National Issues

A young Asian woman with Down syndrome and her mother smile in front of the United States Capitol

People with developmental disabilities face unprecedented challenges as the Trump Administration and the Congress seek to make significant changes to the federal systems that provide funding and protections to educate, treat, and provide services to people with developmental disabilities.


Medicaid provides critical health insurance for the vast majority of people with developmental disabilities. In California, the program is called Medi-Cal and it receives about half of its funding from the federal government. The federal government also matches state funding to provide billions of dollars to pay for services provided through regional centers and In-Home Support Services (IHSS). Under the current system, Medicaid is an entitlement program which means that when California increases its funding for Medi-Cal based on increased needs of Californians, the federal government’s support also rises.

The Trump Administration wants to significantly cut the amount the federal government gives to states for their Medicaid programs. Medicaid would no longer be an entitlement—meaning that federal funding will no longer be tied to need. How could this impact Californians with developmental disabilities and their families?

  • Drastic cuts to funds provided through regional centers for supports to have a full life in the community. More limited access to supported living and employment, behavioral services, respite, and independent living and other services
  • Limitations on the number of people eligible for regional center services
  • Lower number of hours funded by IHSS
  • Loss of critical funding for prescription drug benefits, nursing services, and equipment like wheelchairs and walkers.
  • A shift of the financial burden onto the already strained families, who will be forced to pay for more services and health care out-of-pocket or quit their jobs to stay at home to care for their family member.
  • A move back toward institutionalization because it might seem more “economical” to house and support people in warehouse-type programs.
  • Less access for children to diagnostic screenings for autism and other developmental disabilities as well as critical early intervention services including those provided by school districts.
  • More individuals with developmental disabilities depending on Medi-Cal as private insurance becomes inaccessible due to higher costs, restrictions on pre-existing conditions, and elimination of coverage for autism and other developmental disabilities

These cuts and changes will place the lives of individuals with development disabilities at risk.

Special Education

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) lays out the rights of students with disabilities to a free and appropriate public education. The federal government, through the Department of Education, is supposed to ensure that the IDEA law is implemented justly throughout the country and the Congress is supposed to designate sufficient funds to assist states in paying for special education.

  • The Trump Administration and the Congress are threatening students with disabilities’ rights to special education services through various means:
  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is touting school vouchers and the concept of “school choice,” which provides taxpayer dollars for private and religious schools. This change will siphon money away from traditional public schools where students with disabilities generally attend.
  • Students with disabilities generally don’t have the option of “school choice” because these private schools may not be required to follow the IDEA and provide special education services, particularly for those with developmental disabilities who need significant supports, such as one-to-one aides, behavioral intervention, therapies, and educational tutoring.
  • President Trump has threatened to eliminate or drastically reduce funding for the Department of Education. This department is critical for ensuring states’ compliance with the IDEA law and protecting students with disabilities from systemic discrimination.

Civil Rights Protections

The Congress and the Trump Administration are moving to turn back the clock and dismantle the civil rights protections provided to individuals with disabilities through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other civil rights laws. These actions include:

  • Lack of enforcement of the ADA and the IDEA by the Department of Justice under an Attorney General who has expressed concerns about the landmark civil rights laws.
  • Pending legislation that would limit access to public accommodations for people with disabilities and make it difficult for them to participate in life in the community.
  • Gutting access to legal services to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, housing, and education.
  • A three-year delay in implementation of the rule ensuring that individuals with disabilities are not segregated and have full access to the community through the services they receive.

Goals and Actions

Disability Voices United will join with national organizations and groups in California to fight against any threats to civil rights protections and funding for health care and services for individuals with developmental disabilities through the following actions:

  • We will join coalitions and support national organizations’ efforts to educate Members of Congress and the Administration on the impact of these threats on our community.
  • We will advocate with California’s Governor and legislature to protect individuals with developmental disabilities from any devastating changes proposed by the Trump Administration and Congress.
  • We will educate and activate individuals and family members about federal legislation and other proposed changes through action alerts, town hall meetings, and other community events.