Statement of the Autism Society of America on President’s FY 2021 Budget Request

Bethesda, MD, February 11, 2020 — The Autism Society of America is very disappointed that the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2021 released yesterday is overall unsupportive of our most vulnerable populations, including the almost 3 million individuals with autism and their families (read detailed summary here).

“Supporting those with autism is a human rights issue,” stated Christopher Banks, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America. “This budget requires tremendous sacrifices from those with the least able to make those sacrifice. The President’s budget dramatically reduces the funding for vital programs and services that assist those with autism.  This budget will negatively impacting their quality of life and reduce opportunities to fully participate in our communities.”  

As in the previous three budgets, this year’s request proposes steep reductions in social-safety-net programs, including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The Administration proposes $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act over ten years. Over ten years, Social Security is cut by $30 billion and Supplemental Nutrition (SNAP) programs are reduced by $180 billion. 

According to the Budget Summary for the Department of HHS, the Administration, once again, completely eliminates Autism CARES Act funding for much needed interdisciplinary training of health professionals and the development of evidence-based services and support. The Autism and Other DD line item funds the interdisciplinary professional health programs (including Leadership Education and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) and Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician (DBP) programs) intended to increase the number of health professionals to screen, diagnose, and treat individuals with autism. It also funds development of evidence-based interventions. These activities were increased as part of the original Autism CARES Act (just reauthorized in 2019) to help address the growing numbers diagnosed with autism. Congress rejected these cuts in the previous three years. 

Without any justification, the budget also eliminates a small but vital Supported Employment State Grants for people with developmental disabilities.

While the Budget for the Department of Education provides a small increase for special education programs, this amount has not kept up with the number of children found to be eligible, pushing more of the responsibility onto the states. The Autism Society supports full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The President’s budget also cuts funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by nine percent overall, which includes a $50 million cut to the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), a third of its budget. This center provides important surveillance activities as well as research and public education into complex neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism.

“We know there are many in Congress who understand the challenges people with autism and their families face,” Banks continued. “Individuals living with autism have proven time and time again, when given the opportunity, they can improve their quality of life, be loyal and dedicated members of the workforce, and active members in their communities. ”

“We need members of Congress to stand up and fight for their constituents. We are encouraging individuals and families to communicate with all of their elected officials about how this budget affects people with autism,” said Banks.

The Autism Society of America is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots organization representing individuals and families impacted by autism. For more information, contact Kim Musheno at 301-657-0881, ext. 9020.

Read our further analysis here. 

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