The Washington Post - 24.10.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

A20 EZ RE T H E  W A S H I N G T O N  P O S T.T H U R S D A Y , O C T O B E R  2 4,  2 0 1 9

it faced an 18- to 20-year wait list
to receive state-supported dis-
ability services for Erin until she
had graduated from high school
in Texas. The former congress-
man says he began to understand
the complex and costly maze of
public programs for someone like
Erin, who requires constant su-
pervision, after his younger sister
moved in with him following her
“Erin learned how to take the
bus from my home to work, which
was a real breakthrough and
milestone — she established some
level of independence and it
changed her in a really positive
way,” O’Rourke said. “To see her
develop friendships and relation-
ships with people at work, inde-
pendent of her family, for one of
the first times in her life was
really powerful.”
He added: “Making sure she
received the help and care she
needed really made an impact on
me — as does meeting so many of
these families with physical and
intellectual disabilities who are
working so hard to make sure
their family members should live
life to their full potential.”
After rocketing to national
fame in his 2018 challenge to Sen.
Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), O’Rourke is
struggling in the polls, placing
seventh in the Democratic pri-
mary contest, according to the
latest RealClearPolitics average.
But even if O’Rourke doesn’t
win the 2020 nomination, he
hopes Erin and the disabled com-
munity will feel they got a say in
the process.
“Erin loves that I’m running for
president, and she’s been in-
volved in every campaign I’ve run
— whether it’s taking the time to
knock on doors with me or pro-
viding the moral support because
we talk so often,” O’Rourke said.
“No matter what my day was like,
I’m able to talk to Erin, put things
in perspective and realize how
lucky I am to be her brother.”

enced an unmet health-care need
because of exorbitant costs asso-
ciated with their condition.
Critics of the Trump adminis-
tration say it has uniformly
worked to roll back spending and
programs for the disabled com-
munity. Rebecca Cokley, the di-
rector of the liberal Center for
American Progress’s disability
justice initiative, pointed to such
actions as the Education Depart-
ment rescinding 72 guidance doc-
uments outlining the rights of
students with disabilities and the
administration allowing states to
implement eligibility require-
ments for Medicaid recipients.
Trump’s desire to dismantle the
Affordable Care Act has sparked a
particular urgency among dis-
ability rights activists in Wash-
The disabled community has
“been on the front lines of every
single fight pushing back against
the Trump administration,” Cok-
ley said.
O’Rourke’s family didn’t realize

1 in 4 American adults lives with a
“We must do better for those
living with disabilities in Ameri-
ca,” O’Rourke tweeted last week.
“We must fully fund our special
education programs. We must ex-
pand the Voting Rights Act to
make it easier to cast their ballots.
For too long, we have overlooked
people with disabilities. That
must change.”
There are currently a handful
of federal laws protecting people
with disabilities, including the
ADA, the Individuals With Dis-
abilities Education Act (IDEA)
and the Rehabilitation Act, which
together prohibit discrimination,
provide a free and appropriate
education, and limit federal fund-
ing to discriminatory institu-
Sixty-one million adults live in
the United States with a disability,
according to the Centers for Dis-
ease Control and Prevention, and
1 in 3 disabled adults ages 18 to 44
over the past year have experi-

ruling stated they are required to
receive care in their own home or
group house, if medical profes-
sionals determine that is appro-
priate, instead of being housed in
a nursing home or institution.
O’Rourke is the first 2020 can-
didate to introduce a major pro-
posal aimed at helping people
with disabilities in a contest in
which the issue has received scant
attention, even as Democrats de-
bate overhauling the national
health-care system.
O’Rourke was the first candi-
date to specifically mention those
with disabilities on the Demo-
cratic debate stage last week by
recounting the story of meeting a
woman named Gina who works
four jobs and is raising a disabled
daughter named Summer.
The former Texas congressman
has vowed that people with dis-
abilities will serve in leadership
positions in his campaign — and
in a potential O’Rourke adminis-
tration — to mirror the fact that

and individuals in the U.S. dis-
ability community. It was also
because of Erin.
O’Rourke’s complete disability
plan is expected to be rolled out
by his campaign soon. It focuses
on addressing what O’Rourke
calls an “institutional bias that
exists in federal funding and pri-
orities right now” against those
with disabilities.
O’Rourke wants to ensure that
disabled individuals receive long-
term home and community-
based services and that the feder-
al government provides states
with additional funding for the
disabled community. The propos-
al will also bolster existing protec-
tions supporting disabled indi-
viduals — such as funding for
enforcement of the Supreme
Court’s Olmstead  v.  L.C. ruling
that under the Americans With
Disabilities Act (ADA), disabled
people have the right to live in the
community with public support
rather than in institutions. The


In between the campaign
events, town halls, television hits
and flights across America aimed
at winning the 2020 Democratic
presidential nomination, there’s
one person whom Beto O’Rourke
always makes time to catch up
with: his 39-year-old sister, Erin,
who was born with intellectual
The former Texas congress-
man, who once served as his
younger sister’s legal guardian,
hops on the phone with Erin at
the end of many of her workdays
at a residential facility for adults
and children three hours from El
Paso, where she lives and works.
Erin watched the Democratic de-
bate Oct. 15 in which her older
brother became the first 2020
contender to focus on people with
disabilities on the big stage.
That time, the siblings talked
the next morning.
“She said, ‘You did so great on
the debate stage,’ ” O’Rourke, 47,
recalled in an interview, the first
in which he has talked in detail
about his sister. “And Erin is not
shy and has no filter and will tell
you exactly how it is — if I screw
something up, she’ll be the first to
let me know. But if I do well, and
make her proud, there is no great-
er advocate I have in my life than
my sister.”
So when O’Rourke rolled out a
portion of his disability proposal
last week — a plan to expand
health-care coverage for medical
equipment inspired by meeting a
woman who has struggled to find
a way to pay to fix her power
wheelchair — it didn’t just grow
out of the numerous meetings
he’s had with families, caretakers

schoolchildren will continue to
receive meals.”
His comment did not note the
elimination of automatic free
“I believe the rule will
strengthen integrity in the
SNAP program by closing an
unintended loophole that has
allowed some states to extend
food stamp eligibility to
millions of people who did not
qualify while taking away
resources meant for the truly
needy,” he said.
But as a result of the Trump
plan, “These schools will be
forced to go through the
burdensome process of asking
low-income families to fill out
individual applications for free
or reduced-price school meals,”
Bonamici said.
“Inevitably, if this rule is
implemented, many more low-
income students who are
eligible for free or reduced-price
school meals will not receive the
food assistance they desperately
need. That is nothing short of a
preventable tragedy.”

Of the 982,000 children,
“55 percent would no longer be
income eligible for free school
meals,” though most of those
would be eligible for reduced-
price meals, according to the
USDA’s analysis.
About 45 percent would be
able to receive free meals
through other programs but not
automatically, as is now the
With automatic or “direct
certification” gone, families
seeking free or discounted
meals would have to apply for a
service that now happens
without any action on their
About 2,000 schools now
provide free meals to all their
students, which simplifies the
program, reduces paperwork
and results in, Bonamici said,
“the elimination of stigma
among students.”
In response, Rep. James
Comer (Ky.), the top Republican
on the panel, insisted that “all
eligible children will continue to
receive school meals. Let me
repeat that: All eligible

subcommittee, cited in June
using Congressional Budget
Office data.
“I take hunger very, very
seriously,” she told Brandon
Lipps, a USDA deputy
undersecretary, at an Education
and Labor subcommittee
hearing last week. “I represent
one of the poorest districts in
the United States. Half of the
children in the city of Cleveland
are living in poverty, according
to U.S. census data. These kids
often live in SNAP households
and rely on the free nutritious
meals provided by their local
schools to succeed in their
Lipps said the administration
wants to eliminate “egregious
program abuses” that “leave a
dark cloud over this important
program, risking future support
and reflecting negatively on
participants who need access to
the programs.” The analysis was
provided as soon as it was ready,
he said, and 14 days “is
sufficient time for the public to
comment” on the four-page

Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.),
chairwoman of the House
Education and Labor civil rights
and human services
subcommittee. The two-week
comment period, which began
Friday, “is woefully insufficient
in light of how many people will
be affected by this rule.”
The administration wants to
change options that allow states
to offer SNAP benefits to an
expanded group of low-income
“Children lose twice under
the SNAP rules change,” FRAC
experts Crystal FitzSimons and
Ellen Vollinger said in an email
to the Federal Insider. “They
lose SNAP food benefits at home
and lose free breakfasts and
lunches at school.”
The new estimates are far
greater than the 400,
households that would lose food
stamps and the 265,
children who would lose free
school meals under an earlier
and similar, but not identical,
proposal that Rep. Marcia L.
Fudge (D-Ohio), chairwoman of
the House Agriculture nutrition

would affect eligibility. The
administration’s analysis says
“potentially as many as 982,
children would no longer be
directly certified for free school
meals based on SNAP
About 13.4 million children
were automatically certified for
free school meals through SNAP
in the 2016-2017 school year,
according to the Food Research
& Action Center (FRAC), using
USDA data. It is a nonprofit
group that works to eliminate
poverty-related hunger.
Speaking of timing, the
department’s Food and
Nutrition Service allowed only
until Nov. 1 for public comment
on the analysis that could affect
the health and nutrition of so
many. Agencies can change the
way programs operate through
an administrative or regulatory
process that does not require
congressional approval.
“Shockingly, the department
failed to disclose this analysis
when it originally published its
proposal despite being required
to do so” in July, said Rep.

President Trump
proclaimed last
week National
School Lunch
Wednesday of
that week was
World Food Day,
established in
honor the United
Nations’ Food
and Agriculture
What timing for the Trump
administration to release, on the
eve of World Food Day, an
analysis of proposed U.S.
Agriculture Department
regulatory action that would
result in almost 1 million low-
income children losing
automatic eligibility for free
school meals.
The proposal would affect
children certified for free meals
because their families get food
stamps, bureaucratically known
as the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program, or SNAP.
About 3.1 million people
would lose food stamps under
an administration plan that


I N T E L L I G E N C E F O R L E A D E R S    W A S H I N G T O N P O S T. C O M / P O W E R P O S T

For O’Rourke, disability rights are a fight close to home



Trump puts free school meals in jeopardy for nearly 1 million low-income children

ABOVE: Beto O’Rourke poses for an undated portrait with sisters
Erin, left, and Charlotte. RIGHT: O’Rourke once served as legal
guardian for Erin, who was born with intellectual disabilities.

Candidate’s plan for care
and services is inspired
in part by his sister Erin

50% Off Installation


202-816-8808 DC

301-661-3168 MD

703-552-4480 VA

VA #2705029456A | MHIC #46744 | DC #67000878 | NC #

Quality Entry Doors Installed In One Day

Professional, Highly Trained Craftsmen

Sliding Patio Doors and French Doors Available!

*with approved credit
Offer valid 30 days following date of written
price quote given prior to 10/31/2019.


As Low As

59 Monthly

Avoid the mess, time and cost of major
remodeling, while renewing the look of
your kitchen in about 3-5 days.




Prepare to be impressed.™

Schedule Your


Consultation Today!

202-996-3563 DC

301-265-5719 MD

703-520-6154 VA

10% off
your kitchen
remodeling or cabinet
refacing project or 18
months same as cash
Coupon must be
presented at the time
of estimate.
Offer cannot be
combined with any
other discounts.

MHIC#28743 District of Columbia Basic Business License #420214000004 Virginia Class A Contractor’s License #
Free download pdf