WASHINGTON DC (July 11, 2019) — Prepared remarks by Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley to the Autism Society of America, Dirksen Senate Office Building:
Good morning. It’s good to be here. I want to especially thank the Director of the Autism Society of Iowa, Kris Steinmetz, for the very good work you do.
Let me start out with a request to each of you here this morning. There’s one idea I want you to remember and to bring home from my remarks this morning: Your advocacy makes a difference. Getting up and showing up here on Capitol Hill proves my point. It sends a message to those of us elected to serve you. Your presence here this morning is the essence of representative government.
The people’s branch is rooted in the grassroots of America. Our work here in Washington would wither on the vine without the feedback from the people we represent back home.
And that brings me to the people near and dear to your hearts. We are here today to celebrate and champion Americans with Autism. We’ve made good policy strides since passage of the Combating Autism Act passed in 2006. Its passage opened up federal funding to help support medical research for better diagnosis, treatments, and interventions; and to help improve services for families and training for health-care providers. Five years ago, we changed the law’s name to the Autism Cares Act. My support for this federal law has not changed; and I’m glad to co-sponsor the extension of Autism Cares Act of 2019 for another five years.
As I mentioned, our work here in Congress gets its oxygen from people like you who are here in this room. There’s no better example than the bipartisan coalition we formed to pass Kevin and Avonte’s Law. President Trump signed this emergency lifeline into law last year.
As many of you know, the law is named to honor two young boys with autism who passed away after they wandered away from loved ones. One of those boys was a 9-year-old from Iowa. Their deaths caused unimaginable grief to family and friends they left behind. But this federal law gives hope to the countless families who worry around-the-clock for loved ones with developmental disabilities, such as Autism, that puts their personal safety at risk.
The new law seeks to give families peace of mind and provide resources to help prevent wandering by vulnerable individuals. As many as one-third of children with autism wandered away from the supervision of a care provider in the year leading up to passage of our bill.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law doubled authorized-funding for the federal Missing Americans Alert Program. It authorized federal grants from the Justice Department to purchase tracking technology to help families locate a child who has wandered from school or home. It provides resources to educate local first-responders, school officials, and care-providers to boost training for safety and survival skills and to issue advisories to locate missing persons.
I appreciate the solutions your organization brings to the table. I want to make sure we keep the lines of communication open. I’ve been around long enough to know we can’t take our eyes off the ball when a bill crosses home plate and is signed into law. It’s important to make sure tax dollars are spent effectively. And that federal agencies implement the law and administer grants as Congress intended.
At the beginning of this Congress, I took back the reins of the Senate Finance Committee. As chairman, my priorities include reducing prescription-drug prices and making health-care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. Just a couple months ago, I steered the ACE Kids Act through committee and the full Senate. President Trump signed this bill into law in April.
After listening to input from families and health-care providers who serve kids with complex medical conditions, we wrote legislation to improve the delivery of care for Medicaid patients. The ACE Kids Act will provide better coordinated care and hopefully reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and improve quality outcomes. Care coordinators will help families navigate the complex health-care needs of these patients so they can focus more of their love and attention on spending quality time with their child.
No matter how old your children are, parenting is a lifelong job. My wife Barbara and I would say it’s the best job title in the world. For the parents of children with special needs, it’s an extra special labor of love.
I hear your voice. And I am proud to bring your voice to the policymaking table.