Underfunded and Underenforced

Ellison hopes to up funding for disability services, enforcement for ADA People with disabilities have been working with Keith Ellison since […]

Ellison hopes to up funding for disability services, enforcement for ADA

People with disabilities have been working with Keith Ellison since before he began serving in Washington. “Everybody has a voice that counts, even if someone needs to use an interpreter or assistive technology to help them communicate,” said Congressman Ellison. He made the comment last week in an interview with Access Press, where he talked about disability issues at the federal level.

Ellison said he strongly supports full funding of IDEA, which “originally authorized Congress to contribute up to 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure (APPE) for each special education student.” In reality, he noted, “schools are currently receiving roughly 17 percent,” which leaves huge additional costs for local districts to make up. “Unfortunately,” he said, “our president is not in favor of increasing the funding for education.” Ellison also observed that there are other “under-funded” parts within IDEA, such as Part C, “which is designed to meet the developmental needs of infants and toddlers and their families in order to prevent later disabilities.”

Ellison said he will support the ADA Restoration Bill. “The ADA of 1990 was never fully enforced,” he said. “The ADA Restoration Bill broadens the scope as well deepens how disability is defined and who is affected by the ADA.”

Regarding Social Security reform, Ellison noted that “Currently there are not enough attorneys and judges working on the cases.” He said he wants to increase the number of people that work with SSI and SSDI cases. He also supports “increases in V.A. funding, especially because many soldiers are coming home with some form of disability.”

While serving in the Minnesota House of Representatives, Ellison supported H.A.V.A. (Help America Vote Act). This bill now helps people with disabilities vote independently because of the new voting machines that came out last year. Now Congressman Ellison, he said he will work to maintain funding for H.A.V.A.

Ellison indicated that he would like to be kept informed by the Minnesota disability community as to what areas need

improvement to allow better independent living. “By providing funds for programs that allow people with disabilities to own or rent a place of their own,” he said, “we can reduce the costs of having a person with a disability living in a nursing or group home.” However, Ellison indicated that he supports group home situations for those individuals who cannot live on their own.

This July, Ellison intends to host a forum where topics will focus on finances and people with disabilities. “There are too many people trying to make ends meet,” he said, “living from day to day and living with a disability. More often than not, they are on fixed incomes so their quality of life suffers and their financial situations become bleak. Living costs have increased yet income does not balance out.” Congressman Ellison said he hopes people with disabilities will come share their stories so that he can “take those stories back to Washington and encourage my colleagues to support possible new legislation and funding of these issues.”

In closing, Ellison praised Minnesota and called for vigilance in maintaining what services the state already has. “Minnesota is a very progressive state when it comes to the disability programs that we offer. In many ways we are fortunate to have the programs that we have. I am very proud of the fact that we can provide these services and programs. But I also know that we have work to do to make sure that the programs that we have in place stay in place and any further cuts are avoided.”