Autism CARES Teed Up For Final Senate Vote

WASHINGTON, DC (June 25, 2014) -- Less than 24 hours after being approved by the House, legislation renewing the federal government's funding response to autism for another five years cleared the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. It heads now to the Senate floor.

Called Autism CARES, the Senate bill,  (S.2449), is sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY). The bill would reauthorize the 2006 Combating Autism Act through the 2019 federal budget, calling for $260 million annually in new federal funding, a revamped Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and an initiative to address the growing needs of adults with autism. The legislation would also institute stronger accountability controls over the use of federal funding.

Autism Speaks President Liz Feld meets with Senator Menendez (photo) prior to the House  and Senate committee actions

"Autism Speaks thanks Senators Menendez and Enzi, along with the HELP Committee chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin, for keeping the momentum going behind this bill which is so vital to the future of our nation's autism community," said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. "With the deadline for Congress to complete action now less than 100 days away, we take heart in the leadership demonstrated by these champions to get the job done."

Autism Speaks is part of a coalition of dozens of national disabilities organizations urging Congressional approval of Autism CARES. Other groups include the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Arc, Easter Seals, the March of Dimes, the Autism Society of America, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

The House bill (HR.4631) was introduced just five weeks ago and gained final floor approval last night by voice vote. Amendments drafted by the Senate for S.2449 were incorporated into the House bill in order to expedite action.

The new reauthorization bill proposes:

  • Dedicating another five years of federal funding for autism activities at an annual level of $260 million
  • Designating an official in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the IACC's strategic plan
  • Directing HHS, with input from the autism community, to examine the demographics and transition needs of adults on the autism spectrum