILCs; and (4) breakdown of how increased funding would be allocated. Also attached is proposed draft trailer bill language to implement the changes we are requesting. This language includes a new data reporting requirement for the ILCs and a data analysis and reporting requirement for the SILC. We are available to answer any questions you may have and will provide any additional information requested.

Thank you very much for considering our request and concerns.

Respectfully,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

Cc: HHSA Secretary Diana Dooley
DOR Director Joe Xavier
Liz Pazdral, SILC Executive Director
Ana Acton, CFILC Chair
Louis Frick, CFILC Public Policy Committee Chair

CFILC Opposes Legislation That Undermines the Integrity of the ADA April 7th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Olsen:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 Californians with disabilities each year. I am writing to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take an OPPOSE position on your Assembly Bill 54.

This position is consistent with our prior opposition on substantially similar “Notice and Right to Cure” bills introduced in the past to undermine the integrity of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We oppose AB 54 because it is an unnecessary infringement upon the civil and statutory rights of people to recover statutory damages if they ultimately prevail on the merits in an ADA lawsuit.
It appears that AB 54 is legislation that, once again, revisits the longstanding controversy over the enforcement of the rights of people with disabilities to have equal access to privately-owned places of public accommodations. Even though the ADA has been the law of the land for 25 years, many business owners and associations generally oppose mandatory physical accessibility standards.

Together with an emerging “anti-lawsuit abuse” industry, they have consistently sought to restrict the ability of people with disabilities to pursue such litigation by claiming that existing law allows small businesses to be subjected to allegedly “rampant, frivolous” ADA lawsuits. We note that anti- ADA lawsuit campaigns have been launched throughout the nation. In California, which is one of two states that authorize the recovery of any statutory damages, these interests have successfully convinced the Legislature to limit the recovery statutory damages and imposed a variation of notice and right to cure requirements.

Summary of AB 54: AB 54 would specify that whenever an ADA plaintiff files and claim alleging a violation of construction-related accessibility standards within 3 years of a change in that standards, the plaintiff would only be entitled to collect statutory damages if they provided the agent or other party responsible for the place of business in alleged violation a written notice or demand letter at least 60 days prior to filing any action and if the violation is not voluntarily cured. The written notice or demand letter would be required to contain specified information.

The bill includes no legislative findings and declaration or any other explanation why the bill purportedly would improve upon the reforms previously enacted by SB 1608 (Corbett) of 2009 and SB 1186 (Steinberg and Dutton) of 2012. In the absence of any proof as to why AB 54 would promote such improved voluntary compliance, we see no public policy justifications in support of further limitations upon the ability of plaintiffs in these actions to recover these statutory damages. Furthermore, we believe that AB 54 seeks to establish even more precedent for the further erosion of California’s disability rights laws.

AB 54 appears to be intended to address how changes in the applicable building standards for disabled accessibility could affect the interests of business owners who may not have been aware of how such changes could affect their liability for alleged violations. Under existing law, the Division of the State Architect in the Department of General Services is responsible for developing and submitting for administrative approval and adoption all regulations prescribing building standards to make buildings, structures, sidewalks, curbs, and related facilities accessible to, and usable by, persons with disabilities.

There is consensus agreement that these allegations about the filing excessive and frivolous ADA lawsuits are attributable, in large measure, to the legal practices a small number of ADA plaintiff attorneys whose legal practices engage in arguably unethical practices whereby they threaten the filing of multiple lawsuits against multiple defendants alleging multiple violations. The disability community recognizes that these practices cause considerable harm to the public’s otherwise favorable support for protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities. These attorneys focus almost exclusively upon sending monetary demand letters in the hope of reaching settlement agreements. More often than not, they have little interest in pursuing the underlying complaints to bring the facilities into compliance, which means that they remain inaccessible.

The problem has been further exacerbated by the related practices of a small number of ADA defense attorneys whose practices are built upon encouraging to defend these lawsuits, rather than to remedy the barriers or obstacles. This has proven to be equally problematic for those defendants because they have been encouraged to pursue the defense of the lawsuit, even if the costs associated with legal defense is more costly than voluntarily fixing the violations. Clearly, these practices have harmed the interests of plaintiffs and defendants alike.

Unfortunately, when Congress originally enacted the ADA, it did not establish any workable enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with the ADA accessibility standards. It was assumed at the time that business owners would voluntarily comply with the ADA within a reasonable period time as a cost of doing business. However, such voluntary compliance has not been achieved, so today private litigation is the only means available to address non-compliance.

Yet, rather than finding ways to encourage compliance with the ADA, business associations and owner joined forces with an “anti-ADA lawsuit abuse” industry to engage in a well-funded media and public relations campaign. They have sought to convince the public and lawmakers about that predatory plaintiffs and attorneys were filing lawsuits or demanding monetary settlement vulnerable “Mom and Pop” small business owners.

These groups regularly meet with local chambers of commerce and other business groups to claim that their local communities will inevitably be targeted for frivolous ADA lawsuits. They generate fears that the lawsuit could force them to close their businesses because ADA compliance is too costly. Even though empirical proof in support of those claims is lacking, they have perpetuating the myth that all ADA lawsuits involve unscrupulous attorneys and disabled plaintiffs preying upon small business owners.

This is why the disability community agreed to come to the bargaining table to negotiate reforms in conjunction with the business community. SB 1608 was the first such negotiated agreement. In addition, even though the disability community did not support most of the reforms in the subsequently enacted SB 1186, we agree that these reforms collectively deserve a reasonable implementation period to determine their effectiveness before any additional reforms are necessary.

Reforms Enacted by SB 1608 and SB 1186: Among other things, SB 1608 established a California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA). The CCDA is charged with responsibility to oversee disability access compliance issues, to conduct studies and issue reports, and to make recommendations to the Legislature on how to enforce and facilitate compliance. It also imposed new notice requirements for plaintiff attorneys to inform defendants about their rights and obligations under the law and their right to request a “stay” on the lawsuit to pursue an early evaluation conference designed to promote voluntary compliance if they retained a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) to inspect and evaluate a facility’s compliance with ADA accessibility standards.

SB 1608 also clarified the law for awarding damages and attorney’s fees to deter frivolous allegations that are sometimes used to drive up those alleged damages and attorney’s fees. More specifically, the bill specified that a plaintiff may only sue and collect damages for construction- related accessibility violation where the person is denied full and equal access to a public place of accommodations because he or she personally encountered the construction-related accessibility barrier or was deterred from accessing the site on a specific occasion. It also specified that not every violation of construction-related accessibility standard constitutes a separate offense entitling a plaintiff to a separate award of statutory damages, even if the plaintiff personally encountered more than one occasion.
Another major reform was to provide incentives for business owners to retain a CASp to inspect and write a report evaluating the accessibility of their facilities. If the CASp report identified specific barriers or obstacles that could remedy the problems, the defendants could qualify for a stay order and the scheduling of an Early Evaluation Conference. The conference is designed to assist both sides in reaching an agreement without incurring the additional costs associated with pursuing a lawsuit. Finally, the bill expanded the remedies available to a court to help settle the case and imposed new requirements for plaintiffs to qualify for statutory damages.

Although the negotiators had agreed to give SB 1608 a 5-year window of opportunity for implementation of all of these new requirements before additional legislation would be pursued, the business interests decided instead to continue with their “rampant, frivolous” ADA lawsuit media and public relations campaigns. Seizing a politically motivated opportunity to bring the issue to the forefront in the November 2012 General Election, they placed significant pressure upon the Assembly and Senate Leadership immediately prior to the elections to pass even more business- friendly reforms. That effort largely disregarded concerns that the additional reforms would negatively impact the civil and statutory physical accessibility rights of people with disabilities.

In the final analysis, and over the strong objections of the disability community, SB 1186 was enacted into law. The bill essentially treated allegedly abusive lawsuits in the same manner as those with entirely justifiable and valid grounds for pursuing a lawsuit. It reduced every plaintiff’s right to statutory damages from $4,000 to $2,000 per violation. It also broadly defined a “small business” as one with 25 or fewer employees and $3.5 million in gross receipts. Those statutory damages would be reduced if the defendant agreed to fix, and actually fixed, the violations within 30 days after being served with a complaint, but would be set at the higher level if the violations were not fixed.

SB 1186 also expanded the requirements for notice and giving defendants an opportunity to voluntarily fix violations. It also: (1) expanded the notice requirements and required plaintiff attorneys to provide a written advisory form with each demand letter or complaint; (2) required any allegations of inaccessibility to include a detailed statement of facts about the alleged violations; (3) prohibited any demand letters from including a request or demand for money; and (4) required attorneys to submit a copy of a demand letter and complaint to the CCDA.

Thus, SB 1186’s reformed largely consisted of further restrictions upon the civil rights of plaintiffs with disabilities, as well as their ability to recover statutory damages in light of the new notice and right to cure option conferred upon defendants. Perhaps an even greater danger was the fact that it undermined provisions of SB 1186 designed to give business owners incentives to achieve voluntary compliance. Instead, those in violation of the accessibility standards could easily decide to postpone any voluntary remediation until such time as the aggrieved party actually filed a lawsuit. This makes the pursuit of ADA litigation more difficult for the aggrieved parties.

SB 54 is Unnecessary: The issues related to notice about the legal obligations of business owners has already been addressed by the prior reform bills. For example, SB 1186 expressly provided that the California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA)shall prioritize the development and dissemination of educational materials and information on their agency website and through other means to promote and facilitate compliance. Section 8299.06 of the Government Code requires the CCDA to work with state agencies such as the Division of the State Architect and the Department of Rehabilitation to develop educational materials and information for use by businesses to understand their obligation and facilitate compliance.

To date, neither the CCDA nor the State Architect and the Department of Rehabilitation have identified any problems associated with providing such information and educational materials about the applicable standards or changes thereto to business owners who would be impacted by any changes within AB 54’s proposed 3-year period. Similarly, we see no direct or indirect nexus to, or any public policy justifications for, imposing further limitations on the ability of a plaintiffs prevailing in an ADA lawsuit to recover statutory damages. AB 54 is silent on how and why such written notice or a demand letter on those changes in the applicable building standards would serve the interests of either party if the recovery of those statutory damages would be denied unless the plaintiff failed to provide such a 60-day notice to the agent or other party responsible for the place of business alleged to be in violation of those standards.

Perhaps more importantly, the disability community predicted that if SB 1186 was enacted, the opponents of the ADA accessibility standards would return back to the Legislature again and again to expand and extend the notice and right to cure requirements to enable the defendant to remain out of compliance for additional periods of time. Thus, AB 54 moves in that direction of taking advantage of that precedent by imposing additional notice and right to cure requirements. We can safely assume that they will seek to extend the period to correct violations to 60 days, 90 days, 6 months, a year, or beyond because they can continue to argue, without any data or evidence, that SB 1608 and SB 1186 did not really “solve” the problem, even though the evaluation of the success of those reforms clearly require more time.

Rather than giving stronger incentives for voluntary compliance, or going toward disciplining the plaintiff and defense attorneys who are the true heart of the problem, we know that they will seek to convince the Legislature that the civil rights of disabled plaintiffs who have nothing to do with the underlying “problem” will have to be sacrificed. This is a simple political calculation because the disability community lacks the capacity to compete on par with campaign fundraising or and public relations and media campaigns to protect the rights of people with disabilities to have equal access to these places of business.

Conclusion: The basic question is whether business owners who are out of compliance with the ADA deserve even more than a quarter of a century to remain out of compliance to the detriment of the civil and statutory rights of people with disabilities. CFILC believes that the commitment to give SB 1608 and SB 1186 an adequate implementation period must be honored. Simply put, there is no evidence that allowing the additional period of time and notice requirement set forth in AB 54 will do anything to avoid further infringements about the rights of people with disabilities. Similarly, there is no proof that it would do anything to further convince the owner or operator that they should voluntarily remedy the access problems.

Small business owners have had numerous opportunities ever since the enactment of the ADA to make their places of business accessible. It is particularly egregious that all too many landowners who rent or lease non-compliant properties can allow that businesses owner to rent or lease them without any assurances that it meets the physical accessibility standards. We cannot support legislation that further erodes the rights of people with disabilities, so for these reasons, we must oppose AB 54.

Sincerely,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

CFILC Advocates for Increase in Funding for the Violence Against Women Act April 1st, 2015

Dear Senators Shelby, Mikulski, Blunt, and Murray, and Representatives Culberson, Fattah, Cole, DeLauro, Diaz-Balart, and Price:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers has joined national, state and local victim service and allied organizations writing to urge you to significantly increase funding for federal programs that address domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Domestic violence and sexual assault are life-threatening, pervasive crimes that affect millions across this nation.

In 2013, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized and expanded to meet the critical needs of more victims. While VAWA and related programs have received modest increases and funding released from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) last year should begin to address a portion in the gap in direct services, funding for these cost-effective and lifesaving programs must be increased. The investment in these programs must fulfill the promise of VAWA and related federal laws and meet the demand for services.

Shelters, rape crisis centers and other domestic and sexual violence service providers are facing decreased funding levels due to a struggling economic climate, while simultaneously facing increased demand for services. Many programs are forced to turn away victims who are desperate and have nowhere to go. CDC data reveals that almost 1 in 5 women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Attention to campus and military sexual assault as well as high profile cases has meant more victims have come forward needing recovery services. According to a 2014 survey by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, more than 1/3 (39%) of the nation's 1,300 rape crisis centers have a waiting list for critical services while over 40% have faced a reduction in staffing over the past year. Moreover, over 1/4 of rape crisis centers had to decrease the number of prevention education services due to insufficient funding while almost 20% of programs could not provide services within one month of a request. The National Domestic Violence Counts census found that in just one day during September 2014, while more than 67,500 victims of domestic violence received services, almost 11,000 requests for services went unmet due to lack of funding and resources. Of those unmet requests, 56% were for safe housing. Also, in 2014, domestic violence programs laid off nearly 1,400 staff positions, in addition to 1,700 staff positions laid off in 2013. Almost 75% of these laid off positions were direct service staff, including counselors, advocates and children's advocates. Given reduced funding and staff, local programs had to reduce or completely eliminate over 1,800 services, including emergency shelter, legal advocacy, and counseling.

The federal government funds critical programs at the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) that reach into every community across the nation to provide safety, access to services and justice for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
• STOP (VAWA, DOJ) allows states and communities to develop coordinated community responses to these four crimes, which improves the criminal justice and wider community response.
• The Sexual Assault Services Program (VAWA, DOJ) is the federal government?s only funding source dedicated to sexual assault services and funds rape crisis centers in every state.
• The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA, HHS) is the federal government?s only dedicated funding stream for domestic violence shelters and outreach programs.
• The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA, DOJ) is a non-taxpayer fund that supports over 4,000 victim services agencies across the nation to help victims dealing with the immediate aftermath of a crime.
• The Rape Prevention and Education Program (RPE, HHS) supports rape prevention and education programs for communities and schools.

These state formula grant programs are the essential foundation of our nation?s response to violence, and their successes are tangible. They require sustained and increased funding to meet the potential and promise of the recently renewed VAWA and other federal laws.

VAWA and related discretionary programs complement the state formula grants by propelling innovation and providing targeted responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Each program detailed in the attached chart works together with the others to provide a comprehensive response to victims of violence. These include lifesaving legal services; funding for services in rural and remote areas; transitional housing and housing vouchers for victims rebuilding their lives after violence and abuse; law enforcement improvements such as Sexual Assault Response Teams, initiatives to address the rape kit backlog, and homicide reduction initiatives; services to underserved victims including disabled and elderly victims; programs aimed at children, youth, and college students; projects addressing courts and visitation; programs to respond to the epidemic of sexual assault and domestic violence on tribal lands; and projects

addressing violence in the workplace; a national domestic violence hotline; prevention programs and public health responses to violence and abuse.

In addition the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) should receive additional funding to continue its work to bring about lasting change on campuses and in K-12, including holding schools accountable and making sure that student survivors receive counseling and other vital accommodations. These programs must receive sustained and increased funding to ensure that our communities can build on our years of progress and meet the needs of ALL victims.

We call on you to support increased funding for these vital programs. If you have any questions, please feel to contact Monica McLaughlin, National Network to End Domestic Violence at mmclaughlin@nnedv.org or Terri Poore, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence at terri@endsexualviolence.org.

Thank you for your continued leadership in keeping victims safe and healthy.

CFILC Advocates for Base Funding for All ILCs and Restoration of Assistive Technology Funding March 26th, 2015

Honorable Holly J. Mitchell, Chair
Senate Budget and Fiscal Review
Subcommittee No. 3 on Health and Human Services
State Capitol, Room 5019
Sacramento, CA 95814

ATTN: Samantha Lui, Consultant, Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee

RE: Item 5160 Department of Rehabilitation

Dear Chairwoman Mitchell and Members of the Senate
Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee #3:

I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) to respectfully submit the following proposed budget changes for the Department of Rehabilitation’s (DOR) Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Budget. We are writing to respectfully urge you to adopt the Assembly Budget Committee Consultant’s recommendation to keep this Item open.

There are 28 Independent Living Centers in California that assist approximately 100,000 people with disabilities annually to live independently in the community by providing: Information and Referral, Peer counseling, Independent living skills training, Individual Advocacy, Systems Change Advocacy, Housing, Assistive Technology and Personal Assistant Services, Youth Transition and Community Living Transition services.

Currently, no General Funds dollars are appropriated to ILCs, our funding is supported entirely through the Federal Social Security Cost Reimbursements that are tied directly to the employment outcomes of the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR).

CFILC values Work Incentives Planning and our collaborative relationship with the DOR. However, we are concerned that the department’s proposal to use $3 million of Federal Social Security Cost Reimbursements to fund 31 new permanent full time civil service positions to serve as Work Incentive Planners (WIPs) may put Independent Living Center funding at risk. Our members are concerned that if reimbursements fall below expectations the obligation to pay the costs related to permanent personnel with federal reimbursement funds will supersede funding the ILCs.

The minimum state funding commitment to ILCs has remained $9.7 million annually since 1997. However, with the addition of Assistive Technology services in 2001, our funding has grown to $12.5 million annually. It is important to note that DOR’s federal reimbursements are subject to fluctuation. If federal reimbursements fall below $12.5 million, there is a $2.8 million dollar gap between actual funding and the State minimum funding commitment identified in Subdivision (c) of Section 19805 of the Welfare & Institution Code protects the funding level for ILCs to the level that was authorized in the Budget Act of 1997, at $9.7 million.

CFILC recommends that DOR protect ILC funding at $14,133,000 annually through Social Security Cost Reimbursements and General Fund sources interchangeably. CFILC requests that ILC funding is protected by state resources at its current level, with modest adjustments to restore funds to support Assistive Technology Services and resolve a long standing equity issue among centers by doing the following:

• restore the 30% cut to Assistive Technology Services that was made in 2004, for a total of $930,000; and

• address the ILC base funding inequity by providing base funding to all 28 ILCs in the amount of $235,000. This would add the remaining 3 ILCs for a total of $705,000 annually;

We could support the proposal if it were funded by General Fund dollars that would not risk current IL funding. We request that you keep this item open and would welcome the opportunity to work with DOR, the Governor, and the Legislature to seek $3 million in General Fund appropriations each year over a 3-year period as an alternative. The appropriation should include appropriate budget control language requiring a program evaluation.

Thank you for the opportunity to express our views on these important issues. Please do not hesitate to contact me at Teresa@cfilc.org or by phone at (916) 325-1690 ext. 313 if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Best regards,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Members of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No.3 on Health and Human Services

Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Joins 200 Organizations Support SSI/SSP Restoration March 26th, 2015

The Honorable Mark Leno
Chair, Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
State Capitol, Room 5019
Sacramento, Califonia 95814

The Honorable Dr. Shirley Weber
Chair, Assembly Budget Committee
State Capitol, Room 6026
Sacramento, California 95814

Re: SSI/SSP in the Fiscal Year 2015-16 Budget

Dear Senator Leno and Assembly Member Weber,

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 100,000 people with disabilities each year. I am writing to respectfully urge you and Members of your fiscal committee to restore past programmatic cuts in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. As you know, SSI is a Federal program designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no income in meeting their basic income security needs. The state-funded portion of this program is called the State Supplementary Payment (SSP). Unfortunately, the Governor’s proposed budget for the 2015-2016 proposes no action to address the difficulties SSI/SSP recipients encounter in managing the continually rising costs of living. Accordingly, we are joining other advocates for the senior and disability communities in urging the Senate and the Assembly to prioritize funding for SSI/SSP in the Fiscal Year 2015-16 budget.

Prior SSI/SSP Grant Budget Cuts Have Pushed Over One Million Californians into Poverty: In January 2009 the SSI/SSP grant of $907 a month was worth 100.5 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for a single individual. Since then, SSP grants were repeatedly cut and no cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) were approved to enable recipients to keep pace with inflation.

Today, SSI/SSP grants for individuals are only worth 90.7 percent of the FPL level. According to the California Budget Project, if California had not approved those prior fiscal year budget cuts and COLA freezes, the grants would be at 106.7 percent of the FPL. CFILC and the disability community are strongly concerned about the impact of those actions because those cuts have forced the incomes of over one million blind, aged and disabled Californians below the FPL. This is a major reason why California’s poverty rate has skyrocketed to become the highest in the nation, according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.

These cuts are being felt statewide and have caused a new coalition of over 200 organizations designated as Californians for SSI (CA4SSI) to advocate for restorations in SSI/SSP funding. Our coalition is concerned because the cuts have come at an extremely high cost to local communities throughout the state because they have forced many SSI/SSP recipients to rely on emergency public services and private networks to meet their needs for food, shelter, and health care.

Income insecurity is a major obstacle to the ability of people with disabilities to live independently in their homes and communities as a viable alternative to institutionalization in nursing homes and other institutions because they face cumulative barriers in meeting the cost of living. In September of 2014, the United States Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) released a report titled “Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barrier to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities.”

The report documented the current economic circumstances faced by these individuals and families, noting that twice as many people with disabilities live in poverty compared to those without disabilities. Furthermore, people with disabilities have the highest poverty rate of any demographic category due in large part to their high unemployment rates and reliance upon governmental assistance programs.

It also discussed the precarious economic situation people with disabilities face and the non-disabled do not face, including “direct costs,” such as medical expenses not covered by health insurance, and “opportunity costs,” such as the time it takes to perform necessary daily tasks; the inability to find affordable, accessible housing; and their reliance upon public transportation. This explains why the SSI/SSP cuts have had a disproportionate impact on the income security of people with disabilities and their ability to find support for the basic necessities to continue to live independently.

Those Impacted by Low SSI/SSP Grants: Over 1.3 million blind, aged and disabled Californians rely on the Federal/State SSI/SSP program. Nearly two-thirds of the caseload is composed of blind and disabled individuals, with about one-third of recipients eligible due to age. More than half the caseload is composed of women.

The Magnitude of Cuts to SSI/SSP: For decades, California periodically authorized annual COLAs on the total SSI/SSP grant. This was something that recipients could rely upon to help keep pace with rising costs of living up, that is up until the time that the Governor and the Legislature repealed the SSP COLA in 2009. Moreover, they cut the monthly state contributions to the SSI/SSP grant for individuals from $233 to the federal minimum of $156, which represents a $77 monthly reduction per person while also cutting the grant for couples from $568 a month to $396.20, which itself represents a $171.80 monthly cut.

In fiscal year 2007-08 the state spent $3.9 billion on the state portion of the SSI/SSP grant, after adjusting for inflation according to the CBP. In contrast, the Governor proposes to spend only $2.5 billion. This is a cut of $1.4 billion to be absorbed by persons forced to make difficult tradeoffs between food, housing and medicine. In other words, the proposed budget is based on more than $1 billion in so-called savings that, in fact, comes at a high price by diminishing an essential source of income for more than 1 million Californians.

Conclusion---It is Time to Restore the SSI/SSP Grant Cuts and the COLA: As one can easily discern from a review of this letter, the prior fiscal year budget cuts and COLA freezes have had a dramatic effect on recipients whose ability to meet the costs of living is more fragile than ever before. The situation is even worse for people with disabilities because of the direct and opportunity costs identified in the Senate HELP Committee report. CFILC strongly believes that the time has arrived to reverse the negative impacts of these cuts. We hope that you and Members of your committee agree that no person on SSI/SSP should be living in poverty or even at the Supplemental Poverty Measure.

Accordingly, CFILC is respectfully requesting that the Legislature reverse the SSP grant cuts and restore the statutory COLA to give disabled recipients the tools to live in their homes and communities and avoid significantly more costly institutionalization in nursing homes and other institutions. Thank you for the opportunity to present our views on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (916) 325-1690, ext. 313 or via email at Teresa@cfilc.org if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Respectfully,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Members of the Senate Health Committee
Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Advocates for Assistive Technology Funding March 26th, 2015

United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

RE: SUPPORT Assistive Technology Act Program Funding

I am writing on behalf of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) and the national organization the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP). We are respectfully urging Members of the California Congressional Delegation, including those who sit on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS), to support the inclusion of a $38 million appropriation in the FY 2016 LHHS bill for the Assistive Technology (AT) Act programs.

More specifically, we are requesting that you consider placing programmatic request to fund the AT Act at $38 million with the House LHHS Appropriations Committee by APRIL 1, 2015. This would represent an important step forward in providing funding pursuant to the AT Act in support of vital programs that ensure that people with disabilities have access to the Assistive Technology they need to live, work, and attend schools in their communities. In the last year California’s Assistive Technology Act Program provided direct services to 3,433 Californians and provided community education services to 18,033 individuals.

CFILC is the nonprofit organization that has contracted with the California Department of Rehabilitation to administer California’s State AT Program. It was formerly known to the public as the “AT Network,” but it has been re-named Ability Tools. Each State AT Program is required to carry out a continuum of four specified state-level and state leadership activities that promote the ability of people with disabilities to be aware of, and to be better positioned to, acquire the Assistive Technology they need.

Assistive Technology refers to any device or equipment used to maintain or improve the functionality of people with disabilities to allow them to live independently in their homes and communities. It ranges from wheelchairs and other functional mobility aids to advanced computer technology such as screen readers. The Ability Tools Network provides information, referrals, training, and technical assistance to those who share an interest in, and commitment to, the practical and effective use of technology by people with disabilities.

Especially in these difficult and challenging fiscal and economic times, we are appreciative of the fact that the final FY 2015 budget provided level funding for the AT Act programs. However, that amount is still insufficient for all States to receive the minimum authorized grants prescribed in the law when it was enacted in 2004 ($410,000).

A $38 million appropriation would allow this minimum level of funding to be achieved and it would directly affect the capacity of AT Act programs to provide the full breadth of statutorily authorized services. If the California State AT Program is fully funded, we would receive close to the full funding allocation $1,397,824. This would enable our program to provide the full continuum of services and would enable Ability Tools to serve over 6,000 people with disabilities.

When the Assistive Technology Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2004, State AT Programs were responsible for providing more services to bring Assistive Technology directly to those who need them. The programs are required to operate statewide programs that would be available to persons with all types of disabilities, to all age categories, and in all types of environments (e.g. education, employment, community living, and information technology).

In addition, State AT Programs are required to provide a continuum of services to increase public awareness of, and access to, Assistive Technology. This includes state financing activities such as, but not limited to, financial loans, cooperative buying programs, and operating as funding of last resort. Other required services include device utilization, (including recycling, repair, refurbishment, and device exchange) and device loans and device demonstration services.

These state-level activities are provided in addition to the previously required activities. They include information and assistance, training, technical assistance, and coordination and collaboration activities. Although people with disabilities and their families and guardians are the primary beneficiaries of these services, the AT Act requires State AT Act Programs to offer a wide range of other targeted individuals such as educators, employers, health care providers, rehabilitation specialists, technology experts (including web designers), procurement officials, and Assistive Technology manufacturers and vendors.

Although the 2004 amendments in the AT Act Reauthorization legislation have had a positive effect by improving the availability and consistency of the continuum of services nationwide, it has been extremely difficult for the State AT Programs to provide three additional core activities without any increase in funding. This has effectively prevented the program resources from meeting the congressional intent in authorizing, but not fully funding, these additional requirements. Nevertheless, the State AT Programs continue to provide cost-effective services and supports to improve the independence of people with disabilities and provides the fiscal and public policy justifications to warrant a continuing Federal investment in these activities and supports.

The AT Act is critically important because it places Assistive Technology in the hands of people with disabilities whose lives and livelihood depend upon its availability. CFILC believes that the $38 million appropriation request for FY 2016 will be well-spent and it will also help generate matching investments in funding by the States and the private sector.

Thank you for the opportunity to bring this important issue and request for your office’s assistance in placing a programmatic request to fund the AT Act at $38 million in the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee by the April 4, 2015 deadline.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you or your designated staff members have any questions, need additional information, or wish to confirm your willingness to submit the programmatic request. I can be reached by telephone at (916)325-1690 ext. 313 or via email at Teresa@cfilc.org.

Best regards,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC Opposes Assisted Suicide (SB 128) March 26th, 2015

Honorable Ed Hernandez, Chair
Senate Health Committee
State Capitol, Room 313
Sacramento, CA 95814

SB 128 (Wolk/Monning) Physician Assisted Suicide
CFILC Position: OPPOSE


ATTN: Teri Boughton, Senate Health Committee Consultant

Dear Senator Hernandez:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers statewide that provide programs and services to over 300,000 Californians with disabilities each year. I am writing to inform you that the CFILC Board of Directors has voted to take an OPPOSE position on Senate Bill 128 by Senators Lois Wolk and Bill Monning. This position is consistent with our prior opposition to substantially similar Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) legislation.

SB 128 would authorize any adult who meets prescribed eligibility criteria and who has been diagnosed by his or her attending physician to have a terminal illness, as defined, to request prescription medications that would end their lives. The bill sets forth the applicable requirements and prescribes certain procedural safeguards related to making those requests and would require the completion of specified forms in order to receive aid-in-dying medications.

In addition, SB 128 would prohibit any contract, will, or other agreement, or any health care service plan contract, or health benefit contract, from being conditioned upon, or affected by, a person making or rescinding those life-ending medications. It would prohibit any insurance or annuity policies, or the applicable rates charged, from being conditioned upon or affected by the request.

SB 128 would also grant immunity from civil or criminal liability, or professional disciplinary action, for a physician’s good faith compliance with the request and would require their participation to be voluntary. Furthermore, it would impose criminal liability and penalties upon anyone who knowingly alters or forges a request for the end of life medication, for anyone found guilty of concealing or destroying a rescission of the forms, or for anyone who knowingly coerces or exerts undue influence upon the individual to make such a request.

The Disability Community’s Concerns About Physician Assisted Suicide: It is incontrovertible that there is growing public support for the “concept” of PAS. Many believe that it gives a person with a diagnosed terminal medical condition control, choice, and the ability to select the time, place, and the most appropriate setting to end their life. However, for reasons outlined in this letter, CFILC and large segments of the disability community strongly believe that, at this point in time in American history, these considerations are far outweighed by significant countervailing risks and dangers that many people with disabilities would face as the individuals most likely to be encouraged, pressured, or unduly influence to choose PAS.

There are many legitimate reasons why the disability community has taken this position on PAS. We know that throughout our nation’s history people with disabilities have been segregated and ostracized from living in their homes and communities because they were disabled. Large numbers of children and adults with disabilities were involuntarily removed from their homes and communities to be placed in nursing homes and other institutional settings where they were expected to remain for the rest of their lives.

There has also been a shameful legacy of society viewing them as unworthy of living because they were disabled and dependent upon others for their care. In many instances, people with severe disabilities have been shunned by their communities and their families have been pressured, coerced, or unduly influenced to consider voluntary suicide or abandoning continued care, while still others were actually euthanatized. The formidable and dominant societal perception has been that “death is preferable than living with a disability.”

Today, the supporters of PAS genuinely believe that our society has changed and that PAS will not result in people with disabilities being abused in this manner to consider suicide. Oregon’s voter-passed PAS initiative and SB 128 include built-in procedural safeguards and impose criminal penalties that are designed to prevent such abuse.

However, the disability community does not share that same degree of confidence about the viability or effectiveness of these procedural safeguards. We believe that people with disabilities and their families will still face more subtle, behind-the-scenes forms of persuasion coercion. There are no guarantees that the procedural safeguards will actually work and that SB 128 would only affect people with a diagnosed terminal condition or severe, untreatable pain who will make sound choices in choosing to die with the assistance of PAS.

The disability community is convinced that the perception that death is preferable to living with a disability is still pervasive. Many people with disabilities have lived with the consequences associated with this notion throughout their lives. We also know that medical diagnoses of terminal conditions are not always accurate, so that PAS should not be a justifiable basis for anyone diagnosed as dying within the prescribed 6-month period.

In fact, there are many adults with disabilities who are still alive today, even though they were diagnosed as having such a terminal disease in childhood or adolescence. Given the large number of misdiagnosed terminal conditions, we know that there are valid reasons to question the validity and accuracy of medical diagnoses. For the sake of argument, even if we were proven that such diagnoses are accurate 95 or 98 percent of the time, it begs the question of why the Legislature should ignore the fact that hundreds or even thousands of Californians could choose PAS when it’s statistically possible that they could survive the diagnosis and continue living with a disability.

The data from States where PAS has been legalized indicates that each year there are substantial numbers of people who have been improperly diagnosed with a terminal condition. There are many patients who do not have a terminal condition, but have a serious illness and a disability, who can still qualify under the proper circumstances to receive those lethal prescriptions even when there are alternatives such as Hospice and Palliative care that would ease their pain and discomfort while dying. In addition, people who may survive the terminal diagnosis and become or remain disabled can still live productive lives if they are educated and assisted about living with a disability. The number of people who survive a diagnosed condition must be taken into account. Data about people diagnosed with terminal conditions compiled by hospice organizations showed that approximately 15 percent of them outlive that 6-month prognosis

CFILC is also concerned that the dangers of misdiagnoses and premature PAS will only increase as California’s population ages. Similarly, we believe that the number of people who could be encouraged in both subtle and unsubtle ways to consider PAS will increase due to the fact that California is transitioning hundreds of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities into mandatory managed care plan systems. Mandatory managed care replaced the “fee-for-service” system that was deemed too costly, yet achieving cost savings is equally imperative to keep the managed care system operational and to control spending by limiting authorized health care services.

There is Broad-Based Disability Community Opposition to PAS: The Legislature must take into consideration the fact the proposed benefits associated with PAS would only affect a small number of people with an actual imminent terminal condition and those in severe, untreatable pain who want to end their lives and require the involvement of a physician. On the other hand, the disability community is convinced there are immense and inherent dangers in legalizing PAS. We strongly believe that many people with disabilities will be pressured or be subjected to undue influence to choose PAS as an option if it is legalized.

Our concerns are shared by the National Council on Disability (NCD), which is the independent Federal agency that makes recommendations to the President and Congress on disability issues. A 1997 NCD Position Paper titled “Assisted Suicide: A Disability Perspective” (updated in 2005) outlined the reasons for NCD’s opposition to PAS.

Among other things, the authors examined the problems encountered by the Netherlands after that nation legalized PAS. Reports indicated that people with diagnosed terminal conditions encountered difficult family pressures to end their lives and that it often rose to the level of coercion and involuntary euthanasia. Despite the best intentions of PAS supporters and the built-in procedural safeguards, NCD concluded that legalized PAS inevitably will threaten the lives of people with any disability stereotyped as being too expensive or too difficult to continue living. NCD is particularly concerned that these threats will disproportionately impact people without support systems, the poor and low-income earners, and those from racial and ethnic minority groups.

The Ineffectiveness of Procedural Safeguards: As has been the case with other PAS initiatives, SB 128 sets forth a number of good faith statutory safeguards designed to prevent any abuses or the inappropriate promotion of PAS as an option. However, the disability community knows that patients diagnosed with a terminal condition or severe, untreatable are, by definition, nearly always disabled. Regardless of whether the disability is genetic or newly acquired, those patients are extremely vulnerable to the influence of medical and legal practitioners and their own families. Many have depression or related mental health conditions caused by the nature of their terminal diagnosis, disabilities, and the chronic pain they endure.

Although the procedural safeguards are designed to prevent abuse or undue influence, it’s impossible to ensure that they will work in every case where patients are considering PAS. The disability community has first-hand experience with the challenges in making critically important medical decisions under these emotional and psychological clouds. Sound decision may also be influenced by the side effects of their medications. Those procedural safeguards may prove to be inadequate because life-ending decisions would be influenced by the human nature and the dynamics and complexities of inter-personal relations. CFILC is also concerned because oversight of the PAS selection process may vary significantly and, as a result, it would be difficult to enforce compliance with these safeguards.

NCD also questioned the effectiveness of any form of statutorily-prescribed procedural safeguards. They concluded that in order to be truly effective, those stringent prerequisites would sacrifice an individual’s autonomy to decision-making by medical and legal professionals. Thus, they argue that any purported “benefits” of PAS are heavily outweighed by the inevitability that procedural safeguards will be thwarted or misapplied to unnecessarily end the lives of people with disabilities. The NCD described this as a situation where the proverbial cure is worse than the disease.

NCD’s report explained that the procedural safeguards would remain highly susceptible to outside influences or the patient’s concerns about the financial burdens continued care would place on caregivers. Indeed, the limited data available from States with legalized PAS shows that the top five reasons that patients apply for PAS prescriptions are related to having acquired a disability. Two of them are related to the “loss of autonomy” and “being a financial burden” on their families and loved ones. Still others fear the loss of “control” and the dilution of their self-image, or the very prospect of living their remaining days in a nursing home or other institution. Many of those who are living alone without any family or support systems are even more prone to choosing PAS, even though Hospice and Palliative care could aid them in dying without pain or discomfort.

The NCD report also questioned the effectiveness of the requirement that the patient must be given an explanation about all alternatives to PAS and all available programs, resources. To most people with disabilities this safeguard is an ineffective way to protect patients from inappropriately opting for PAS. It is also unlikely be a disincentive to choosing PAS because people with and without disabilities know that, more often than not, these programs, resources, and options are extremely limited or non-existent.

People With Disabilities Can Live Full and Productive Lives: Today, people who survive a diagnosis of a terminal disease and who are disabled have more opportunities to live independently than people with disabilities living in the past. The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movements have successfully advocated for the protection of their civil and constitutional rights and statutes to provide benefits and long-term services and supports. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the United States Court’s landmark Olmstead decision, and other Federal and State disability rights laws and regulations have help overcome the notion that death is better than living with a disability.

Moreover, even though there is significant room for improvement in fully funding these programs and supportive services, those forms of assistance and the rapidly emerging benefits of Assistive Technology allow people with disabilities to live longer and enjoy fulfilling and productive lives. This progress is encouraging and more time will be required to overcome the still-remaining prejudices, discrimination, and the removal of physical barriers that make publicly and privately owned buildings and facilities inaccessible. Nevertheless, more so than ever before, people with disabilities can live independently and choose it as an alternative to living in nursing homes and other institutions.

The Legislature Must Consider Alternatives to PAS to Support People with Terminal Conditions and Severe, Untreatable Pain: Given the totality of the moral and ethical implications of PAS, it is clear that the disability community is concerned that insufficient attention is being paid to viable alternatives to overcome the fears of dying in pain and discomfort that have prompted public support for PAS. We do not believe that PAS should be the only option for people who are in the process of dying.

The medical profession is divided on the ethical issue of PAS, but there is growing recognition that our society has been too slow to embrace the practice and principles of Hospice and Palliative care that can help people die with the dignity they desire. Therefore, rather than enacting a PAS statute, the Legislature should embrace and help fund hospice organizations and promote best practices for palliative care. These industries need improvement, but such investments are sound public policy.

These issues cannot be addressed simply by legalizing PAS. At a minimum, we must overcome existing deficiencies and reform our health care long-term care delivery systems. We must overcome reimbursement disincentives for comfort care; make Hospice and Palliative care a viable alternative to PAS; and to find ways to balance the cost-control pressures that discourage spending for long-term care.

Accordingly, for all of these reasons, CFILC must respectfully oppose SB 128. Thank you for your attention to this letter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need any additional information.

Respectfully,

[Signed]
Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Members of the Senate Health Committee
Ana Acton, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee

CFILC advocates to require Comcast to offer affordable internet to all low?income households March 20th, 2015

President Michael Picker
Commissioner Carla J. Peterman
Commissioner Michel Peter Florio
Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval
Commissioner Liane M. Randolph
California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, California 94102

Dear President Picker, Commissioner Peterman, Commissioner Florio, Commissioner Sandoval, and Commissioner Randolph:

We are writing to all the Commissioners of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as community?based organizations (CBOs) that are trusted messengers in our local communities in California who have done and are doing the work to get low?income households connected to the Internet.

Conditions Are Essential

We are very excited to know that the CPUC may approve conditions that require Comcast to make affordable high?speed Internet available to all low?income households. Based on our extensive experience securing over 250,000 adoptions, these conditions are critical. Many of us work to improve education and the lives of low?income residents, including the 123 organizations in Attachment, and we fully support the conditions in the Proposed Decision that improve and expand Comcast Internet Essentials (IE) with the refinements submitted by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) in Reply Briefs on March 5 and 10, 2015.

Most, if not all, of the organizations that appeared in support of Comcast at the All Parties Meeting on February 25, 2015 did so because the company is a corporate member or has made a donation to their events or projects. The vast majority of these groups do not work in low?income communities nor have experience providing Digital Literacy to the residents and promoting broadband adoption.

We Know What It Takes

The work to increase adoptions among the last 25% of the population who do not have Internet at home requires more interaction and, therefore, more time. The barriers that people face look like a wall of poverty. Many of the households have people working multiple jobs at minimum wage who must make difficult choices with each pay check. The barriers include the lack of sufficient financial resources, Digital Literacy training, and relevance.

Once eligible families are identified it takes 6 to 7 interactions with prospective customers to help solve problems and overcome barriers. The adoption work for us as CBOs is primarily supported by CETF with the funding made possible by the pioneering action of the CPUC in 2005. We bring match funding from other grants with a related purpose and have been able to effectively leverage the CETF dollars.

We work with a lot of households that are not eligible for the current IE program. Expanding the eligibility will help tremendously because the most effective outreach is done neighborhood?by?neighborhood and it is heartbreaking to turn away needy families because they don’t qualify today for Internet Essentials. The recommendations in the Proposed Decision mean that there could be 1.5M households in California eligible for IE. Connecting these households would have real, tangible benefit for millions of Californians.

Comcast Must Fully Participate

We think the performance goal of 45% is doable as long as: (a) Comcast resolves the problems with the Internet Essentials sign?up process and advertises effectively to reach the target populations; (b) Comcast participates as a sincere partner with advertising and a well trained call center; and (c) Comcast contributes $275 per household to an independently?managed statewide fund for affordable adoption programs. Many of the CBOs doing the work find that it takes more than the $480 as documented by CETF in filings with the CPUC. After all, we understand the target population, and have records of being accountable for results.

We attest that the foregoing is true and correct under penalty of perjury.

Thank you for your work in closing the Digital Divide in California.

[Signed]

Teresa Favuzzi
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

Dixon Slingerland
Youth Policy Institute (YPI)

Arabella Martinez
Latino Community Foundation

Olga Talamante
Chicana Latino Foundation

Hugo Morales
Radio Bilingue

Barrie Hathaway
Stride Center

Bob Cabeza
YMCA of Long Beach

Linda Mandolini
Eden Housing

Mari Riddle
Centro Latino

Serita Cox
iFoster

Mike Dozier
San Joaquin Valley Broadband Consortium

Charon Davis
Oakland Technology Exchange West

Arlene Krebs
Loaves, Fishes and Computers

Oscar Cruz
Families in Schools

Public Endorsements of the 5 Recommendations

1. 20 Million Minds
2. Access Humboldt
3. Access Living – Chicago
4. Access to Independence
5. ACME Network
6. ACT for Women and Girls
7. ADAPT – Montana
8. Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency
9. Area 4 Agency on Aging, Sacramento
10. Binational Center for the Development of the Indigenous
Communities
11. Boston Center for Independent Living
12. Building Blocks for Kids
13. California Center for Rural Policy
14. California Foundation for Independent Living Centers
15. California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley
16. California Seniors United
17. California Workforce Association
18. Camicia & Company LLC
19. CD Tech
20. Center for Accessible Technology
21. Center for Independent Living
22. Central Coast Center for Independent Living
23. Central Latino for Literacy
24. Central Sierra Connect Broadband Consortium
25. Centro Legal del La Raza, Oakland
26. Chicana/Latina Foundation
27. Chrysalis
28. City of Livingston, California
29. City of Winters, California, City Council
30. Communities Actively Living Independent & Free
31. Community Centers, Inc
32. Community Resources for Independent Living
33. Community Technology Network
34. Computer Using Educators
35. Computers for Classrooms
36. Council of Mexican Federations
37. County of Del Norte
38. Detroit Public Schools
39. Disability Resource Center
40. EARN
41. Eastern Sierra Rural Broadband Consortium
42. Eden Housing, Inc.
43. Educational Support Systems
44. El Concilio
45. El Monte High School District
46. EveryoneOn
47. Fall Prevention Coalition of Nevada County
48. Familias Unidas
49. Families in Schools
50. Fathers and Families of San Joaquin
51. First Five Commission of Fresno
52. Florida Minority Community Reinvestment Coalition
53. FREED Center for Independent Living
54. Fresno Barrios Unidos
55. Fullerton Unified School District
56. Giving Sphere
57. Glide Memorial Church
58. Good Samaritan Family Resource Center
59. Great Valley Center
60. HOMEY
61. Housing Authority of Los Angeles
62. Human IT
63. iFoster
64. Independent Living Resources Center, Los Angeles
65. Independent Living Resources Center, Santa Barbara
66. Inland Empire Regional Broadband Consortium
67. Inquilinos Unidos
68. Korean Churches for Community Development
69. La Luz
70. L.A.’s Promise
71. The Latina Commission
72. The Latina Coalition for a Healthy California
73. Latina Center
74. Latino Community Foundation
75. Loaves, Fishes, and Computers
76. Manchester Community Technologies
77. Marin Center for Independent Living
78. Mission Asset Fund
79. Mission Economic Development Agency
80. Mission Graduates
81. Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP)
82. Modern Support Services
83. Mt. Diablo Unified School District
84. The National Disability Rights Center
85. North Bay Organizing Project
86. Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California
87. Oakland Technology Exchange-West
88. Open Oakland
89. Ouye-Mingram Consulting Partners
90. Partnership for Los Angeles Schools
91. Placer Independent Resource Services
92. PolicyLink
93. Puente de la Costa Sur
94. Radio Bilingüe, Inc.
95. Resources for Independence, Central Valley
96. Rolling Start, Inc.
97. Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services
98. San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband
Consortium
99. Salvation Army, Pico Union, Los Angeles
100.San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell
101.San Mateo County Office of Education
102.Santa Ana Unified School District
103.Santa Barbara Supervisor Doreen Farr
104.Santa Cruz Supervisor Bruce McPherson
105.Senior and Disability Action
106.Service Center for Independent Living
107.Silicon Valley Independent Living Center
108.Social Interest Solutions
109.Somos Mayfair
110.Southeast Community Development Corporation
111. Strategic Consulting
112. Stride Center
113.Sup. Dr. Darryl Adams, Coachella Valley Unified
School District
114. Urban Strategies Council
115.Variety Boys and Girls Club
116.Veterans Advocacy
117.West Contra Costa Unified School District
118.Winning Strategies LLC
119.The Women’s Building
120.World Institute on Disability
121.YMCA of the East Bay
122.YMCA of Greater Long Beach, Youth Institute
123.Youth Policy Institute

as of 3/11/2015

CFILC Joins 47 Organizations Advocating to Repeal the 7% Cut to In-Home Support Services March 16th, 2015

Dear Assembly Member Thurmond:

The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Coalition has one budget priority: (1) we urge the legislature to repeal the 7% across-the-board cut to IHSS hours. The IHSS Coalition is composed of forty-nine organizations representing IHSS consumers, providers and advocates. Our goals are (1) to ensure sufficient funding for In-Home Supportive Services and its interrelated aspects (2) to develop potential improvements for the program, (3) to disseminate information on homecare issues through public events and our website, and (4) to preserve and enhance consumer-directed services.

IHSS keeps Californians with disabilities, including seniors, in their own homes and saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in doing so. The IHSS program provides personal care and domestic services to approximately 460,000 individuals who are aged, blind or have disabilities, which allow these individuals to live safely at home rather than in unnecessary, not desired and more costly out-of home placement facilities. IHSS is a critical component of long-term care services in California.

By definition, IHSS consumers are very poor; the vast majority has monthly incomes less than $1,000 and $2,000 in personal assets. According to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), approximately 85% of all IHSS consumers receive SSI/SSP. The current maximum monthly SSI/SSP grant for elderly and disabled individuals is $889 per month and the maximum grant for couples is $1,496. The average IHSS consumer receives 89.5 hours of service a month.

7% Across-The-Board Cut
In 2013 the legislature adopted the provisions of a settlement agreement to resolve two class-action lawsuits related to IHSS cuts that were previously enacted: Oster v. Lightbourne and Dominguez v. Schwarzenegger. The cuts that were subject to these lawsuits were enacted when the state was dealing with significant budget deficits and, if implemented, the reductions would have been devastating to IHSS consumers and providers.

The settlement agreement and related implementing legislation repealed those reductions and established an 8% across-the-board cut that took effect on July 1, 2013. Under current law, the 8% cut was replaced with a 7% across-the-board cut on July 1, 2014. The settlement agreement also included a provision to “trigger off” the ongoing 7% reduction–in whole or in part–if the state receives enhanced federal funding pursuant to an “assessment” (likely a fee or tax) on home care services, including IHSS.

The 7% across-the-board cut hurts IHSS consumers and providers. A consumer assessed as needing the average number of monthly hours lost 6 of those hours – time which was needed for laundry or bathing or grocery shopping. A consumer who is assessed as needing the maximum number of hours – 283 – lost 20 hours of help per month – more than two days of personal care or domestic services. The need didn’t go away – but the help did.

Consumers have suffered disproportionately in recent years, with the IHSS hours cut compounded by cuts to SSI and Medi-Cal services, which are not proposed for restoration in the proposed budget.

Given the vastly improved fiscal situation, the legislature should restore the hours which consumers need to remain safely in their homes.

Closing Comments:
After many years of budget deficits, California is experiencing higher revenues than projected in the 2013-14 budget, with an additional $6.3 billion in unanticipated revenue from 2012-2013 budget through 2014-2015 budget. State revenues are coming in higher than these projections, so it’s likely that the surplus will be greater than seven billion dollars. This sizable surplus provides the legislature with the resources to repeal the 7% cut.

This year, we need all of you to do what you know is right – and what you've done before: Stand up for the California consumers of IHSS, their families and the workers who provide their much-needed care. We call on you to repeal the 7% across-the-board cuts.

Sincerely,

AARP-California
Access to Independence
ACLU of Southern California
Alzheimer's Association, California Council
California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA)
California Association of Public Authorities (CAPA)
California Church IMPACT
California Council of Churches
California Council of the Alzheimer’s Association
California Council of the Blind
California Disability Community Action network (CDCAN)
California Foundation for Independent Living (CFILC)
California IHSS Consumer Alliance (CICA)
California Senior Legislature
California State Council on Developmental Disabilities
California United Homecare Workers (CUHW)
Californians for Disability Rights, Inc. (CDR)
Communities Actively Living Independent & Free (CALIF)
Dayle McIntosh Center for the Disabled
Disability Rights California (DRC)
East Bay Community Law Center
FREED Center for Independent Living
Friends Committee on Legislation
Gray Panthers
IN SPIRIT
Independent Living Resource Center Inc.
Independent Living Services of Northern California (ILSNC)
Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center)
Marin IHSS Public Authority
Nevada-Sierra-Plumas Public Authority
Northern California ADAPT
Older Women’s League
Personal Assistance Services Council of Los Angeles
Resources for Independent Living
San Francisco IHSS Task Force
San Francisco Public Authority
SEIU Local 521
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
SEIU United Long Term Care Workers
Senior & Disability Action (SDA)
Service Employees International Union – State Council
Silicon Valley Independent Living Center (SVILC)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center | California Office
The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy in California
The San Diego IHSS Coalition
Tri-County Independent Living Center, Inc.
UDW /AFSCME Local 3930
Westside Center For Independent Living (WCIL)

cc: Members, Senate Budget Subcommittee #3
Jackie Wong, Office of the Senate President Pro Temp
Samantha Lui, Consultant, Senate Budget Committee
Chantelle Denny, Senate Republican Fiscal Office
Matt Paulin, Program Budget Manager, HHS, Department of Finance
Will Lightbourne, Director, California Department of Social Services
Michael Wilkening, Health and Human Services Agency
Rashi Kesarwani, Legislative Analyst’s Office

CFILC Advocates for Open Internet for All December 18th, 2014

Dear Ms. Dortch:

On behalf of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC), I am submitting the following public comments relating to the pending proposed rulemaking to protect the Open Internet. Our comments may, to some extent, reflect some substantially similar concerns and recommendations filed by other national disability community organizations, including the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL).

CFILC is a statewide non-profit advocacy organization made up of 21 Independent Living Centers located throughout the State of California. Our centers provide programs and services to over 350,000 people with disabilities annually.

We also advocate on national and state legislation, proposed regulations, and budget issues that impact the disability community. We support and promote the philosophy of “Independent Living and advocate to protect the vested constitutional and statutory rights of people with disabilities to live in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. Our comments are focused on maintaining an Open Internet to serve individuals across all types of disabilities.

People with Disabilities are Among the Most Underserved Population Segments in California and Throughout the Nation: Closing the Digital Divide and affording disabled individuals equal access to affordable and accessible internet services with sufficient broadband capacity is one of the most important issues affecting our community. According to the most recent census data, an estimated 50 million Americans have some type of a disability.

As will be explained in more detail in this letter, the availability of affordable and accessible high speed Internet services is central to independent living. It gives people with disabilities important news and information, as well as the empowerment tools necessary to fully participate in community life and to maintain vibrant social connections.

Unfortunately, today people with disabilities still face an ever-widening Digital Divide. People with disabilities, especially those in low-income households, are disproportionately underserved. According to the AAPD, 54 percent of adults with disabilities use the Internet, compared to 81 percent of non-disabled adults. In addition, only 41 percent of disabled adults have access to high speed broadband services at home, while 69 percent of those without a disability have such access.

For these reasons, CFILC strongly believes that it is critically important for the FCC to acknowledge in its rulemaking proceedings that such access to affordable, universal broadband services in their homes is a necessity, rather than a luxury. Furthermore, we maintain that society as a whole benefits when people with disabilities have access to these services in a manner equivalent to the non-disabled population.

If people with disabilities do not have access to high speed Internet services at home, they have very limited options in accessing important news and information. In addition, it makes it more difficult to live independently and take advantage of available health, educational, employment, and job training opportunities.

Today, people with disabilities have the lowest level of participation in the workforce, with a 17.4% employment rate in comparison to 62.9% of the non-disabled. Those who live at home and lack access to computers or the Internet are at a distinct competitive disadvantage in finding job opening and filing applications. Employers are increasingly using their company website and related employment websites to post employment opportunities. This has largely replaced more traditional means of advertisement such as newspaper classified ads because applicants can locate more information about the company, its profile, and the specific requirements for those jobs online.

Moreover, many Federal, State, and Local agencies are utilizing their websites to communicate with the public and to post news, program eligibility criteria, and to ask people to download and fill-out online forms and applications. People with disabilities that lack home Internet services are once again disadvantaged if their options are limited to using the relatively limited number of free public computers in schools, libraries, and other public facilities. Many of these public computers have limited hours of usage and restricted access to many Internet sites. Apart from locating this information, disabled individuals may face additional barriers in finding transportation and physically accessible facilities, especially rural areas or counties with large geographic boundaries.

The Value of Internet Services and How it Supports Assistive Technology: Another important reason why Internet services are vital to independent living is that people with disabilities are increasingly relying upon Assistive Technology to make it possible to live independently, to seek and retain employment, to pursue educational opportunities, and to access resources and opportunities that make it possible to thrive. Many of these devices, computer hardware and software, and applications require high-speed Internet service and sufficient broadband capacity to operate.

These rapidly emerging technologies and innovation include live streaming video and instant text communication systems, programs that read text and describe the content in synthetic voices, and Braille displays for the blind and vision impaired. In addition, Assistive Technology is also making it possible for the deaf and hard of hearing to use dedicated video relay services to access online interpreters versed in their native sign language to communicate with the non-disabled.

High speed Internet also gives persons with physical disabilities the ability to remotely access education classes or to engage in online medical consultations with their primary care physicians and medical specialists as a viable alternative to making difficult commutes. Conversely, the ability to use Assistive Technology may be more difficult or impossible if the user does not have access to the Internet or if it requires high broadband capacity. Similarly, for those with certain learning disabilities or other conditions, slower download speeds may actually discourage or prevent them from using these technologies.

Accordingly, it is irrefutable that an Open Internet has made it possible for persons with disabilities to effectively communicate, access important data and information, and utilize these expanding technological applications and innovations. An Open Internet also gives technology businesses throughout the world the incentives to continue to develop new products and applications that drive our nation’s economy. These are some of the reasons why the FCC must apply fundamental Open Internet principles to preserve and protect its affordability, accessibility, and usability for people with disabilities.

Regulation is Key to Protecting and Preserving an Open Internet: Historically, whenever rapid technological developments have occurred, the needs of people with disabilities have been ignored or assigned a lesser priority. The FCC must adopt strong regulatory requirements for access to an Open Internet because the private sector alone cannot be counted upon to protect it.

The disability community is acutely aware that whenever the private sector has developed new communication and telecommunication systems, they have largely ignored the accessibility needs for these technologies by people with disabilities throughout the initial to final design and development stages. CFILC strongly believes that the FCC must incorporate strong core accessibility regulatory requirements because there has always been strong resistance to making it accessible post-development due to claims that re-engineering is too difficult or costly.

Accordingly, the FCC must utilize its authority to develop a new regulatory framework that gives people with disabilities equal and non-discriminatory access to Internet and broadband capacity and in a manner that also preserves the fundamental economic principles that drive innovation. This recommendation is consistent with the recent United States Court of Appeals ruling in Verizon v. FCC (740 F. 3d 623; D.C. Cir. 2014) that examined these issues. The Appellate Court held that the FCC does have the legal authority to craft enforceable rules to protect and promote an Open Internet.

Legal Analysis of the Scope of the FCC’s Rulemaking Authority to Protect People with Disabilities: CFILC has reviewed and supports the legal opinion by counsel for the AAPD and NCIL that is summarized in their joint Public Comments. It concluded that the FCC has the legal authority to adopt such a regulatory structure pursuant to its authority under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as a fitting alternative to the relative uncertainty of the FCC’s more general authority under Title II insofar as it relates to regulating broadband providers. Similarly, we agree with their legal opinion that concluded that the FCC should also institute universal access safeguards guaranteed by Section 254 of the Act and that it should explore its Section 10 forbearance authority (Communications Act of 1934; 47 U.S.C Section 160) if the FCC determines that these goals cannot be accomplished under Sections 706 and 254 as a method to protect consumers with disabilities.

We also agree that the FCC must incorporate the unique needs of people with disabilities throughout its rulemaking process. The AAPD and NCIL legal analysis opined that Section 254 may be an appropriate basis to protect the needs of all consumers using information services because it ensures that universal service is reasonable, affordable, and just. This section also could be interpreted as a legally enforceable means to guarantee equal access to the Open Internet for people with disabilities.

The legal opinion also concluded that it’s possible that this universal access provision ultimately may not be sufficient on its own, but argues that current telecommunications law specifies that the FCC is responsible for implementing consumer protections that ensure accessibility for all persons with disabilities. It found that the FCC can extend protections under Section 255 and other disability-specific consumer protections in Title II by exercising Section 10 forbearance because Section 255 requires manufacturers and service providers to make their devices or specialized equipment if the products are not readily accessible. These provisions could provide the necessary essential consumer protections that should be applied to the new regulatory structure to protect consumers with disabilities.

The regulations to protect an Open Internet should also require the inclusion of other safeguards to prevent threats to its equal accessibility. The FCC has proposed to retain most of the 2010 FCC Open Internet Order for a no-blocking rule and limitations on Free Speech. Since broadband providers may still advocate for limited openness, we support the proposal to enhance the transparency rule. The FCC should also ban paid prioritization because it could put providers without paid prioritization at a competitive disadvantage.

This awareness and prioritization could help break the cyclical pattern of the industry’s repeated failure to address the unique accessibility needs of people with disabilities. The creation of communication networks and systems that may be generally available to the public at large, but that are inaccessible to people with disabilities has been a contributing factor in the relatively low Internet adoption and participation rates by the disability community.

Finally, CFILC also supports the arguments in favor of the establishment of an FCC ombudsman process. This will help to shore up the commission’s enforcement and reporting processes and allow for incorporating the communication needs of people with disabilities and the accessibility issues are identified and addressed from the initial stages of the rulemaking process. An ombudsman system would also improve the industry’s awareness of the role that the ombudsman will play and could incentivize the design of accessible technologies as a major priority.

In conclusion, CFILC believes that it is essential for the FCC to adopt an Open Internet policy that gives members of our community full and open access to broadband communications and the necessary consumer protections to ensure that they have equal access to these services. The adoption of Open Internet regulations is an historic opportunity and we respectfully urge the Commission to include the disability community throughout this process.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc:
FCC Commissioners
Bob Hand, Chairperson, CFILC Board of Directors
Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee
Sheri Burns, NCIL Region IX Representative

CFILC Joined Five Organizations in Joint Comments to the State of California Regarding Their Draft HCBS Transition Plan December 9th, 2014

Draft Transition Plan Comments from The Arc of California, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, National Health Law Program, and National Senior Citizens Law Center:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on California's draft statewide transition plan for complying with the new Medicaid home and community- based services (HCBS) regulations. We believe strongly in the principles behind the regulations ? that HCB settings are truly community based and participants enjoy respect and freedom of choice in HCBS programs. After reviewing the draft, we conclude that the plan is, at this point, primarily a proposal for the Department's future development of a draft plan. Moreover, the current document offers stakeholders an opportunity to comment on those components that are contained in the draft framework, but not on the underlying assumptions and process behind the draft.

We would like to ask the Department to take a step back and adopt an inclusive stakeholder approach that mirrors the CMS final rule, which places the person-centered planning process at the heart of how HCB settings should be evaluated. Stakeholder involvement, and consumer input in particular, must play an originating and not merely validating role in the planning process. The new Medicaid HCBS regulations mark a sea change for HCB settings. An adequate transition plan must first take full account of how current HCB residents and consumers experience community inclusion and freedom of choice, in order to plan for the regulatory changes and implementation strategies needed for compliance with the new rules. The single best source of consumer experience are the consumers. As consumer and advocacy organizations, we would like the opportunity to work closely with the Department and our constituents to envision a new roadmap forward on developing and finalizing California's HCBS transition plan.

We appreciate the Department initiating the process for complying with the rule. Our comments focus on two parts:

Part 1: Framework Recommendations for Draft Transition Plan
Part 2: Essential Elements to Include in Transition Plan

We look forward to working with the Department to ensure that the regulations' promise is realized.

PART 1: FRAMEWORK RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DRAFT TRANSITION PLAN

I) Adopt A Realistic Timeline That Allows For Necessary Consideration Of Stakeholder Input
The current framework is incomplete. A one month comment period on a general framework is insufficient to conduct the outreach and assessment required of a draft transition plan. As indicated by our subsequent comments, we believe the State has yet to develop a draft plan, and the development of a draft plan cannot possibly be complete by the limited period of time currently allocated by the Department. Instead, we propose that stakeholders, including consumers of the services at issue, be included in the development of the transition plan. The transition plan should set realistic timelines for completion of certain activities, along with benchmarks for incremental changes so that consumers do not have to wait until the final product to realize the benefits of the new regulations.

We understand that the Department is working under a 120-day time frame set by the regulations, but also observe that, in practice, CMS and the states are operating under timelines in which transition decisions will be made long after the expiration of the 120-day deadline. In most states ? arguably, in all states ? the ?transition plan? is in reality a work plan that contemplates that most substantive decisions regarding transition will be made months or years after approval of the ?transition plan.?

Under Georgia's proposed transition plan, for example, the state proposes to develop a ?transition plan package? over the 18 months concluding at the end of 2015. Colorado's proposed transition plan, similarly, contemplates that many important activities will not begin until 2015 or 2016. In most cases, for example, the work to revise the Colorado HCBS waiver applications or relevant state regulations will not begin until November 2015; likewise, development of a model lease will not begin until January 2016.

In California itself, according to the Department's proposed transition plan, many important decisions regarding transition are not scheduled to be made until 2015 or later. For example, the Department has proposed a deadline of six months after CMS approval of the transition plan for ?initial State-level assessment of standards, rules, regulations, and other requirements,? and development both of an assessment tool and a provider appeal process.

The reality is, as CMS and the states are experiencing, that development of a comprehensive transition plan is a process requiring multiple years. Given that long time frame, and the importance of starting with a solid work plan, it is unwise for the Department to build a transition plan on this very general framework and only allow one week for consideration of stakeholder feedback, prior to the scheduled release of a second draft on or about October 27.
The HCBS regulations were released and therefore known on January 16, 2014, and the Department thus had several months to solicit stakeholder input generally, and develop a collaborative transition plan, prior to September 19. The Department's inability to do so should not deprive stakeholders of a meaningful draft HCBS plan, with a realistic opportunity to have input considered for the next iteration.

The current process for stakeholder input, and the failure to include clear opportunities for such input in the proposed plan, cannot be considered to be 'sufficient in light of the scope of the changes proposed, to ensure meaningful opportunities for input for individuals serviced, or eligible to be served, in the waiver,? as is required.

For all these reasons, we request that the Department modify its current framework and allow the time and resources necessary to develop a draft transition plan. If necessary, we suggest that the Department request from CMS a reasonable extension of the 120-day time frame. It is in the interests of stakeholders, the Department, CMS, and particularly Medi-Cal HCBS participants, that the Department have a realistic opportunity to develop a plan that has built-in opportunities for stakeholder involvement and formal feedback.

II) Develop A Plan Based On Robust Stakeholder Outreach And Feedback

As the state develops the draft transition plan, we have several recommendations for seeking stakeholder feedback. First, accepting comments only by email is not as effective as reaching out to consumers directly to solicit input directly from consumers in other ways, including, minimally, providing a mailing address for comments. Given the challenges of electronic communication (requires literacy, consumers often need their providers to help which may chill their honest input, requires access to a computer and computer literacy), we fear that the Department is missing an important opportunity to hear directly from consumers. On October 2, we wrote to you encouraging you to attend the October 9-10 Supported Life Conference, where several hundred people with developmental disabilities would be in attendance. We also encouraged you to reach out to consumer groups such as CFILC, SILC, and People First groups in the state to work collaboratively to obtain the most robust consumer input possible. We hope that you are working on how to best solicit and consider consumer input, which should include in-person, individual and small group opportunities to share their personal experiences.

Moreover, we encourage you to increase consumer involvement in the following additional ways:

1) Educate participants about their rights to fully integrated settings so that they may provide meaningful feedback on their own experiences. This information is crucial to the State's compliance in the short and long term. Other states' plans include participant education. Georgia's plan, for example, provides for stakeholder training and education from September 2014 through April of 2015 to make sure that individual HCBS participants, their families, and similarly situated stakeholders will understand changes they can expect to see and which will affect services.

2) Ensure that the assessment teams that are described in the draft transition plan always include consumer representation and meaningful consumer participation.

3) Develop a means for consumers to participate in their own self- assessment of the settings in which they live or spend their days. Participant assessments must be accessible to the individual, free from provider influence, and part of the assessment validation process. We do not believe that provider self-assessment is at all adequate to determine compliance with the HCBS regulations.

III) Use Person-Centered Planning to Inform Consumers, Approach Compliance, and Gather Information About Settings

Person centered planning requirements in the HCBS regulations are currently in effect. Under those requirements, consumers' planning processes should comprehensively evaluate their current settings to determine if they comply with the HCBS regulations. To do so, the teams should consider whether the settings where consumers reside and spend their days are community-based, are the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, whether they have sufficient supports for the most appropriate setting, and whether changes need to be made to their plans. If needed to address the address the issues above, the consumer's person-centered plan should identify whether a new setting and/or new supports are needed, what can be done immediately, tasks and assignees, and a timeline that will redress the issues as quickly as possible.

In addition, the person centered planning provides opportunities for information gathering about consumers' experiences in their current settings and their preferred settings; this information will help identify compliance issues and help ensure the Department has a proper array of HCB services and settings. This should be a priority issue.

IV) Involving Other State Departments In Developing The Draft Transition Plan And Ongoing Review

We are reassured by the draft's initial identification of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), and the California Department of Aging (CDA) as members of the state's current HCB program administrative teams. Given the importance of these state partners during the transition period, and especially for the purposes of regulatory review and ongoing licensing and monitoring of HCB settings, they require an explicit role within the transition plan itself. CMS? new HCBS rule involves not only a transition for HCB settings and providers, but also for the state departments and on-the- ground personnel who will be responsible for administering the rule within California. All departments that have responsibility for the review, licensing and assessment of HCB settings, and who work with HCBS program consumers, will have expertise and best practices to share, as well as the capacity to take on specific responsibilities during and after the transition period. The State entities identified should also include those collaborating or partnership entities, such as for housing and employment, where they will be part of implementing services or where they have information that will aid in a smooth, complete implementation of true community services.

The particular ongoing involvement of the Department of Social Services (DSS) and DDS with certain HCB settings also should be included in the State's plans to monitor settings for compliance. As we explain below, establishing settings' compliance should not be a one-time activity; to best protect Medi-Cal HCBS participants, they must have access to a mechanism that can investigate complaints and compel compliance. Because DSS has a preexisting duty to monitor the settings that it licenses, and DDS performs quality assurance reviews, these departments are well- equipped to include compliance with the HCBS regulations as a component of their ongoing interactions with owners and operations of HCB settings.

Other states' transition plans have included the relevant licensing agencies. In Georgia, for example, the transition plan includes the Healthcare Facility Regulation Division of Georgia's Department of Community Health. Under the plan, Georgia intends to review licensing standards, consider potential changes to licensure regulations, and implement a plan to achieve provider compliance with licensure standards. Colorado's transition plan similarly includes Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment. One section of Colorado's transition plan addresses ?Modifications to Licensure and Certification Rules and Operations.? California should take a similar approach and involve both DDS and DSS in this process.

PART 2: ELEMENTS TO INCLUDE IN THE DRAFT TRANSITION PLAN

We urge the Department to incorporate our recommendations in developing the Transition Plan. In addition to our process recommendations above, we offer suggestions of substantive elements the Department should address as it develops the draft transition plan. Based on a review of other states' plans, we believe the draft transition plan should not only identify issues and action items, but should indicate the expected start and end dates, a description of the activity, the State agencies and departments responsible, stakeholder groups involved, and the expected outcome. While not an exhaustive list, here are key issue areas that must be addressed in the draft transition plan:

ISSUE AREA

Identification of Stakeholder Involvement
Clear identification of stakeholder involvement, including when and how stakeholders will be involved in development, when there will be opportunities for comment, and other opportunities for participation. Processes that need feedback loops, such as assessments of providers, will be clearly identified. Specific processes for robust consumer involvement, including individual and group interviews and focus groups, must be included, as well as consumer self-assessment of their living arrangements and day programs.

Identification of HCBS Providers
Including site information and category of service provided. Provided to the public, this information will allow the Department to gather information about the settings.

Address Non- Residential Settings
That CMS has yet to provide specific guidance regarding non- residential settings does not absolve the state from its obligation to include non-residential settings in the compliance determination process. Forthcoming CMS guidance will not alter the fact that the regulations apply to all HCBS settings, including non-residential settings. Gathering information from the public and stakeholders on this issue, evaluating rules of such settings, and doing an inventory of non-residential settings will give the departments an informed basis for action when forthcoming CMS guidance is issued.

Identify Settings that are Presumptively Institutional
Prioritize types and specific settings'both residential and non-residential-- that are ?presumptively institutional? to share with the public for input and comment. Evaluate rules and policies related to such settings, including provider qualifications, on an expedited basis.

Prioritize Assessments for Settings Presumed Institutional
Prioritize individual assessments of programs and facilities that are identified as presumptively institutional. This will allow the Department to take speedy steps to come into compliance with the HCBS regulations. A plan for compliance must provide for opportunities for stakeholder input and must focus on participant experience and access to the community. This would include evaluating individual placement in such settings pursuant to the person-centered planning process, and making any appropriate adjustments toward increasing community integration. Such process must incorporate such elements as the individual's wishes and goals, medical opinion, and a review of HCBS options.

Individual Transition Plans for Consumers
The Department must identify a timeline for developing a process to help consumers who may need to transition to different services. This timeline must coincide with provider review such that consumers are not losing service providers before a process is available to help them smoothly transition to new services or providers. The transition plan for HCBS must ensure stability for individual consumers and not decrease their community interaction.

Appeals of Determination that a Setting Is/Is Not HCB Compliant; Individual Consumer Appeals
In addition to the provider appeal described in the draft transition plan, in which a provider may appeal a determination that a setting is not HCBS regulation-complaint, consumers should have the opportunity to appeal a determination that a setting is HCBS regulation-compliant. In addition, a specific process needs to be developed so there is an individual appeal process available for consumers whose planning teams determine that they should remain in or leave a presumptively institutional setting, as well as for consumers who are determined to not have the supports they need to move to a more integrated setting.

Comprehensive Assessment Process Conducted by an Independent Third Party
Comprehensive assessment process for all settings that provide HCBS, including residential and non-residential settings. The on-site evaluation process is a critical component of a comprehensive assessment, and cannot be administered only on a representative random sampling basis. Stakeholders must be involved in the development and implementation of the assessment process, including active and meaningful participation by consumers. This assessment process should be completed by an independent third party. If it is not completed by a third party, the process must include a system to verify the assessment tool and a sampling process that will test the veracity of the assessment process. Assessments must rely on information from participants and family members. Assessments that rely solely on providers will not reliable given that the focus is on the experience of the residents/participants. Any independent sampling process must be driven by, and include, input from consumers and stakeholders.

Transparency in Classification of Settings
Classification of settings as community or non-community must be transparent. Because the focus of the HCBS regulations is on the individual's experience, any appeal process for settings determined to not meet the HCBS standards must include information from the residents or participants and be sufficiently transparent so that stakeholders/HCBS participants can provide information about the setting.

Stakeholder Education
HCBS participants, family members, providers, and community members must be educated about the transition process, what is changing, and the opportunities for involvement. As the process goes on, education and opportunities for feedback must continue. Education is not only for the early stages, but is critically important when the Department begins determining what needs to change and the processes developed for compliance.

Review of Provider Policies
Review of provider policies, including enrollment and applications. All sources of standards for providers of HCBS must be evaluated for necessary changes to enforce compliance with HCBS standards. This would include administrative rules, policies, credentialing, licensing policies, required trainings, enrollment forms, compliance processes and reviews, and other provider resources. This identification process and subsequent changes should involve stakeholders.

Ongoing Monitoring and Compliance
Identification, revision, and creation of necessary policies and procedures to address monitoring and compliance during and after the transition period. Compliance with HCBS regulations will be ongoing and the Department must develop a mechanism to receive and act on complaints during the transition period itself as well as in 2019 and beyond. Participants must be able to submit complaints regarding settings, have those complaints investigated, and receive resolution of the issue where there is evidence of fundamental systemic or individual violations such as a lack of choice in roommates, access to food, schedules, visitors, or means of effective communication. This complaint process must go outside of the setting. There must also be a system that requests information regarding participant satisfaction, possibly incorporated into the person centered planning process so as to avoid conflict of interest issues and allow for an examination of other options. Compliance monitoring may incorporate provider recertification, service coordination activities, and more.

Plan for System-Wide Compliance
The Department should require that HCBS settings honor the new HCBS standards regardless of a participant's source of payment (including private payment and non-HCB Medicaid payment). A contrary interpretation would condone payment-source discrimination that would be contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the new regulations.

Updates and Communication Plan
The Department should develop a communication plan that identifies stakeholders and appropriate education mechanisms to reach stakeholders. A communication plan should clearly lay out when the transition plan will be updated and that justification for changes will be provided. The Department may consider setting regular intervals for plan updates to continue stakeholder engagement.

Accessibility of Transition Planning and HCB Settings
It is critical that both the stakeholder input process be made accessible to people with sensory impairments, and that the assessment process consider accessibility (physical, sensory, and programmatic) as a key issue.

Go to source: http://cfilc.org/issues/uploads/transition-plan-comments.pdf
For Giving Tuesday, Sacramento Residents Are Getting Gift of Affordable Internet at Home December 2nd, 2014

Basic-Internet.com and Digital Access Project team up to offer free hotspots and $10 per month high-speed Internet to low-income households.

Sacramento– December 1, 2014 – The Digital Access Project, a program of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC), and Basic-Internet.com are providing free hot-spots to eligible Sacramento-area residents who currently do not have Internet service at home.

“The best gift possible is giving someone affordable Internet at home,” said Kim Hogan, Digital Access Program Coordinator. “We are thankful for the donation of free hot-spots from Basic-Internet.com. This generous gift will help people with disabilities, seniors and low-income families get online to improve the quality of their lives.”

Basic-Internet.com offers high-speed residential Internet service to the general public, starting at $10 per month, with some restrictions. Typically, other Internet service providers charge as much as $70 a month. Louis Flores of Elk Grove is one of the first to get a free hotspot, which normally retails for about $89.00, and is signing up for the $10 a month plan. “The Internet has been unaffordable for me. Now my sons can look for work from home without having to go to the library and my daughter will not have to stay late at school to finish homework in a computer lab,” Flores said. “And my wife and I can use free online telephone services to talk to our families in Mexico. This is the best gift I could imagine.”

Basic-Internet.com focuses on helping bridge the digital divide and providing affordable Internet service. “Once a luxury, having Internet at home in the 21st Century now is a necessity to tap educational and employment opportunities, save time and money and stay in touch with loved ones,” said Roland S. Williams, President of Quick Swipe Services, N.A., the goodwill arm of Basic-Internet.com. “This donation is just a small step, and we hope that many other companies will follow this example so we can finally close the digital divide and the digital literacy gap.”

The Digital Access Project regularly holds digital literacy training sessions for new Internet and computer users. In Sacramento, the project is partnering with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. Media is invited to the Wednesday, Dec. 3 hot-spot giveaway and training session at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

December 3rd Event Details
When: Wednesday, December 3 10-11:30am
Where: Sacramento Foodbank & Family Services
Education and Technology Center
3308 Third Ave
Sacramento, CA 95817
Who: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and Digital Access Project training staff and people receiving free hotpots


To learn more about eligibility for the free hot-spots and how to subscribe to affordable Internet service, please call 1-800-390-2699. Deadline to apply for free hotspots is December 10, 2014. Please note: The free hot-spots are not available at www.basic-internet.com.

About California Foundation for Independent Living Centers
The mission of CFILC is to increase access and equal opportunity for People with Disabilities by building the capacity of Independent Living Centers. For more information, visit www.cfilc.org. The Digital Access Project is a program that supports people with disabilities in getting Internet services at a lower cost and digital literacy training. For more information, visit www.digitalaccessproject.org.

Go to source: http://cfilc.org/files/dap/media%20advisory%20-%20internet%20hot-spot%20giveaway%20for%20sacramento%20residents.pdf
CFILC Urges FCC to Secure a Public Benefit from the Proposed Comcast Merger August 25th, 2014

August 21, 2014

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

RE: Applications of Comcast Corporation and Time Warner Cable Corporation for Consent to Assign or Transfer Control of
Licenses and Applications (Proceeding #14-57)


Dear Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners:

I am writing on behalf of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) to respectfully urge you and your fellow FCC Commissioners to secure a public benefit from the proposed Comcast Corporation acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC) and trade of service territory with Charter Communications. This can be achieved in accordance with the adoption of the five recommendations, described below, that will ensure acceptable performance of the Comcast affordable offer Called Internet Essentials (CIE), including

✓ The inclusion of all low-income households

✓ Setting performance goals

✓ Capitalizing an independent fund and coordination with States

✓ Establishing an Advisory Oversight Committee

✓ Offering stand-alone Internet service

CFILC is a statewide non-profit membership organization of 21 Independent Living Centers located throughout the State of California. Our centers provide programs and services to over 350,000 people with disabilities annually. We also advocate on Federal and California legislation, proposed regulations, and budget issues to support and promote independent living and the community integration of Californians with disabilities.

Closing the Digital Divide is among the most important issues affecting people with disabilities. Accordingly, CFILC administers a variety of programs and initiatives to help our consumers acquire the necessary hardware, software, Assistive Technology, and links to communication and Internet services. People with disabilities, particularly low-income individuals and families, are disproportionately impacted by the divide. According to the American Association of People with Disabilities, 54 percent of adults with disabilities use the internet, compared to 81 percent of non-disabled adults. In addition, only 41 percent of disabled adults have access to broadband services at home, while 69 percent of those without a disability have such access.

Although access to communications has even greater significance today, these technological gaps are not a new phenomenon for the disability community. As a result, people with disabilities remain far behind those without disabilities and we are among the most underserved communities in California and throughout the nation. People with disabilities are increasingly reliant upon access to computers and the Internet. This is especially important for disabled schoolchildren and those without a disability whose parents or guardians are low-income or disabled. Increasingly, issues relating to the access and affordability of advanced technology are the keys to enabling people with disabilities to live and work independently in their homes and communities.

This is why there are a number of important issues at stake for Californians with disabilities in relation to this proposed corporate consolidation. CFILC strongly believes that a public benefit must be an essential part of the FFC’s review of the proposed Comcast acquisition, given the magnitude of the market share that would be controlled by Comcast, if approved. The data indicates that 87 percent of all California students participating in the free or reduced-lunch programs reside in Comcast’s service areas. Although the CIE has a commendable price point, there is ample evidence that all of the problems that have plagued the subscription process which has resulted in only 11 percent of the eligible population base being signed up over the course of the last three years will continue to impact California post-merger. It is a significant concern that CIE is reaching only a small percentage of students with disabilities. It is of highest concern that the larger community of people with disabilities, many of whom do not have children, will not have children or whose children are no longer in school have no access to CIE.

Over the course of our direct service delivery, we have fielded frequent complaints from our consumers relating to Comcast’s CIE sign up process. For example, through community outreach and follow up conversations with potential services applicants, our Digital Access Project focuses on bringing affordable Internet services to eligible low-income disabled individuals and their families. However, many disabled consumers have complained about the extended waiting times for approval and the failure to educate them in understanding how the auto-enroll process works. Accordingly, since it is evident that these processes need substantial improvements, we urge the FCC to hold Comcast accountable for specific and improved performance goals.

Today, California’s statewide broadband adoption rate at home is at 75 percent, which means that 25 percent of our population and many persons with disabilities are at risk of falling further and further behind in finding accessible and affordable services. CFILC believes that there must be an affordable broadband service rate for the estimated 10 million Californians who remain offline. This is a gap that must be closed if our schoolchildren living in low-income communities or attending low-performing schools can keep pace with their academic studies and become productive citizens. The future of our schoolchildren must be protected if California is to remain competitive in the global economy.

It is noteworthy that according to its Scoping Memo and the Ruling of the Assigned Commissioner and Administrative Law Judge, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will be exploring these issues as part of its Comcast-TWC Merger Docket (Application Number A-14-14-013). It will review how the proposed merger will benefit California consumers. For example, it will probe: (1) whether the merger will benefit low-income outreach and the adoption of broadband services; (2) whether those broadband services are accessible, affordable, and equitable in a manner that is enforceable and that will help close the Digital Divide; (3) will the merger help educate consumers about using computers and the Internet when the service is provided; and (4) will the merged entity offer stand-alone internet access and ensure that consumers are aware of the offer[1] Given the scope of its review and the important questions to be examined, we urge the FCC to accept the data from the CPUC’s merger docket on these points.

If the FCC decides to approve the merger transaction, CFILC respectfully requests that it take this opportunity to order Comcast to significantly improve its program performance and to be held accountable for delivering a functional, results-driven program with measurable goals. The program must include measurable goals demonstrating to true public benefit for low-income individuals and families in its service areas.

In conclusion, CFILC urges the FCC to take a more proactive oversight role to ensure that the benefits of this program are delivered to people with disabilities and low-income families in a substantially improved and meaningful manner. We are concerned that without setting such specific performance goals, Comcast’s past performance record indicates that it will once again fail to dedicate sufficient outreach staffing, advertisements, and operational resources on the program and deliver adequate levels of performance.

CFILC Advocates for Audit of Electronic & Information Technology Provided by State Agencies August 15th, 2014

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 Independent Living Centers located statewide that advocate on issues affecting Californians with disabilities. We are writing in SUPPORT of the request submitted to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee by Senator Joel Anderson to request that the joint committee conduct an audit of the electronic and information technology (EIT) that is provided by state agencies. The purpose of the audit would be to review their compliance with all applicable state and Federal laws and regulations, as well as all state agency policies and best practices designed to make state program information and services accessible to persons with disabilities.

Federal law generally prohibits state discrimination in any public service program and activity (see Title II of the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)). Moreover, with respect to EIT accessibility, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires Federal agencies to make their EIT. Comparable provisions of state law governing EIT accessibility and comparable provisions were enacted into state law in 2002 by SB 105 (Burton; Chapter 1102, Statutes of 2002).

Despite these longstanding provisions of law, state agency compliance with these EIT accessibility requirements is still lagging far behind and it effectively denies people with disabilities equal access to this information. State agencies routinely offer a great deal of information on their websites. It includes, but is not limited to, direct access to the state agency websites, readable files and attachments, graphics, downloadable forms, and other sources of information.

In some of the more extreme examples, people who are blind or visually impaired often find that this information cannot be interpreted by their screen readers because it is invisible to its software. Clearly, 12 years after the enactment of SB 105, these levels of non-compliance are simply unacceptable. We believe that the audit will underscore the vital importance of improved compliance, especially at a time when the numbers of seniors and people in need of access to vital state services is growing due to the aging of our state population.

We acknowledge that there may be logistic or budget obstacles in conducting a full audit of all of the 360 state agency home pages linked to the state?s main
portal. However, we are confident that the selection and review of a representative sample of those websites can still make such a state audit successful. Senator Anderson?s letter identifies suggested general questions for consideration in the audit and requests that priority should be given to state agency websites that interact most often with the public. CFILC supports Senator Anderson?s recommendations in this regard.

CFILC Supports Phase-Out of Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities July 30th, 2014

Position: SUPPORT AJR 36 (Gonzales) Phase-out of the Special Minimum Wage Certificate Program

Dear Assembly Member Gonzalez:

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) represents 21 organizations statewide that work with over 350,000 Californians with disabilities each year. I am writing to inform you that the Members of the CFILC Board of Directors have reviewed your Assembly Joint Resolution 36 and have approved taking a formal position of SUPPORT on the resolution. AJR 36 is eligible for a vote on Final Passage in the Senate when the Legislature returns from its summer recess.

As a disability rights advocacy organization, CFILC shares of views of many of our allied partners in the disability community that Congress should phase-out the Special Minimum Wage Certificate Program. The program was created during the Great Depression era at a time when the fragile national economy needed to give some employers leeway on wage and hour requirements. Today, however, these certificates are primary used by Sheltered Workshops and other certificated workplaces to pay disabled workers a subminimum wage.

AJR 36 would urge Congress to phase-out the program and to repeal the original enabling statute, Section 14 (c) of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Some employers argue that the payment of subminimum wages is justified because these disabled workers, who primarily are blind or have developmental or intellectual disabilities, would never be able to find other employment opportunities in the workforce. The disability community largely disagrees with that assertion and counter-claims that these workplace settings only serve to segregate these workers from others and fails to give them the skills necessary to transition into competitive, integrated employment.

The National Industries for the Blind and academic researchers have argued that these wage and hour conditions are exploiting these disabled workers and that there are workable alternative models for finding competitive, integrated employment. AJR 36 balances these competing concerns by urging Congress to gradually phase-out the program and repeal Section 14 (c) FLSA. Many of these disabled workers operate under unacceptable employment conditions and many never receive the wages they have earned due to the lack of adequate monitoring and enforcement.

Accordingly, AJR 36 urges Congress to promote the continuation of existing employment and support models for disabled workers other than Section 14 (c) FLSA; to identify and develop alternatives for access to a diverse range of employment opportunities prior to the phase-out; to collect data reflecting the participation of disabled workers in the workforce; and to utilize strategies that identify the industries and types of work in demand in the public and private sector that these disabled workers can be moved into. This is a balanced approach that protects the disabled workers and their employers.

For all of these reasons, CFILC supports the resolution and urges the Legislature to pass AJR 36.

CFILC Joins 20 Organizations in Advocating for Affordable Access to Internet Services as Feds Consider Proposed Comcast-Time Warner Corporate Consolidation July 22nd, 2014

Dear Chairman Wheeler, Commissioner Clyburn, Commissioner Pai, Commissioner Rosenworcel, and Commissioner O’Rielly:

“Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.” - National Broadband Plan, 2010

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set forth a bold vision to empower all Americans with high-speed Internet access in the National Broadband Plan. Yet, four years later, too many people in California and across the nation still live without high-speed Internet access at home. The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and undersigned broadband champions have been working with federal, state and regional leaders in collaboration with more than 100 community-based organizations to close the Digital Divide in California.

California has a broadband adoption goal of 80% home use by 2017, with no single group below 70%. While our focused effort has resulted in significant progress in connecting the poorest Californians, the latest statewide survey shows that California is falling short. According to the 2014 Annual Statewide Survey conducted by the Field Research Corporation, fully one-quarter of California households do not have high-speed Internet at home. About half of households with Spanish-speaking Latinos or earning under $20,000 a year do not have home broadband access.

Federal law says there must be a finding of public benefit to approve the proposed Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable and exchange of service territory with Charter Communications. This review process provides an opportunity for the FCC to hold Comcast accountable to improve its Internet Essentials program and achieve acceptable performance. Comcast launched Internet Essentials, a $9.95-a-month broadband plan plus a $150 computer voucher for families of students eligible to receive free or reduced school lunch, to secure federal government approval to purchase NBC Universal in 2010. However, the current program threatens to leave millions of the very Americans who could benefit most without an affordable connection to the Internet.

In 3 years, Comcast has signed up only 11% of the eligible households in California and the nation. That is 35,205 households in California out of more than 313,000 eligible families. At that rate, it would take another decade for Comcast to reach just half of the currently-eligible population. Further, conservative analysis indicates that if the acquisition is approved, an estimated 1.375 million California households (more than 3 million K-12 students?87% of all California students qualifying for free and reduced lunch) would be eligible for Internet Essentials in the new combined service territory of approximately 3.7 million households (including Charter Communications subscribers whom Comcast intends to acquire in a swap if the acquisition is approved.)

As you consider whether or not to approve the Comcast corporate consolidation, we strongly recommend the following requirements:

1. Include All Low-Income Households: Extend Comcast Internet Essentials to all low-income households, not just those with school children. For example, low-income seniors, people with disabilities and recently returned veterans are not covered today. According to 2014 Annual Statewide Survey, 6 in 10 of those who do not use the Internet at home suggested they might be interested if they had access to affordable broadband and equipment and the skills to use it.

2. Set Performance Goals: Set a national goal for Comcast to increase Internet Essentials subscribership for eligible households (now at about 11% in California and the nation) to reach 45% in 2 years, and to continue the program until 80% adoption is achieved in low-income neighborhoods in each major market within the combined service areas.

3. Capitalize an Independent Fund and Coordinate with States: Work through and collaborate with states that have an adopted plan to close the Digital Divide. In states such as California that are major Comcast-TWC markets and have a strategic plan to close the Digital Divide, require Comcast to dedicate a sufficient amount to an independently-managed fund to engage experienced community- based organizations to assist in achieving the 45% subscription sign-ups and overall 80% adoption rate.

4. Establish an Advisory Oversight Committee: Establish a national advisory oversight committee for Internet Essentials to provide feedback and input to the FCC in monitoring performance and progress. In the first 3 years, the program has been riddled with problems, including 8-12 week waits before getting service, credit checks on customers in violation of advertised program rules, a non-working online sign-up system, and customer representatives who give out wrong or inconsistent information. The oversight committee should be diverse, and include senior executives from Comcast, regulators, state officials, experienced non-profits with a mission to close the Digital Divide and a track record of accomplishment, and consumer representatives. The oversight committee should meet regularly to ensure accountability for performance.

5. Offer Stand-Alone Internet Service: Offer consumers the opportunity to purchase stand-alone Internet access at a reasonable rate. If the acquisition is approved, its expanded California market will include Southern California where Comcast will heavily promote TV, phone, and Internet bundled services. Keep in mind that AT&T was required to provide a stand-alone Internet access service after its merger with SBC along with low-cost DSL for a specified period of time after being acquired by SBC.

As you, we care deeply about the future of California and America. Our nation’s economic well-being and ability to compete globally are at risk unless we get all residents connected to high-speed broadband at home. Now is the time to hold Comcast accountable for delivering a real, measurable public benefit.

Sincerely,

Sunne Wright McPeak
California Emerging Technology Fund

Teresa Favuzzi
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

Olga Talamante
Chicana Latina Foundation

Linda Mandolini Eden Housing

Joseph Mouzon Giving Sphere

Hyepin Im
Korean Churches for Community Development

Dixon Slingerland Youth Policy Institute

Mike Dozier
California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley

Pat Furr
Computers for Classrooms

Oscar Cruz Families in Schools

Serita Cox iFoster

Arabella Martinez
Latino Community Foundation

KG Ouye
Library Consultant

Hugo Morales Radio Bilingue

Barrie Hathaway Stride Center

Arlene Krebs
Loaves, Fishes, and Computers

Cynthia Mackey Winning Strategies LLC

SUMMARY OF CHALLENGES TO SIGNING UP ELIGIBLE FAMILIES FOR COMCAST INTERNET ESSENTIALS

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and its partners since 2011 have been helping eligible low-income families living in Comcast service areas in California to sign up for Comcast Internet Essentials (CIE), the program proposed by Comcast to secure approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for purchase of NCB Universal. Currently, households with school children on the free-or-reduced-lunch program are eligible for CIE. The following is a summary complaints from experienced community-based organizations (CBOs) working in the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento regions regarding the challenges encountered by actual prospective customers in attempting to subscribe to CIE. Although the CIE offer approved by the FCC ($9.95 per month until a student graduates from high school or is no longer eligible for the school lunch program plus a $150 voucher for a computing device) is a very good price point for low-income households with school children, there continues to be numerous hurdles to signing up for CIE. As a consequence, in 3 years Comcast has signed up only 11% of eligible households. The FCC and other federal regulators must hold Comcast accountable for resolving these problems and increasing CIE subscriptions.

Sign-Up Restrictions

Comcast makes the sign-up process long and cumbersome. The application process often takes 2-3 months, far too long for customers who are skeptical about the product in the first place, and have other pressing demands on their budgets. The waiting period between the initial call to Comcast and the CIE application arriving in the mail can stretch 8-12 weeks, if it comes at all. After submitting the application, another 2-4 weeks elapse before the equipment arrives. Many low-income residents do not have Social Security Numbers (SSNs) and are required to travel long distances to verify their identities because Comcast has closed many of its regional offices. Recently, some potential subscribers with SSNs were rejected over the phone and told they had to visit a Comcast office. Comcast has a pilot effort in Florida that should be expanded to allow customers to fax or email photocopied IDs as proof of identification.

Comcast enrolls oldest child in the program. When a potential CIE customer calls, the Comcast representative often attempts to sign up the oldest child eligible for the program, even if there are younger eligible children in the household. This means the family will be “kicked out” sooner because the discount only lasts as long as the registered child is in school and on the lunch program. Families can lose several years of CIE eligibility because of this procedure.

Comcast market-rate customer representatives don’t know about Internet Essentials. When a potential CIE customer calls the market-rate line instead of the Internet Essentials line (sometimes the customer just remembers “Comcast” and calls the market-rate line), they are not guided to the CIE service. In some cases, less-knowledgeable customers have been “up-sold” to a market-rate product that they cannot afford. Even when consumers call the CIE number, the same thing may happen. Depending on which agent is handling the call, customers get different qualifying information, which sometimes leads to no service at all. One customer was told that she could get not service because she didn't have a SSN, which is not true.

Denial of Service

Comcast conducts credit checks for some customers, contrary to CIE rules. Dozens of clients are receiving letters from Comcast saying that they have failed a credit check. Comcast specifically states and advertises no credit check is needed for CIE. This has repercussions beyond obtaining broadband service. The act of performing a credit check can negatively impact the consumer’s credit worthiness. Initially, some CIE service representatives told customers they could pay $150 deposit to avoid a credit check, also contrary to program rules.

Comcast records show erroneous information for some customers. There are cases in which families have never been subscribers to Comcast Internet but someone who previously lived at the same address was, and the current household is denied service because of the 90-day “waiting” requirement. Similarly, Comcast records may indicate that its equipment associated with a certain address has not been returned and service is denied to a new resident, yet the customer attempting to subscribe clearly is not responsible for the missing equipment.

Wired Modem Outdated for Family and Student Use

Comcast only offers a wired modem to Internet Essentials customers, restricting the number of users at one time. If wireless modem/routers were offered as part of CIE, several family members could be online at the same time. In public statements Comcast repeatedly estimates the number of “people” they’ve reached (instead of households), which would be more logical if CIE provided a wireless modem/routers.

Comcast modems often are not compatible with computing devices issued by schools. Many schools are now allowing students to bring home school-issued computing devices, such as a tablet. In most cases, these devices require a wireless modem/router to connect to the Internet and the Comcast wired modem cannot be used. Comcast needs to offer CIE service that complements initiatives by schools to integrate technology into education as well as align with the recent E-rate modernization ruling by the FCC.

Complaints from Community Partners on Subscription Sign-Up Process

Comcast Internet Essentials online application process does not work. Non-profit CBOs have been diligently requesting from the beginning of the program that Comcast establish a workable online registration process for CIE. The existing system has never worked properly. The site is often unable to complete address eligibility searches and simply redirects the customer to the 1-855 number again. This situation has been a major barrier at technology fairs, where families are told they cannot sign up online and must make a separate trip to a Comcast office. Comcast continues to ignore consumer feedback about the poor website operations.

Comcast will not supply a list of auto-enroll schools to CBOs. Since the inception of CIE, CBOs have been asking for a list of schools in the Comcast service areas and priority targets for CIE, especially the auto-enroll schools, to facilitate the sign-up process. (The auto-enroll schools are those with at least 75% of the students on free-or-reduced-lunch, thus making all students eligible for CIE.) However, Comcast rarely provides a list of eligible auto-enroll schools. Meanwhile, CIE customer representatives typically are not aware of the auto-enroll schools CBOs or their clients call to enroll, which complicates and lengthens the enrollment process.

CFILC Supports This Policy Platform for Disability Capitol Action Day May 20th, 2014

1. In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) keeps Californians with disabilities out of institutions and in their own homes, while saving California hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

Oppose the Governor’s refusal to pay overtime to IHSS providers. He proposes to limit workers to no more than 40 hours of work per week. This takes away consumer choice, because tens of thousands of consumers rely on one provider and would have to find others even if their one provider is the only one who they want and who is available. It cuts some providers’ income by up to 40%.

Repeal the 7% across the board cut to IHSS hours. IHSS consumers are assessed to need a certain number of hours to remain safely in their own homes so any reduction negatively affects the IHSS safety net, along with the person’s ability to live in the community. California can afford to restore these hours - an average of 6 hours per month - that are needed for laundry, bathing, or grocery shopping. The need for those services has not gone away but the hours did; now is the time to bring them back.

Oppose the SEIU-UHW ballot initiative that would force IHSS providers to take 75 hours of training, costing tens of millions of dollars. Training should be available and voluntary. Most IHSS workers care for a family member, including their children or parent, sometimes for decades. If the IHSS consumer is satisfied with the care, the provider should not lose their job because they did not get 75 hours of training. This measure will limit consumer choice of provider and compete for limited IHSS funding.

2. Restore funding to the community colleges Disabled Student Program and Services (DSPS). DSPS took way more than its share of cuts in recent years; it was cut by over 40% while the community college system as a whole was only cut by about 12%. Some funding was restored last year, but the DSPS program remains significantly underfunded, compromising the State’s ability to meet its legal obligations to students with disabilities.

3. Restore Early Start for children with disabilities to pre-2009 eligibility and funding levels. Cuts and changes in eligibility have left children with disabilities without appropriate services. Children with developmental delays who are served at an earlier age have fewer developmental delays and require less costly services in the future.

4. Support the recommendations of the Administrations Developmental Center Taskforce, including increasing Community Placement Plan (CCP) funds to remove reliance on institutional care. Funds should be used to develop community placements for people who live in developmental centers and Institutions for Mental Disease (IMDs). We support the proposal for increased crisis services and urge these services be provided in the community.

5. Restore SSI/SSP and Medi-Cal optional benefits. Hundreds of thousands of poor Californians with disabilities depend on SSI/SSP and Medi-Cal for their necessities of life and basic healthcare. In recent years, SSI grants have been reduced to the minimum allowed by federal law ($866.40 for individuals, $1462.20 for couples), and several important Medi-Cal optional benefits have been reduced or eliminated. These programs should be restored to the pre-cut levels and increased from there.

LEGISLATION: WE SUPPORT THE FOLLOWING BILLS:

AB 1703 (Hall) Adds reading services to IHSS for people who are blind, visually impaired, or have a disability that affects their ability to read.

SB 1046 (Beall) Allows the Department of Insurance to penalize health plans who fail to comply with the Mental Health Parity Act.

AB 1847 (Chesbro) Replaces offensive and outdated terms concerning people with mental health disabilities in California statutes.

SB 1093 (Liu) Addresses racial and ethnic disparity in the regional center system, helping to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities from diverse communities can receive the services they need to live independent and productive lives. Requires the provision of independent living skills whether or not the regional center client is planning on leaving the home.

We support these efforts to end abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities that provide services to people with disabilities:

AB 1554 (Skinner) requires timely investigations into instances of abuse and neglect in residential care facilities for the elderly (RFCEs).

AB 1816 (Yamada) requires timely investigations into instances of abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities.

AB 1899 (Brown) prohibits owners of RFCEs who abandon their facilities from having their license reinstated.

SB 895 (Corbett) requires unannounced visits at least once a year to inspect RFCEs.

CFILC Joins 310 Advocate Organizations Calling for Affordable Care Act Enrollment Data April 17th, 2014

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

To date, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made a significant difference in the lives of many communities of color, limited-English proficient individuals, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees and other underserved populations. We congratulate you and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for exceeding your enrollment goal of seven million individuals during the first open enrollment period. While we join you in celebrating this historic enrollment milestone, the undersigned organizations write to request that the Department release ACA enrollment data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, primary language and disability status.

An estimated 1.9 million Asian Americans (AAs) will gain coverage under the ACA. Eight out of ten uninsured AAs and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders may be eligible for coverage in the Marketplace, Medicaid or CHIP. One in four people eligible for coverage in the Marketplace are Latino and eight in ten eligible Latinos may qualify for Marketplace, Medicaid or CHIP plans. Nearly one in three American Indians and Alaska Natives is uninsured. In addition, African Americans are disproportionately uninsured and six in ten are eligible for new coverage options.

More than 50 million people in the United States are people with disabilities. They are a diverse group crossing communities of color, limited-English proficient individuals, immigrants, refugees and other underserved populations, and a range of functional limitations. While public insurance is available to many people with disabilities, gaps exist in coverage. For example, 28 percent of people with mental health disabilities are uninsured.

While the ACA offers the opportunity to substantially expand access to coverage for these communities, outreaching to and enrolling these communities is challenging. Over 60 million people speak a language other than English at home, and over 25 million are considered limited English proficient (LEP). Almost one in four marketplace applicants speak a language other than English at home, and approximately 95 percent of uninsured LEP individuals under 400 percent of the federal poverty level are income eligible for premium subsidies.

The 315 undersigned organizations have worked to educate, outreach and enroll communities of color, LEP individuals, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees and other underserved populations during the first open enrollment period. However, reaching these culturally and linguistically diverse communities has been difficult due to the limited number of in-person assisters, inadequate and poorly translated materials and problems navigating the call center and language line. In addition, people with disabilities experienced difficulty acquiring information about which marketplace plans included their medications in formularies, and difficulty accessing the Internet and understanding their eligibility for public versus private insurance.

Despite these roadblocks, the undersigned organizations have deployed outreach and enrollment campaigns using a variety of culturally and linguistically tailored tactics including community fairs, targeted material development and direct in-person assistance.

These efforts would be far more effective with disaggregated data on ACA enrollment by race, ethnicity, primary language and disability status. To date, DHHS’ monthly marketplace and Medicaid enrollment reports have failed to include these data, despite the fact that the single, streamlined application collects this information from applicants.

Section 4302 of the ACA requires that any federally conducted or supported health care program or entity collect and report data on a number of demographic factors, including race, ethnicity, primary language spoken and disability status, to the extent practicable. Providing enrollment numbers inclusive of race, ethnicity, primary language and disability status is consistent with and required by Section 4302. Most importantly, these data – both in the aggregate and by state – would allow both federal partners and organizations like the undersigned to effectively design, evaluate and improve upon their outreach and enrollment strategies.

While the collection of demographic data is dependent on voluntary reporting by applicants and therefore may not provide a comprehensive profile of the current population of marketplace and Medicaid enrollees, we believe reporting the data that has been collected is critically important. We encourage DHHS to examine the reporting structure of some state marketplaces including California, which has reported race and ethnicity enrollment data and included the number of applicants who declined to self-report demographic categories.

As organizations dedicated to improving the health and well-being of underserved communities, we thank you for your leadership and steadfast efforts to implement the ACA in a way that meets the needs of all Americans. We urge DHHS to quickly release disaggregated ACA enrollment data by race, ethnicity, primary language and disability status to ensure compliance with Section 4302 of the ACA and ensure that our collective efforts to enroll eligible individuals in future open enrollment periods are successful.

Please contact Priscilla Huang, APIAHF policy director, at phuang@apiahf.org or Daniel Dawes, Morehouse School of Medicine Executive Director of Government Relations, Health Policy and External Affairs, at ddawes@msm.edu with any questions.

Sincerely,

National Organizations

30 for 30 Campaign
AARP
ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America)
Advocates for Youth
AIDS United
Alliance for a Just Society
American Academy of Nursing
American Association on Health and Disability
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Heart Association
amfAR
Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence
Asian & Pacific Islander National Cancer Survivors Network Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
Asian American Research Center on Health
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
Asian Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health
Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL)
Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations Association of Minority Health Professions Schools
Association of University Centers on Disabilities
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Boat People SOS (BPSOS)
Center for the Study of Asian American Health (CSAAH) Children's Dental Health Project
Community Access National Network-CANN
Community Action Partnership
Community Based Organization Partners
Community Catalyst
Community-Campus Partnerships for Health
Demos
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Easter Seals
Enroll America
Families USA
Farmworker Justice
GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis) HealthHIV
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights Hep B United
Hepatitis B Foundation
Hepatitis Foundation International
Hispanic Federation
HIV Prevention Justice Alliance
Hmong National Development, Inc. HMS - Center for Health Innovation Housing Works
Japanese American Citizens League Latino Commission on AIDS LULAC
Lung Cancer Alliance
Mental Health America
MESA Public Health Associates Metropolitan Community Churches Movement is Life
NAACP National National National National National National National National National National National National National National National National National National National National National National
AHEC Organization
Alliance on Mental Illness
Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA)
Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.
Center for Lesbian Rights
Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians
Council of Jewish Women
Council of La Raza (NCLR)
Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association
Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Health Law Program
Hispanic Medical Association
Immigration Law Center
Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Minority AIDS Council
Multiple Sclerosis Society
Organization for Women
Organization of Nurses with Disabilities
National Partnership for Women & Families National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance National REACH Coalition
National Senior Citizens Law Center
National Women's Health Network
Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Alliance
OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates
Pacific American Foundation
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Raising Women's Voices for the Health Care We Need Reproductive Health Technologies Project
Samoan National Nurses Association
School Social Work Association of America
Society for Public Health Education
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Southern AIDS Coalition
Student National Medical Association
Summit Health Institute for Research and Education, Inc. Tennessee Justice Center
The Arc of the United States
The Global Justice Institute
The Praxis Project
The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law Treatment Action Group
United Sikhs
USAPI Pacific Cancer Programs
Ward Economic Development Corporation


State/Local Organizations

Alabama
Alabama Arise

Arizona
Asian Pacific Community in Action
Begaye Consulting
Concilio Latino de Salud
Japanese American Citizens League, Arizona Chapter Wingspan

Arkansas
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

California
Vision y Compromiso
Asians & Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance Asian Law Alliance
California Center for Rural Policy
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers California National Organization for Women California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
Chinese Community Health Resource Center Christie's Place
City of Hope
Community Health Councils
Asian & Pacific Island Health Parity Coalition
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC) Health Research for Action
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
Pacific Islander Health Partnership Pillars of the Community Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. Senior Moments
San Francisco State University
Society for Adolescent Health & Medicine Southern California Regional Chapter
South Asian Network
South Los Angeles Health Projects
Taulama for Tongans
The Greenlining Institute
Tongan American Youth Foundation
University of California San Francisco
University of Southern California
Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College (UEPI)

Florida
Florida CHAIN Florida Legal Services Latinos Salud

Georgia
Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc. Georgia Legal Services Program
Georgians for a Health Future
Morehouse School of Medicine
Southside Medical Center

Hawaii
Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training, University of Hawaii at Manoa
CHOW Project
Filipino American Citizens League
Filipino Coalition For Solidarity
Hep Free Hawaii
Maui AIDS Foundation
National Federation of Filipino American Associations Region 12 Nursing Advocates and Mentors Inc.
University of Hawaii
University of Hawai`i Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity

Illinois
AIDS Foundation of Chicago Asian Health Coalition Asian Human Services EverThrive Illinois
Filipino American Community Health Initiative of Chicago Illinois Association of Free & Charitable Clinics
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living Midwest Asian Health Association
Midwest Latino Health Research, Training, and Policy Center
The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Kentucky
Kentucky Equal Justice Center

Louisiana
Louisiana Consumer Healthcare Coalition NOELA Community Health Center VAYLA New Orleans

Maine
City of Portland Public Health Minority Health Program Consumers for Affordable Health Care
Maine Access Immigrant Network
Maine Equal Justice Partners

Maryland
AIDS Action Baltimore
CASA de Maryland
Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative Education Fund, Inc. Maryland Women's Coalition for Health Care Reform Public Justice Center
TEQUN-EquityNow

Massachusetts
Boston Public Health Commission
Disability Policy Consortium
Disparities & Health Equity Workgroup
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Southeast Asian Coalition of Central MA
The Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital

Michigan
APIAVote-Michigan
Mai Family Services
Michigan Consumers for Healthcare
South Asian American Voices for Impact (SAAVI)

Minnesota
Cultural Wellness Center
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota Minneapolis Urban League Minnesota Budget Project SEWA-AIFW
TakeAction Minnesota
Portico Healthnet Minnesota AIDS Project

Mississippi
Steps Coalition

Montana
ADAPT Montana The Rural Institute

Nebraska
El Centro de las Américas Nebraska Appleseed

New Jersey
Center for Asian Health Hyacinth AIDS Foundation NJ Citizen action

New Mexico
New Mexico Asian Family Center
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Southwest Women's Law Center
The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

New York
Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice African Services Committee
Arab American Family Support Center
Asian Americans for Equality
Bronx Health REACH
Brooklyn Perinatal Network
Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY Chenango Health Network
Chhaya CDC
Claire Heureuse Community Center, Inc.
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families Commission on the Public's Health System
Empire Justice Center
Harlem United Community AIDS Center
Health & Welfare Council of Long Island
HIV Law Project
Institute for Family Health
Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York Long Island Language Advocates Coalition
Mekong
Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign MFY Legal Services, Inc.
New York Immigration Coalition
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage Project CHARGE
SEPA Mujer Inc.

North Carolina
North Carolina Justice Center

Ohio
AIDS Resource Center Ohio, Inc.
Asian Services In Action, Inc.
Ohio AIDS Coalition, a Division of AIDS Resource Center Ohio Ohio Asian American Health Coalition
Ohio Poverty Law Center
YMCA of Greater Cleveland

Oklahoma
Tulsa CARES

Oregon
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) Basic Rights Oregon
Cascade AIDS Project
Center for Intercultural Organizing
Coalition of Communities of Color
Disability Rights Oregon
LGBTQ Community Center Fund (dba Q Center)
One in Four Chronic Health
Oregon Community Health Workers Association Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health
Oregon Health Authority, Office of Equity and Inclusion Oregon Public Health Institute
Oregon School-Based Health Alliance Portland State University
The Oregon Primary Care Association We Can Do Better

Pennsylvania
BPSOS-Delaware Valley Healthy Philadelphia Nationalities Service Center New Voices Pittsburgh
Penn Asian Health Initiatives
Pennsylvania Health Access Network Pennsylvania Health Law Project SEAMAAC
The Health Federation of Philadelphia

Rhode Island
Center for Southeast Asians

South Carolina
Charleston and Georgetown Diabetes Coalition SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center

Tennessee
Tennessee Health Care Campaign The Feel Good Movement

Texas
Asian American Health Coalition DBA HOPE Clinic Center for Public Policy Priorities
Daya Inc
DFW Hepatitis B Free Project
HOPE Clinic
Lesbian Health Initiative
Light and Salt Association VN TeamWork, Inc.

Utah
National Tongan American Society Utah Health Policy Project
Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition

Virginia
Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, D.C. Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare Virginia Organizing
Virginia Poverty Law Center

Washington
Children's Alliance
Comprehensive Health Education Foundation Friends Meeting, Bellingham
Interpreters United/Local 1671 AFSCME Council 28 Islamic Civic Engagement Project
Lifelong AIDS Alliance
Neighborhood House
Northwest Health Law Advocates
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department
WA State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Washington State Coalition for Language Access

West Virginia
WV FREE

Wisconsin
Reproductive Justice Collective

CFILC Joins the Association of Assistive Technology Programs in Advocating for Federal Tech Act Funding Appropriations March 13th, 2014

Dear Senate and Congressional Representatives,

I am writing on behalf of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) and the national Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP). As a Member of the California Congressional Delegation, we are respectfully requesting your support for the inclusion of $37.5 million in the FY 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) bill for the Assistive Technology (AT) Act. More specifically, we are requesting that you consider placing a programmatic request to fund the AT Act at $37.5 million with the House Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee by April 4, 2014.

CFILC is the nonprofit organization contracted to administer California’s State AT Program, known as the Assistive Technology Network. Each State AT Program is required to carry out a continuum of four specified state-level and state leadership activities that promote the ability of people with disabilities to be aware of, have access to, and be better positioned to obtain the assistive technology they need to live, work, and attend school independently in their communities.

AT significantly improves the lives and productivity of people with disabilities. Since innovative technological advancements occur on a regular basis, it is broadly defined as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Among other things, AT includes wheelchairs and other mobility impairment devices, visual scanning and access technology, alternative and augmentative speech and communication systems, and computer accessibility equipment.

While we greatly appreciate the fact that the final FY 2014 budget provided an increase for the AT Act programs, the amount finally included was still insufficient for all states to receive the minimum grant authorized in the law in 2004 ($410,000). An appropriation of $37.5 million would enable this minimum award to be met. The funding increase would directly impact the ability of the AT Act Programs to provide the full breadth of services required under the statute. If the California program was fully funded, we would receive an amount close to $1, 397,824 and we would be able to fully provide a continuum of services that could serve 15,000 Californians with disabilities.

When the AT Act was reauthorized by the Congress in 2004, Statewide AT Programs became responsible for providing more services that bring assistive technology directly into the hands of those who need it.  Accordingly, AT Act Programs are required to operate statewide programs that are available for persons with all types of disabilities, all ages, and in all environments (education, employment, community living and information technology). In addition, state programs are required to provide a continuum of services that increase awareness of, and access to, assistive technology. It includes state financing activities (such as financial loans, cooperative buy, funds of last resort, etc.), device reutilization (including recycling, repair, refurbishment and device exchange), and device loan/borrowing and device demonstration services.

These state-level activities are provided in addition to previously required activities, which include information and assistance, training, technical assistance, and coordination and collaboration.  While disabled individuals and their families and guardians are the primary beneficiaries of services, the AT Act requires Statewide AT Act Programs to provide a wide range of services and supports to other targeted individuals, including educators, employers, health care providers, rehabilitation providers, technology experts that include web designers, procurement officials, and AT manufacturers and vendors.

These new AT Act requirements have had a positive effect by improving the consistency and availability of a continuum of services nationally. Unfortunately however, the additional requirement to implement seven, rather than four, activities has not been given the necessary funding to meet the intent of Congress.  Nevertheless, the Statewide AT Programs provide cost effective services and supports that improve the lives of people with disabilities and warrant an ongoing Federal investment.

We are aware that requests of this nature often neglect to place a human face and clearer perspective about the ways in which assistive technology affects the daily lives of people with disabilities. With that in mind, we wish to share a few examples of the real world results achieved on behalf of Californians with disabilities who have been helped by the services available through the Assistive Technology Network:

Example 1: Many people with disabilities and their families are often unfamiliar with the actual cost-effective benefits of acquiring assistive technology. Recently, the Assistive Technology Network worked with an individual who needed to recuperate from multiple surgeries and the physical limitations resulting from those medical procedures. The AT Network allowed him and his wife to borrow both an 8-foot and a 6-foot ramp to enable him to move safely in and out of his house. After using the ramps for a few months, he and his wife decided that purchasing their own ramps was a worthwhile investment because it provided such safe and secure mobility and independence.

Example 2: The Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco was able to assist a consumer who was searching for the best and most useful AT device to help him organize his daily living and work priorities. He had ADHD and other disabilities, so the center’s staff successfully worked with him to utilize and compare the differing applications on various devices, including an iPad, Google Nexus Tablet, and an iPad Mini with a keyboard. After testing these devices, he settled upon the Nexus tablet’s setup as the one that worked best for him. Testing the different options was more helpful and less expensive than purchasing one or more that really didn’t work for him. Given the ability to compare the devices he is planning to purchase one within the next month or so.

Example 3: A 37-year-old woman living in Costa Mesa has been volunteering every summer for several years at the Orange County Fair. This consumer has multiple disabilities and recently began experiencing greater difficulty walking. The only way that she could continue attending the event she enjoyed was to find a suitable electric wheelchair. She was able to access her local Reuse Center that is a partner of the Assistive Technology Network and was able to reach an agreement that allowed her to borrow an electric wheelchair for as long a period as she needed it. The acquisition of the electric wheelchair enabled her to attend the fair daily for almost three weeks. She was so pleased about having more mobility that even a summer cold did not prevent her from enjoying the county fair and continuing her volunteer work in her community.

These are but a few examples of how funding for the AT Act places vital assistive technology directly in the hands of Californians whose lives and livelihood depends upon it. Your support for the $37.5 million appropriations request for FY 2015 is a funding investment that will be well spent. It will also generate matching investments from states and from the private sector, so its benefits will multiply beyond the Federal appropriation.

Thank you in advance for considering our request to place a programmatic request with the House, Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee at that funding level . Please do not hesitate to contact me at (916) 832-6233 or at Teresa@cfilc.org if you need any additional information about the AT Act and the programs and services it supports.

Respectfully,

Teresa Favuzzi, MSW
Executive Director

cc: Bob Hand, Chair, CFILC Board of Directors, Louis Frick, Chair, CFILC Public Policy Committee, Joe Xavier, Director, California Department of Rehabilitation, Liz Pazdral, Executive Director, California State Independent Living Council

CFILC Joins 48 Organizations Opposing the Governor's Budget Proposal to Impose a Cap on Providers to No More Than 40 hours of Work a Week to Avoid Paying Overtime, and Urging the Legislature to Repeal the 7% Across-the-Board Cut to IHSS Hours. March 3rd, 2014

The Honorable Dr. Shirley Weber
Chair, Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1 State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: IHSS Budget: FLSA & 7% Across-the-Board Cut

Dear Dr. Weber;

The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Coalition has two budget priorities: (1) we are emphatically opposed to the Governor’s budget proposal to impose a cap on providers to no more than 40 hours of work a week to avoid paying overtime, and (2) we urge the legislature to repeal the 7% across-the-board cut to IHSS hours. The IHSS Coalition is composed of forty-nine organizations representing IHSS consumers, providers and advocates. Our goals are (1) to ensure sufficient funding for In-Home Supportive Services and its interrelated aspects (2) to develop potential improvements for the program, (3) to disseminate information on homecare issues through public events and our website, and (4) to preserve and enhance consumer-directed services.

IHSS keeps Californians with disabilities, including seniors, in their own homes and saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in doing so. The IHSS program provides personal care and domestic services to approximately 440,000 individuals who are aged, blind or have disabilities, which allow these individuals to live safely at home rather than in unnecessary, not desired and more costly out-of home placement facilities. IHSS is a critical component of long-term care services in California.

By definition, IHSS consumers are very poor; the vast majority has monthly incomes less than $1,000 and $2,000 in personal assets. According to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), approximately 85% of all IHSS consumers receive SSI/SSP. The current maximum monthly SSI/SSP grant for elderly and disabled individuals is $877 per month and the maximum grant for couples is $1,478. The average IHSS consumer receives 89.5 hours of service a month.

7% Across-The-Board Cut
Last year, the legislature adopted the provisions of a settlement agreement to resolve two class-action lawsuits related to IHSS cuts that were previously enacted: Oster v. Lightbourne and Dominguez v. Schwarzenegger. The cuts that were subject to these lawsuits were enacted when the state was dealing with significant budget deficits and, if implemented, the reductions would have been devastating to IHSS consumers and providers.

The settlement agreement and related implementing legislation repealed those reductions and established an 8% across-the-board cut that took effect on July 1, 2013. Under current law, the 8% cut will be replaced with a 7% across-the-board cut on July 1, 2014. The settlement agreement also included a provision to “trigger off” the ongoing 7% reduction–in whole or in part–if the state receives enhanced federal funding pursuant to an “assessment” (likely a fee or tax) on home care services, including IHSS.

The 7% across-the-board cut hurts IHSS consumers and providers. A consumer assessed as needing the average number of monthly hours lost 6 of those hours – time which was needed for laundry or bathing or grocery shopping. A consumer who is assessed as needing the maximum number of hours – 283 – lost 20 hours of help per month – more than two days of personal care or domestic services. The need didn’t go away – but the help did.

Consumers have suffered disproportionately in recent years, with the IHSS hours cut compounded by cuts to SSI and Medi-Cal services, which are not proposed for restoration in the proposed budget.

Given the vastly improved fiscal situation, the legislature should restore the hours which consumers need to remain safely in their homes.

Fair Labor Standards Act
On September 17, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor issued final regulations, effective January 2015, that apply the federal minimum wage and overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to most of the two-million-plus home care workers in the United States. The new rules significantly narrow the “companionship exemption” that has long excluded home care workers from basic federal wage and hour protections. The Governor’s budget proposal would circumvent the new federal rule that requires additional overtime pay for domestic workers by prohibiting all IHSS providers from working more than 40 hours a week. Currently, IHSS caregivers can work more than 40 hours a week but are paid straight time for working the extra hours.

The Governor’s proposal, if enacted, would be devastating to IHSS consumers and providers. The following consequences are sufficiently compelling for the legislature to reject this budget proposal and appropriate sufficient funds to pay overtime to IHSS providers.

• Continuity of Care: The overtime prohibition would force those who have an IHSS provider working more than 40 hours a week to find someone else to work the hours above 40. Seniors and people with disabilities who require care beyond 40 hour a week would be forced to rely on temporary or alternative caregivers with less experience and familiarity with their unique needs. Especially concerning are the impacts on children and adults with disabilities for whom consistency is an essential part of care, including people with dementia who can suffer adverse consequences in the hands of unfamiliar caregivers.

Almost two-thirds of IHSS recipients receive care from a provider who is related to them. Moreover, about 46 percent of IHSS recipients receive care from either their own parent, spouse, or adult child (defined as a “close relative”). In about half of cases, IHSS providers live in the same home as the IHSS recipient. When IHSS services are provided by a person having the legal duty to provide for the care of his or her child, the parent provider will receive payment for IHSS only when that person leaves full-time employment or is prevented from obtaining full time employment because no other suitable provider is available, and, if care is not given by that person, the child may be subject to inadequate care or inappropriate placement.

• IHSS providers are not interchangeable: Personal care is very private. Consumers, including seniors, have strong preferences and needs when it comes to the people who do this work. Some consumers are monolingual in a language other than English; some prefer a worker of one gender, or from a similar cultural background. Some will not accept care from anyone other than a spouse or family member or other trusted provider.

Consider the parents who have been the sole caretakers for their children, with significant disabilities, for years or decades. Those parents will lose the income which has provided a roof and stable life, will have to go find other work while leaving the child in the hands of a stranger.

• Consumer choice is a cornerstone of the IHSS program, which will be deeply eroded by this proposal. IHSS consumers have the right to hire, fire and supervise their provider and they take into consideration their unique language needs along with the intimate nature of personal care service. Consumers often train their IHSS provider to handle their personal care services. Imposing a 40-hour cap per provider to avoid paying overtime would force consumers to hire new providers and, by doing so, could put themselves at risk for substandard care because the new provider would not be familiar with their unique needs.

• Availability of workforce: The Governor’s proposal assumes that somewhere around 30,000 – 50,000 Californians, who are not now IHSS home care workers, will somehow be willing and available to do this work. There is no factual basis for this assumption. In rural California, often the only available person to provide care is a family member.

• Availability of workers for new Provider Back-up System: The governor’s budget assumes the construction of a new system of back-up workers, who would be available, on short notice, to fill any unexpected needs of consumers who are unable to have their scheduled provider perform the needed work. The challenges and expense of such as system are underestimated; nowhere has such a service been created on anywhere near the scale required.

• Reductions to provider income/consumer household income: By prohibiting work after 40 hours, the proposal sharply limits the ability of caregivers to provide for their families. The sole source of income for 63% of providers is from the IHSS program. Because of the loss of hours, IHSS providers would lose income. IHSS providers who are living near or below the poverty level will be severely impacted by these cuts. Many providers are eligible for food stamps, and few have access now to health insurance. Many IHSS providers would lose their health benefits because the cut in hours could put them below the eligibility levels to qualify for health benefits through their Public Authority. In about half of cases, IHSS providers live in the same home as the IHSS recipient. The loss of income to the provider would impact the overall household income, leaving the consumer with insufficient funds to pay rent. The unintended consequence could force many IHSS consumers to move out of their homes and into institutional care.

• Olmstead considerations: In its 1999 Olmstead decision, the US Supreme Court confirmed that unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities violates their civil rights. Insofar as consumers’ homes and care are disrupted by the overtime ban, and consumers face otherwise unnecessary institutionalization, the state will be defying the Olmstead mandate.

• Concerns with the administration’s proposal:

- Workweek arrangements – funding for county IHSS administrative costs for
social workers to respond to questions from consumers and providers about the new overtime policy and workweek arrangement may be
understated. Counties and Public Authorities experienced a high volume of calls and walk-ins by consumers and providers with problems and questions about the new timesheet for CMIPS II. Lessons learned by the pilot counties and Public Authorities were helpful through the conversion process to help as new counties and PAs cut over to CMIPS II. The budget proposal assumes implementation for all 58 counties on January 1, 2015 – and there won’t be any pilot process to develop best practices. Hence, the workload may be much higher than anticipated by the administration to explain the new overtime policy and establish workweek arrangements between consumers and providers.

- Insufficient information about the Provider Back-up System – The administration has not provided data in written format on the number of providers who currently work more than 40 hours a week. We got a verbal report from CDSS on January 17, 2014, but the information was confusing and we asked for documentation that hasn’t been released to date. Because providers must be trained to provide paramedical services by physicians and other medical practitioners, back-up providers would not be allowed to provide these critical services.

- Two-Strikes and You’re Out: The administration is proposing to terminate IHSS providers with 4 hours of unauthorized overtime on a second offense for one year. This proposal is very harsh and generates a number of questions.

- IHSS providers receive their new timesheet with the paycheck from the prior pay period. If there is a problem with processing a timesheet, the provider doesn’t get a paycheck in a timely manner and also doesn’t receive a timesheet for the next pay period.

- Could a provider be terminated if they simultaneously submit timesheets for multiple pay periods where overtime was worked and therefore compensable at premium pay? What is the
“lag” time between a warning notice being sent to providers and the system flagging the event as a “first” or “second” strike? The concern is that providers could be terminated without receiving sufficient notice.

- CDSS has stated that all enrollment requirements would kick-in if an individual wishes to re-enroll as an IHSS provider after their 1-year penalty period has expired. This means providers would have to pay for another criminal background check and attend orientation again.

- Provider appeals – CDSS indicates they intend to establish an appeals process for providers to pay out the reason/justification for unauthorized overtime so that a terminated provider could be reinstated. There are no details and the administration indicated input would be obtained through a stakeholder process.

- Wait time during medical accompaniment & travel time – The FLSA regulations require payment of wages for actual time spent by a provider who is assigned to more than one client per day and for wait time while accompanying a consumer to a medical appointment. The Governor’s budget appropriately designates funds to comply with these provisions of the FLSA.

Closing Comments:

Showing signs of economic recovery, California is experiencing higher revenues than projected in the 2013-14 budget, with an additional $6.3 billion in unanticipated revenue from 2012-2013 budget through 2014-2015 budget. The Governor’s proposed budget projects revenue of about $108.7 billion in 2014-15, with total expenditures increasing to $106.8 billion. This budget growth is attributed to taxes approved by voters in 2012, reductions in spending in previous years, and the improving economy. The Governor’s budget priorities include investing in K-12 and higher education, debt repayment, and building up of a Rainy Day Fund (the Budget Stabilization Account).

This year, we need all of you to do what you know is right – and what you've done before: Stand up for the California consumers of IHSS, their families and the workers who provide their much-needed care. We call on you to reject the Governor’s proposal to cap provider hours to avoid paying overtime and to repeal the 7% across-the-board cuts.

Sincerely,

AARP-California
Access to Independence
ACLU of Southern California
Alzheimer's Association, California Council
California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA)
California Association of Public Authorities (CAPA) California Church IMPACT
California Council of Churches
California Council of the Alzheimer’s Association
California Council of the Blind
California Disability Community Action network (CDCAN) California Foundation for Independent Living (CFILC) California IHSS Consumer Alliance (CICA)
California Senior Legislature
California State Council on Developmental Disabilities California United Homecare Workers (CUHW)
Californians for Disability Rights, Inc. (CDR)
Communities Actively Living Independent & Free (CALIF) Congress of California Seniors
Dayle McIntosh Center for the Disabled
Disability Rights California (DRC)
East Bay Community Law Center
FREED Center for Independent Living
Friends Committee on Legislation
Gray Panthers
IN SPIRIT
Independent Living Resource Center Inc.
Independent Living Services of Northern California (ILSNC) Marin IHSS Public Authority
National Senior Citizen’s Law Center Nevada-Sierra-Plumas Public Authority
Northern California ADAPT
Older Women’s League
Personal Assistance Services Council of Los Angeles Planning For Elders
Resources for Independent Living
San Francisco IHSS Task Force
San Francisco Public Authority
SEIU Local 521
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
SEIU United Long Term Care Workers
Service Employees International Union – State Council Silicon Valley Independent Living Center (SVILC) Southeast Asia Resource Action Center | California Office The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy in California
The San Diego IHSS Coalition
Tri-County Independent Living Center, Inc.
UDW /AFSCME Local 3930
Westside Center For Independent Living (WCIL)

cc:

Members, Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1
Gail Gronert, Office of the Assembly Speaker
Nicole Vasquez, Consultant, Assembly Budget Committee
Julie Souliere, Assembly Republican Fiscal Office
Matt Paulin, Program Budget Manager, HHS, Department of Finance Will Lightbourne, Director, California Department of Social Services Michael Wilkening, Health and Human Services Agency
Rashi Kesarwani, Legislative Analyst’s Office

CFILC Joins 12 Organizations in Highlighting Serious Concerns with Timeline and Implementation of the California's Coordinated Care Initiative March 3rd, 2014

Melanie Bella, Director
Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Baltimore, Maryland 21244
Via email: Melanie.Bella@cms.hhs.gov

Toby Douglas, Director
California Department of Health Care Services
Sacramento, California 95812
Via email: Toby.Douglas@dhcs.ca.gov

We write to urgently request the suspension of implementation of the Coordinated Care Initiative (“CCI”) in all counties other than San Mateo until the Department of Health Care Services (“DHCS”) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) can demonstrate that an enrollment process is in place that provides seniors and people with disabilities the information and resources they need to make informed decisions about their Medicare and Medi-Cal benefits. The process must comply with the requirements of governing statutes, the Memorandum of Understanding, and federal guidance for this new program. Many key aspects of the CCI simply are not ready, including most notably notices, internal DHCS and CMS systems, and the demonstration’s enrollment broker.

Throughout the development of the CCI, DHCS and CMS repeatedly promised to proceed in a manner that protected beneficiaries through this tremendous and complicated transition. Both agencies promised that enrollment would not proceed unless systems were ready. Those promises need to be kept. To protect beneficiaries, prevent confusion, and comply with statutory requirements, a postponement is necessary. We specifically request suspension of the 60-day notices scheduled to be mailed next week.

The undersigned organizations have been actively engaged in the CCI stakeholder process and support the goals of the CCI. We understand the significance of another delay in the CCI and do not make this request lightly. We, however, oppose DHCS and CMS’ resolve to continue with implementation on the current timeline despite a clear lack of readiness. Pushing forward in the face of inadequate notices and enrollment systems and an unprepared call center deprives beneficiaries of the right to make an informed choice and meaningfully participate in their healthcare, one of the main goals of the CCI. As the SPD transition clearly highlighted, there is no substitute and no default enrollment formula that can take the place of actual beneficiary involvement and genuine choice.

Set forth below are the most pressing and significant enrollment process problems that must be resolved before any additional notices are sent to beneficiaries. This list of problems is not intended to be exhaustive. This list does not include concerns about plan and provider readiness, the actual delivery of benefits, concerns with care continuity and appeals process, and more. It relates only to the early stages of the enrollment process.

Many required notices have not yet been finalized.

As advocates, we have been able to identify over forty enrollment related notices that DHCS and CMS need to draft, share with stakeholders, and finalize in order for beneficiaries to receive all information required by state statute, the MOU, and federal guidance. Of the over forty enrollment notices advocates have identified, we believe only five have been finalized.

There may be more, but DHCS and CMS have yet to share publicly a complete list of all notices they are developing. There is also not a publicly available timeline of when all notices will be sent that helps stakeholders understand the interplay between the various notices.

When the first round of 14,000 Cal MediConnect enrollment notices were sent out by DHCS in early January, only the 90-day notice had been finalized. When the next round of required materials including the 60-day notice, Guidebook, Choice Booklet and Forms were not ready by February 1, DHCS was forced to announce a one-month delay in three of the CCI counties. Yet, DHCS proceeded with sending an additional round of Cal MediConnect 90-day notices to 14,000 dual eligibles in Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. Additionally, DHCS sent out 90-day Managed Long-Term Services and Supports (“MLTSS”) notices to 32,000 beneficiaries in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

We understand that DHCS and CMS have now finalized the 60-day Cal MediConnect notices and accompanying Guidebooks, Choice Booklets, and Choice Forms. The next rounds of Cal MediConnect notices, however, are still not finalized. In addition, we do not believe the 60-day MLTSS notice has been finalized, nor have the MLTSS Guidebook, Choice Booklet, and Choice Form that should accompany the 60-day MLTSS notice. If these documents have been finalized, they have not been released publicly. Many of these documents have not even been shared in draft form for comment by stakeholders.

Of the many notices still to be developed, one is the notice confirming a beneficiary’s decision to opt-out of Cal MediConnect. This notice is supposed to be sent within ten calendar days of the beneficiary recording that decision with Health Care Options. Although some beneficiaries have already elected not to participate in Cal MediConnect, they have not received this notice because it has not been developed.

The Notices that have been finalized are inadequate and confusing.

The notices and materials released thus far reflect the disorganized and rushed development process they underwent. Ideally, the notices would present information consistently. Yet, the 90-day and 60-day Cal MediConnect notices use different language to explain a beneficiary’s choices. Neither notice adequately explains a beneficiary’s choices – including clearly stating that the individual has the right to keep their Medicare benefits just as they are today and not select a Cal MediConnect plan at all. This inadequacy ultimately curtails the beneficiary’s ability to make an informed choice during a critical transition period.

The Choice Booklet and Choice Form are arguably the most important materials a beneficiary will receive. The Choice Form is the document the individual will complete to indicate whether or not they want to enroll in Cal MediConnect and to pick a Medi- Cal managed care plan. These materials do not make those choices clear. Instead, we believe many beneficiaries will believe they must pick a Cal MediConnect plan. The form effectively impedes the beneficiary’s right to opt-out of Cal MediConnect.

We note that the Choice Booklet and Choice Form were never released broadly for stakeholder comment. When these materials were finally provided to a smaller group, DHCS was forced to hastily make changes after several errors were noted. The finalized versions, released quietly just days before they must be mailed, are still wholly inadequate.

Notices have not yet been translated.

Approximately fifty percent of individuals impacted by the CCI do not speak English as their primary language. The 90-day and 60-day Cal MediConnect notice and 90-Day MLTSS notice have been translated into the Medi-Cal threshold languages, but key questions remain regarding the adequacy and cultural sensitivity of these notices. For example, the Chinese translation of the 90-day notice has several extra characters creating additional confusion for beneficiaries who receive these notices. It is also unclear whether the translated notices are being sent to beneficiaries who need them (those who DHCS knows speak a language other than English) or only being made available upon request.

The most recently finalized enrollment materials, including the Choice Booklet and Choice Form and Cal MediConnect Guidebook, do not appear to have been translated into threshold languages. Due to their delayed finalization, we question whether it is possible for them to be translated for beneficiaries within the 60-day timeframe as required by statute.

Notices are not yet available in alternate formats.

Similarly, DHCS has not demonstrated that the notices or enrollment materials are available in alternate formats. DHCS is required to provide materials in alternate formats in order to effectively communicate with individuals with hearing and vision impairments pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the CCI statute. Despite requests, accessible versions of the 90-day notices sent in early January have not yet been provided to advocates. With many of the enrollment materials only recently finalized and slated to be mailed to beneficiaries by the end of February and some materials still not finalized, we again question whether it is possible for the State to provide alternate formats in a timely fashion.

Notices that are inadequate and inaccessible put beneficiaries needlessly at risk of loss of services and disruption in care. If the goal of the CCI is to promote person-centered care, the commitment to this goal must be demonstrated at the outset by ensuring that the beneficiary maintains the right to make an informed choice about his or her healthcare delivery regardless of the formats or languages in which they require their materials.

Notices have not been tested with beneficiaries and are not written at a sixth grade level.

The CCI statute, MOU, and draft 1115 waiver amendment required that notices be field tested with beneficiaries and written at no higher than a sixth grade reading level. Neither of these requirements has been fulfilled.

Notices are being sent to people who should not receive them.

DHCS is tasked with sending the right notices to the right populations at the right time. The CCI is inherently a complicated program, and DHCS must ensure that it does not contribute to the confusion by sending beneficiaries notices that do not apply to them. Unfortunately, DHCS has already sent notices to beneficiaries who are excluded from participation in the CCI. Specifically, notices were sent to individuals residing in an Intermediate Care Facility for the Developmentally Disabled (ICF/DD). The fact that DHCS failed to adequately test their systems for this foreseeable and easily avoidable situation raises serious doubts as to whether DHCS’ systems are capable of sending the myriad of notices to all the different populations impacted by the CCI at the right time.

Medicare notices related to Cal MediConnect have not been revised to be California specific.

There are several notices that Medicare and Medicare plans must generate as part of the Cal MediConnect enrollment process. CMS is currently working with DHCS to customize these notices for California. Instead of waiting until that work is done, CMS and DHCS have decided to begin sending out notices that are not yet tailored to California.

For example, within 5-10 days of receiving a 60-day Cal MediConnect notice, a beneficiary will receive a disenrollment notice from their current Medicare Part D plan (“PDP”). This notice will be generic and will not explain that the disenrollment from the current PDP is linked to the planned passive enrollment into Cal MediConnect. Without that context, many dual eligibles are likely to panic and call their current PDP or 1-800- MEDICARE. We are aware of at least one case in which a beneficiary has already unintentionally opted-out of Cal MediConnect when he called his PDP and elected to keep his plan. Unfortunately, the PDP call centers and 1-800-MEDICARE have not yet been trained on these changes and no systems exists for identifying for the PDP or 1- 800-MEDICARE that these individuals are getting a disenrollment notice because of their planned Cal MediConnect enrollment.

Health Care Options is not ready.

Health Care Options (“HCO”) is tasked with processing enrollments for the CCI. Beneficiaries are also directed to HCO to request notices and materials in accessible formats. DHCS had promised that a CCI specific phone number, call center and Interactive Voice Recording (“IVR”) would be established to ensure that beneficiaries got the help they need. As of the writing of this letter, these systems have not yet been set up. A beneficiary calling the phone number on the CCI notices will reach an IVR that provides irrelevant and inaccurate information about the CCI enrollment process. There have been a number of reports of callers receiving inaccurate information about the CCI from HCO customer service representatives.

Without a dedicated call center ready to process CCI enrollments, additional notices should not be sent. When the notices, Choice Booklet, and Choice Form direct the beneficiary to contact HCO, HCO must be operational and ready to field the questions about the notices and choice forms.

Plan websites do not have required materials posted.

This letter does not address questions about Cal MediConnect plan readiness generally. However, when considering whether beneficiaries have the information they need to make the choices they are being asked to make, we note that many Cal MediConnect plans have not yet made available on their websites basic information like provider directories, member handbooks, and formularies. Plans in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Riverside can currently accept enrollments and can start providing services on April 1. Yet, only one plan in all four counties has the aforementioned documents accessible on its website. Many plans, including Molina, Care 1st, Health Net, Community Health Group, LA Care, and Inland Empire Health Plan, do not have most, if not all, of these materials available online, and their websites are unorganized, containing inactive links or placeholder documents. We believe that beneficiaries considering enrollment in these plans must be able to view which providers and prescription drugs are covered as soon as possible.

The HICAPs have not yet received their funding.

A key element in the CCI enrollment process is the availability of counseling through Health Insurance Counseling Programs (HICAPs) to assist beneficiaries in understanding the CCI so they can make informed choices about their health care. The state decided to make no new funds available to HICAPs to provide counseling. Federal funding was allocated several months ago, but has not yet been allocated to the HICAPs. Notices should not go out until the HICAPs have funding to support this additional counseling function. Further, because the process of notice creation has been so rushed, HICAPs have not had access to final notices in advance to be able to fully train the staff and counselors so that they can properly serve beneficiaries who call them for assistance.

The Los Angeles enrollment strategy is not yet finalized.

The timing and process for enrolling seniors and people with disabilities into the CCI in Los Angeles remains a controversial topic. A new draft of the strategy was shared with stakeholders this week and our concerns with that strategy will be addressed separately. We note here, however, that despite the unsettled enrollment policy in Los Angeles, DHCS has begun sending MLTSS notices to seniors and people with disabilities in the County. Sending notices before the policy is settled is bound to create additional confusion.

Federal authority for components of the CCI has yet to be provided.

DHCS needs federal waiver authority to require dual eligibles to enroll in Medi-Cal managed care and to integrate Long Term Services and Supports into managed care. DHCS submitted to CMS in June 2013 a proposed amendment to the 1115 waiver requesting this authority, but that amendment has not yet been granted. We believe that sending more notices before the amendment has been approved creates yet another additional opportunity for confusion and disruptions in care.

As our concerns with DHCS and CMS have escalated, the response has been recognition of at least of some of the problems and a commitment to improve notices and systems while the rollout takes place. We appreciate this commitment to continued improvement, but we believe it is irresponsible to push forward with enrollment for tens of thousands (60,000 are facing an enrollment transition on May 1) before the enrollment process is working as promised and intended.

The promise of the CCI is a better, “seamless,” coordinated system for beneficiaries with an orderly process for stakeholder input throughout the process. Specific requirements in statute and in the MOU reinforce those goals. Without a significant pause to get notices fixed and coordinated and systems in order, the start of the CCI will cause confusion and disruptions in care. The promise will be broken, and the requirements will not be met.

Accordingly, we firmly request a delay in the rollout of the CCI until these key aspects can be resolved.
Sincerely,

California Health Advocates
Disability Rights California
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund National Health Law Program
National Senior Citizens Law Center
Western Center on Law and Poverty

cc:
Jane Ogle, Deputy Director, Department of Health Care Services
Margaret Tatar, Division Chief, Medi-Cal Managed Care Division, Department of Health Care Services
Jonathan Blum, Principal Deputy Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Cindy Mann, Deputy Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Barbara Edwards, Director, Disabled & Elderly Health Programs Group, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Kerry Branick, Project Director, Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Kathy Greenlee, Administrator, Administration for Community Living
Sharon Lewis, Principal Deputy Administrator, Administration for Community Living

CFILC Joins 24 Organizations Advocating to Restore Funding for Disability and Aging Services December 12th, 2013

The California Collaborative for Long Term Services and Supports is a coalition of 35 statewide organizations that represent or serve seniors and persons with disabilities and that meet weekly to discuss policy and budget issues.

In discussions last week among 25 of its 35 member agencies, the Collaborative came to consensus on a series of recommendations for the administration’s consideration as the 2014-15 budget proposal is made final. These recommendations recognize the context of budgetagreements made during the past several terrible budget years, which are now behind us. Because the reductions had no programmatic rationale (they were related only to the budget crisis), we hope you would agree that they are no longer necessary:

• Eliminating a seven percent cut to In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2014.
• Restoring a 10 percent rate cut (made in June, 2011) for adult day health programs, now called Community Based Adult Services (CBAS).
• Shoring up services that have been reduced by federal sequestration, including senior nutrition programs, housing vouchers, and programs authorized through the Older Americans Act.
• Ending reductions in Medi-Cal optional benefits, including eyeglasses, incontinence supplies,psychiatry, and durable medical equipment, and restoring the dental benefit to its 2009 level.
• Restoring SSI/SSP to the purchasing power it had five years ago.

In addition, to ensure a firm foundation for the administration’s 2014 priorities and beyond, these challenges can be addressed in the proposed Budget Act:

• Providing home and community based services toindividuals on waiting lists for Medi-Cal waiver services; they qualify for nursing-home or higher levels of care but want to remain in their communities.
• Addressing the housing needs of persons wanting home and community based services instead of institutional care.
• Adjusting the caps on rates for home and community based services within the state’s Medi-Cal waivers, so that these rates reflect the state rates for people with similar needs who are in nursing homes or other institutions.
• Meeting, within Budget Act appropriations, the new requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act as they apply to IHHS providers working overtime.

As we look to the immediate future – the rollout of the Coordinated Care Initiative and Cal MediConnect -- and to the not-so-distant future – the continued growth in the populations of low-income seniors and persons with disabilities who want to live at home or in their communities, it is clear that California needs a strong foundation of long term services and supports. The 2014-15 Budget can go a long way toward ensuring that the needed foundation is in place. Without it, the CCI and Cal MediConnect are at risk as is the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of older or disabled Californians.

CFILC Joins over 700 Organizations Calling for the Ratification of The Convention on The Rights of People with Disabilities November 18th, 2013

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers urges support for the Senate’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In December of 2012 the Senate was unsuccessful in its efforts to ratify this important treaty after it fell five votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority. To date, 138 nations have ratified the treaty and it is our hope that the Senate will provide the necessary votes when, as expected, the matter will be taken up again this year.

CFILC and a community of over 700 disability, veteran and allied organizations, and countless individuals, are committed to United States’ leadership in promoting the rights and dignity of all people with disabilities. We believe that the signing of the CRPD is a very important international community responsibility for our nation. It embodies a commitment to equal treatment and non-discrimination for persons with disabilities and the obligations of ratifying counties to protect, fulfill, and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. Moreover, it is wholly consistent with the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) relative to empowering persons with disabilities to live independently in their homes and communities.

It is important to emphasize that the signing of the CRPD was only the first step toward demonstrating the United States’ commitment to the treaty. The CRPD was negotiated during President George W. Bush’s Administration and it was signed by President Obama in 2009. Senate ratification is the next step forward in this process.

Ratification action by the United States Senate is very important to persons with disabilities throughout the world. It will enable our nation to engage in substantive discussions in an international forum to provide our guidance and expertise to other nations who are enacting laws necessary to implement the treaty. It will also protect U.S. citizens while they are abroad, encourage other countries to achieve accessibility standards, and level the playing field for U.S. corporations by requiring businesses in other counties to create policies on accessibility consistent with the ADA.

There are no costs associated with ratifying the CRPD and it will not require any changes in U.S. laws or regulations. In closing, we believe that the Senate ratification of the CRPD will promote equal access to justice, health, education, employment, and rehabilitation. Thus, this represents an opportunity to reaffirm the values and guiding principles of the ADA and advance them throughout the world.

For these reasons, we once again respectfully urge you to support the ratification of the CRPD. We also ask that you encourage your Republican colleagues who failed to support it last year to join you in this endeavor.

Go to source: http://www.disabilitytreaty.org/
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers Joined Over 40 State and National Organizations Call for Immediate Implementation of Voter Registration by Covered California November 18th, 2013

Expressing strong concern that California’s healthcare marketplace is not offering required voter registration opportunities to the thousands enrolling in healthcare coverage, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter this week to the executive director of the state’s health benefit exchange, Covered California, demanding concrete steps toward compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

“The goal of the NVRA is to provide people who are underrepresented in our electorate more access to opportunities to register to vote,” said Lori Shellenberger, director of the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project. “The decision to designate the state’s Health Benefit Exchange as a voter registration agency is one of the most significant voter registration policy decisions in the state’s history and has the potential to bring millions of Californians into the democratic process in our state.”

Covered California was the first state-run exchange to be designated a voter registration agency under the National Voter Registration Act and has had six months to implement voter registration. This week’s letter from the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project, the National ACLU Voting Rights Project, and several national partners, emphasizes the need for transparency as to what is currently being done to ensure that the anticipated one million healthcare applicants receive access to voter registration during the open enrollment period. The letter urges Covered California executive director Peter Lee and the Board to appoint a coordinator to oversee and complete implementation by December 16, 2013, or be subject to possible legal action.

The letter comes in the wake of a separate letter of concern sent to Covered California, signed by more than forty organizations, that conveys widespread support for voter registration opportunities at Covered California. That letter was signed by a broad range of healthcare advocates, consumer advocates, and grassroots community organizations from across the state including the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. CFILC is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities have access to voter registration opportunities. We believe that Covered California offers a significant registration option for many people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions,” said Teresa Favuzzi, Executive Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers.

According to a November 13, 2013 New York Times article, Lee said that 30,830 people in California had enrolled in plans in October and 29,000 more enrolled through November 9. At the current rate of enrollment, 2,000 people each day are being deprived of the important opportunity to register to vote or update their voter registration information as guaranteed by federal and state law.

National Voter Registration Act is a 20-year-old law that has been implemented at state agencies in California and across the country and we are confident that Covered California will be able to successfully reach full compliance in the immediate future.

CFILC Joins Over 50 Organizations Advocating to Protect & Strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) November 18th, 2013

The undersigned California-based organizations are writing in anticipation of the first convening of the 2013 Farm Bill Conference Committee to request that you consider the impact that cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will have on low-income Americans and on our economy, still struggling to recover from the worst recession of our lifetime and the impact of the federal shutdown, which left many service sector employees without work for nearly two weeks.

We understand that both the House Bill (H.R. 2642 & Nutrition Title Cuts) and the bi-partisan Senate Bill (S.3240) include cuts to SNAP. These cuts are not acceptable during a time of stagnant poverty rates and increasing inequality.

Instead, Congress should be working to strengthen the program to better reduce hunger & malnutrition. The Institute of Medicine recently reported that SNAP benefits are not enough to meet a family's basic food needs and there has long been a need to strengthen SNAP recipient access to more local and fresh food. The Farm Bill could have, and should have, been an opportunity for us to learn more about why the program isn't reaching all those who are hungry. Instead, the House passed a Farm Bill without a Nutrition Title, without a single hearing on hunger in fact, bypassing our ability to address the shameful reality that one in six, and one in five children, are going hungry right here in America.

With one in four children living in poverty and the highest Supplemental Poverty Rate in the United States (Source: US Census Bureau), California is home to more SNAP eligible households than any other state in the Nation. We also have the lowest participation rate in the Country, with only just half of those eligible participating. While California's legislature and the Governor work hard to address hunger in our state, these efforts will be crippled if the cuts proposed by Congress are enacted. This is why both California Senators have signed this letter asking the Conferees to resist adding barriers to participation in SNAP and why California’s Congressional Delegation had a bi-partisan vote opposing the House bill to cut SNAP.

We urge you to reject proposals and dialogue meant to stigmatize Americans who rely on SNAP to prevent hunger. We ask you to pass a Conference Committee Farm Bill that strengthens SNAP and improves access to affordable, healthy food for all Americans.”

This statement has been issued by 52 Organizations in California

Statewide Organizations:
All of Us or None: California
AltaMed Health Services Corporation
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers
California Association of Food Banks
California Food Policy Advocates
California Hunger Action Coalition
California Latinas for Reproductive Justice
California / Nevada Community Action Agency
California Emergency Foodlink
California Alliance for Retired Americans
California Immigrant Policy Colaborative
Children’s Defense Fund - California
Coalition of California Welfare Organizations
Fair Share California
JERICHO: A voice for Justice
Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Lutheran Office of Public Policy of California
National Association of Social Workers, CA Chapter
Western Center on Law and Poverty
Western Regional Advocacy Project
Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge & Services (WORKS)

Regional Organizations:
Alameda County Community Food Bank
DAAC/Turning Point (Sonoma)
Catholic Social Service Solano
Fairfield Community Seventh Day Adventist Church
First Baptist Vallejo
Feeding America San Diego
Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano
Food Bank for Monterey County
Food For People, Inc. (Humboldt)
FoodLink for Tulare County, Inc.
Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank
Hunger Action Los Angeles
Interfaith Community Food Bank (San Diego)
Loaves & Fishes of Contra Costa
Los Angeles Regional Food Bank
North County Community Services (San Diego)
North Richmond Neighborhood House
Power For Living Ministries (Contra Costa)
River City Food Bank (Sacramento)
Redwood Empire Food Bank
Sacramento Hunger Coalition
Sacramento Housing Alliance
Saint Anthony Foundation (San Francisco Bay Area)
San Diego Hunger Action Coalition
Salud Para La Gente
San Francisco and Marin Food Banks
San Francisco Living Wage Coalition
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties
Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County
St. Mary’s Center (Oakland)
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of Vacaville
S. Sacramento Interfaith Partnership Food Closet
Trinity Baptist Church Food Pantry (Sonoma)
Visions Christian Center (Contra Costa)


For more information about hunger in California or the impact of SNAP cuts to low-income Californians and our economy, contact:

Jessica Bartholow
Western Center on Law & Poverty
jbartholow@wclp.org

Eric Manke
California Association of Food Banks
eric@cafoodbanks.org

Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act July 24th, 2013

CFILC is closely monitoring Congressional actions to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The reauthorization is long overdue since Congress last reauthorized it in 1998.

Among other things, WIA governs a number of important Federal programs. They include workforce investment programs; adult and dislocated worker employment and training activities; the Job Corps; adult education and literacy; vocational rehabilitation; employment programs for youth and people with disabilities, independent living programs and services, and Independent Living Centers.

The House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have two separate WIA Reauthorization bills that are moving through the congressional deliberation process. They are HR 803 and S. 1356, respectively.

At the time of the writing of this issue brief, the Senate had not voted on the final passage of S. 1356 on the Senate floor. Once it is voted upon, the differences between the two bills would be resolved by a Conference Committee. The Senate's authors of S. 1356 had hoped to schedule a floor vote before Congress adjourns, but ongoing battles on the Continuing Resolution for funding Federal programs and raising the Debt Limit may prevent that from happening. If so, the Conference Committee may be appointed sometime in 2014.

CFILC has analyzed and taken formal positions on a number of important issues in S. 1356 affecting independent living programs and Independent Living Centers. HR 803 does not make any changes to these programs and services.

Summary of HR 803

HR 803 is the House Republican WIA Reauthorization bill. Its title is the "Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act". The bill makes numerous changes to Statewide and Local Workforce Investment Systems; the Job Corps program; Adult Education and Family Literacy Education programs; and other provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. However, it does not make any changes to existing law governing independent living programs and services or Independent Living Centers.

The House Democrats had introduced their own bill, HR 798. It included some, but not all, of the provisions relating to Independent Living programs and services or Independent Living Centers that are contained in S. 1356. Since the Republicans are in the majority in the House of Representatives, HR 803 was the only WIA Reauthorization bill that was allowed by the House Leadership to be heard in committee after it was granted a hearing in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The Democratic bill was not granted a hearing and none of the Democratic-sponsored amendments to HR 803 were allowed. The Democrats has hoped that there would a bi-partisan effort to craft a WIA Reauthorization bill, but they were not given any opportunity to participate in that process. When it became clear that Republicans had no interest in receiving their input, the Democratic Committee Members walked out of the HR 803 hearing in protest.

Nevertheless, the House Republicans continued to move HR 803 for final passage in the committee, albeit without any recorded Democratic votes. It eventually was passed on the House floor by a vote of 215-202. Thereafter, it was sent to the Senate and was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The leadership of the Senate is controlled by the Democrats and they did not grant HR 803 a hearing. It is important to note that there was bi-partisan participation in developing S. 1356 and with that strong support and cooperation by Senate Democrats and Republicans it was voted out of the Senate HELP Committee by a vote of 18-3. Currently, it is eligible for a vote on final passage on the Senate floor, but continuing battles between Democrats and Republicans in Congress means that the WIA Reauthorization Conference Committee may not occur in 2013.

Summary of S. 1356

Some of the major changes affecting independent living programs and services and Independent Living Centers in S. 1356 include:

Reorganization Federal Agency Oversight: The administration of Independent Living programs and services, as well as those involving other programs for people with disabilities are currently administered and overseen by the Regional Services Administration (RSA). S. 1356 divides up many of these oversight responsibilities by transferring RSA from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

Please note that the administration and oversight of Independent Living programs and services and Independent Living Centers would not be affected by that shift to DOL. Instead, these operations would be overseen by a newly created Independent Living Administration (ILA) that would be established in the Administration for Community Living within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There will be more detailed discussion about the creation of the ILA in a separate part of this issue brief, below.

Authorization of New Services and Supports for Youth with Disabilities, Including Students with Disabilities: S. 1356 places a significant focus and emphasis in setting higher expectations for services and supports to promote competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities. This new emphasis also includes the delivery of special supportive services for youth with disabilities and students with disabilities.

The bill authorizes the provision of these services in order to increase job opportunities for youth and students with disabilities in their early years. It also is designed to provide an alternative approach to relegating many of them to sheltered workshops that do not allow them to work in an environment with non-disabled workers and that do not produce competitive integrated employment opportunities.

As will be discussed below, historically many people with disabilities who are working in sheltered workshops are paid subminimum wages. Disability advocates argue that the segregation of people with disabilities in sheltered workshops and other certified work settings does not promote the independent living philosophy or create real employment opportunities.

S. 1356 seeks to change that pattern by authorizing the provision vocational rehabilitation and job training opportunities with necessary services and supports wherever possible. It also reforms the process that allows disabled employees to be paid subminimum wages.

Reforms for the Authorization for the Payment of Subminimum Wages to Employees with Disabilities: The payment of subminimum wages is a very controversial issue within the disability community. The CFILC Board of Director has not taken a formal position on this issue.

Nonetheless, existing law that is more popularly known as "Section 511" is one of two statutory provisions that authorize employers to apply for an exemption from the requirement for the payment of minimum wages to their workers with disabilities. The authority for that exemption is found in Section 14(c) of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA).

Existing provisions of WIA does include standards and requirements for the payment of subminimum wages. While many disability advocates argue that there no longer is any public policy rationale for paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages. Employers that operate sheltered workshops paying subminimum wages is the only way that they can employ these disabled workers with a sufficient profit margin to operate these facilities.

The proponents further argue that these disabled workers cannot compete with the production levels of non-disabled employers. As a result, if they are not employed in sheltered workshops, their disabilities would prevent them from finding any other employment. Others claim that that their ability to find employment and work among other employees gives them a sense of self-esteem, the ability to acquire workplace social skills, and to find other jobs outside the sheltered workshops.

On the other hand, there have been numerous reports and anecdotal stories alleging that the exploitation of these disabled workers is rampant, especially among workers who are blind or visually impaired or are developmentally disabled. Business associations and the operators of sheltered workshops vehemently deny that they exploit these workers.

It is estimated that 420,000 individuals with disabilities are employed under the exemption. Despite popular belief to the contrary, the data indicates that 95 percent of the employers who operate sheltered workshops are nonprofit or state-operated social services providers, rather than private, for-profit businesses. Research has shown that the promises of transitioning disabled workers in sheltered workshop to employment outside those settings are a dismal failure. Instead, for many of these workers, sheltered workshops are dead-end jobs---only 5 percent of these employees are successfully transitioned to other jobs.

Goodwill Industries is the largest such employer. They pay their disabled and non-disabled workers wages above and below the minimum wage, depending upon the extent and nature of their disabilities. They are often criticized because their operations generate substantial profits and because people who donate clothing and other items to their local branches are unaware that many of the individuals they expect will be gainfully employed are paid subminimum wages and work in dead-end jobs.

Many disability rights organizations have mobilized behind circulating petitions calling for the outright repeal Section 511. There are also campaigns to encourage communities to boycott Goodwill Industries. They contend that work in these environments is demeaning. It is felt that prospects for these disabled employees to find competitive integrated employment would be more possible if they receive early intervention in obtaining vocational rehabilitations, internships, job training and other services and support.

Some disability rights organizations and individuals believe that S. 1356 does not go far enough because it does not ban sheltered workshops. The bill does not include provisions to repeal Section 14(c) of the FLSA. However, it does enact a number of meaningful reforms that are designed to move toward the eventual phasing-out of most sheltered workshops.

It has been a difficult balance for the authors of the bill. They understand why the disability community is mobilizing to eliminate sheltered workshop subminimum wages. For a number of public policy and political reality reasons, the Chair and Ranking Minority Senator of S. 1356, Senators Tom Harking and Lamar Alexander, respectively, decided against including the repeal of Section 14(c) of the FLSA in this particular bill.

Given the importance associated with reauthorizing this long-overdue legislation and because the issues are divisive and controversial, the Senators did not want to risk losing support in Congress. They know that its repeal would cost losing Republican votes and could be a substantial obstacle in resolving the differences between the House and Senate bills in conference committee negotiations. Moreover, the Senate conferees could lose leverage in those deliberations. Jeopardizing all of other important WIA reforms made it more strategic to address the possible repeal of Section 14(c) of the FLSA in separate, stand-alone legislation.

Instead, S. 1356 enacts a number of sheltered workshop and subminimum wage reforms that would:

1. Require disabled individuals to be 24 years of age or older when they are first employed at a subminimum wage;

2. Prior to employing an individual 24 years of age or younger before beginning to work at a subminimum wage, S. 1356 requires that the individual receive pre-employment transitions services pursuant to other provisions of the bill or transition services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In addition these individuals must apply for vocational rehabilitation services under Title I of WIA. If they are found to be ineligible for vocational rehabilitation services, they may be employed at a subminimum wage.

If they are deemed eligible for those services, they must have an individualized plan for employment and work toward those objectives. They also must be given an individualized plan for employment, work toward a work outcome specified in that plan. Their vocational rehabilitation case may not be closed and they may not work at a subminimum wage unless the individual and his or her vocational rehabilitation counselor mutually agree that continued efforts to work toward an employment likely will be unsuccessful.

In addition, these vocational rehabilitation program eligible individuals (and their parents and guardians, where appropriate) must be provided career counseling and information and referrals to Federal and State programs and other resources in their area to explore and experience opportunities for competitive integrated employment. Before they are employed to work at a subminimum wage they must understand the conditions under which they will be paid a subminimum wage and must agree to those wages.

3. Regardless of their age, all individuals working at a subminimum wage must receive from their employer work readiness or job training services for up to 6 months or for a longer period if those services need to be continued.

4. Employers authorized to pay subminimum wages are prohibited from continued employment at a subminimum wage unless the worker (and their parents and guardians, where appropriate) is given career counseling and information and referrals to make decisions regarding employment and career advancement; and the employer informs them about self-advocacy, self-determination, and peer mentoring training opportunities.

5. State agencies overseeing these vocational rehabilitation programs must develop processes to document the completion of all pre-employment transition services, vocational rehabilitation services, and those career counseling services. Similarly, employers are required to review that documentation and, as a condition for continuing to pay individuals a subminimum wage, they must verify the completion of these requirements.

Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities: Title VI of S. 1356 places an emphasis on creating and expanding job opportunities for people with disabilities to promote competitive integrated employment. It authorizes grants to any consortia of business groups, institutions of higher education, and others to establish regional and national public-private partnerships to create and expand those opportunities.

Supportive Employment for Youth and Individuals with the Most Significant Disabilities: S. 1356 places a new emphasis on serving youth with disabilities, including extended services to youth with the most significant disabilities to assist them achieve an employment outcome with supportive employment. States receiving Federal funding for these purposes must develop plans to serve these disabled youth and describe how they will leverage other public and private funds to increase resources for extended services and expanded supportive employment opportunities.

Independent Living Services and Independent Living Centers: Title VII of S. 1356 provides for the establishment of a new Independent Living Administration (ILA) that would have independent and vested authority over independent living programs. Disability advocates have pushed for the creation of an ILA for a long time in order to promote the independent living philosophy in a more effective and responsive manner.

In the past, the disability community nationwide has complained about RSA's and DOE's administrative oversight and inability to promote the independent living philosophy. Recent Federal agency audits have found that RSA has not properly conducted audits and state agency site visits. If given the staffing and resources to do so, they believe that the ILA will have a much greater capacity to promote that philosophy and to meet the needs of Independent Living Centers and people with disabilities. They agree that placing the new ILA with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be a more effective agency placement than keeping it in DOE.

S. 1356 establishes the new ILA and provides for the appointment of an ILA Director. The ILA and ILA Director will be the successor to and be given all of the powers, duties, and responsibilities formerly allocated and administered by RSA and the RSA Commissioner. Other Federal agencies are required to play a central role in facilitating that transition to ensure that the ILA can make the necessary transition to effectively oversee and provide oversight for independent living services, Independent Living Centers, and State Independent Living Councils (SILCs).

The ILA would be required to review State Plans for Independent Living (SPILs) in order to ensure that the SPILs provide the appropriate planning, financial support, coordination, and other assistance to people with disabilities and Independent Living Centers. In addition, the ILA would be required to develop working relationships and collaborate with Independent Living Centers; entities carrying out programs that provide independent living services (including those serving older adults); other community-based organizations that provide or coordinate housing, transportation, employment, information and referral assistance, services, and supports for individuals with significant disabilities; and entities carrying out other programs providing services for individuals with disabilities.

Addition of a New Core Service Requirement: The bill requires Independent Living Centers to provide a new core service for:

• Facilitating transitions of individuals with significant disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions to home and community-based residences, with the requisite supports and services.

• Providing assistance to individuals with significant disabilities that are at risk of entering institutions so that they may remain in the community.

• Facilitating transitions of youth (including students) who are individuals with significant disabilities, who were eligible for Individualized Education Plans under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and who have completed their secondary education or otherwise left school, to postsecondary life, including employment.

CFILC has expressed some concerns about adding that new core service without the necessary additional funding to support its delivery. There is agreement that the new core service is important, and some Independent Living Centers are already providing some of these transitional services. However, there are reservations as to whether a new core service that will require dedicating staff and other resources to the delivery of that new core service may come at the expense of providing the existing core services.

Conclusion

CFILC strongly supports S. 1356 and we look forward to continuing our advocacy work to collaborate with Congress and representatives of the disability community nationwide to help its passage. Members of the CFILC Board of Directors and CFILC management and staff have establish working relationships with the offices of HELP Committee Chair, Senator Tom Harkin, and its Ranking Minority Senator, Senator Lamar Alexander to support the inclusion of the major provisions of the Senate bill after it is sent to its Conference Committee.

CFILC has also developed and maintained strong relationships with the Office of Congressman George Miller, who is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Congressman Miller will be a crucial ally to help retain as many of the provisions of S. 1356 as possible since the House Republican WIA bill, HR 803, focuses on consolidating or eliminating vital programs and services prescribed by existing law. HR 803 does not propose any meaningful reforms comparable to those found in S. 1356 as it specifically relates to Independent Living programs and services and Independent Living Centers.

We invite you to periodically revisit the CFILC website for updates on the Reauthorization of WIA. Please contact Henry J. Contreras, CFILC Public Policy Director at (916) 325-1690 ext. 338 or at henry@cfilic.org