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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, the CLASS Act. This important piece of legislation builds on the promise and possibilities of the Americans with Disabilities Act by helping the large numbers of Americans who struggle every day to live productive lives in their communities.

Too many Americans are perfectly capable of living a life in the community,but are denied the supports they need.

They languish in needless circumstances with no choice about how or where to obtain these services.

Too often, they have to give up the American Dream, the dignity of a job, a home, and a family, so they can qualify for Medicaid, the only program that will support them.

The bill we propose is a long overdue effort to offer greater dignity, greater hope, and greater opportunity.

It makes a simple pact with all Americans--``If you work hard and contribute, society will take care of you when you fall on hard times.''

The concept is clear, everyone can contribute and everyone can win. We all benefit when no one is left behind.

For only $30 a month, a person who pays into the program will receive either $50 or $100 a day, based on their ability to carry out basic daily activities.

They themselves will decide how this assistance will be spent, on transportation so they can stay employed, or on a ramp to make their home more accessible, or to cover the cost of a personal care attendant or a family caregiver.

It will help keep families together, instead of being torn apart by obstacles that discourage them from staying at home.

The bill will strengthen job opportunities for people with disabilities at a time when 70 percent are unemployed. They have so much to contribute and the bill will help them do it.

It will save on the mushrooming health care costs for Medicaid, the Nation's primary insurer of long-term care services, which also forces beneficiaries to give up their jobs and live in poverty before they become eligible for assistance.

The CLASS Act is a hopeful new approach to restoring independence and choice for millions of these persons and enabling them to take greater control of their lives.

It is time to respect the rights and dignity of all Americans, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this bill enacted into law.

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