Langevin Pressures House Committee to Life Sunset on Assistive Technology Funding

Mar 21, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)–Congressman Jim Langevin is urging the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on 21st Centrury Competitiveness to continue funding the Assistive Technology Act's loan assistance and grant programs.  Currently, the Act contains a provision that would terminate funding this year for these critical programs in 23 states. 

 “Thanks to funds made available under the Assistive Technology Act, thousands of disabled individuals have been able to obtain employment and take full advantage of life's opportunities,” said Congressman Langevin.  “While unemployment remains high and homeownership low for people with disabilities, they are a great untapped resource of Americans who are able and willing to work.  Thanks to Assistive Technology funding, disabled Americans have been able to lead fuller lives and provide valuable contributions to their communities.”

 Today, the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness is holding an oversight hearing on the Assistive Technology Act.  This is the first hearing the House of Representatives has held on this law in nine years.  The Assistive Technology Act authorizes funds for state programs to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the assistive technology they need in order to fully participate in society.  It is of critical importance to the disability community.

 Current law requires a “sunset” of state grant programs, which is slated to occur in cycles that gradually decrease funding over a ten year period until it is eliminated.  Last year, thanks to the joint leadership of Congressmen Langevin and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill included language that delayed the “sunset” for one year, allowing all states to continue to provide services under the law, and required a congressional hearing to review whether this sunset should be implemented.  Without a legislative fix again this year, 23 states will see their program funding terminated.

 If the sunset clause occurs on September 30, 2002, the following states will face elimination of Assistive Technology Act funding: Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

 Congressman Langevin created the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus at the end of 2002 to address issues concerning people with disabilities, including assistive technology.