COVID-19

Update: March 27, 2020

Congress has now passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which took some important steps to address the coronavirus pandemic and included some disability community priorities, but many critical priorities were not included. We need Congress to do more and will continue advocating for future Congressional responses to this crisis to meet the needs of people with disabilities. More on the passage of the bill and what you can do now to advocate for disability priorities to be included in the COVID-19 response can be found here.

For more on what was and was not included in the CARES Act, check out the list we’ve put together here, which we will continue to update as we review the final bill. More on the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on people with disabilities can be found below.

Overview

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is having, and will continue to have, an outsized impact on the disability community. State and local governments around the country have declared states of emergency and on March 13, President Trump announced a national state of emergency in response to the outbreak to make additional funding available to combat the continued spread of COVID-19.

Congressional Response

Congress is working quickly to begin addressing the crisis. On March 18, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes increased Medicaid funding, emergency paid leave, increased funding for food assistance, and free coronavirus testing.

The Families First Act is a good start but more must be done. Given the fast-moving nature of this crisis, it’s crucial that Congress work quickly to pass legislation that recognizes the outsized impact this is having and will continue to have on disabled people.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, of which CPR is a co-chair, sent a letter in support of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and identifying further areas where legislation is needed. Here is a list of priorities from disability community groups.  Priorities include:

  • Increased Medicaid funding to help state Medicaid systems cope with increased need during this crisis. The Families First Act’s increased funding is a good starting point, but more will be necessary.
  • Permanent reauthorization of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program to allow states to continue to support the transition of people with disabilities from institutions into the community and lessen the threat to their health and rights of posed by unnecessary institutionalization in congregate settings
  • Access to a 90-day supply of medication and medical supplies and ongoing access to long-term services and supports
  • Paid leave coverage for when a person needs to fill in to provide care to a family member with a disability because their care worker is sick or their program closes. The Families First Act did not include paid leave coverage in these circumstances.
  • Emergency income relief that includes people with disabilities. This means eliminating or raising asset limits in the means tested programs many people with disabilities rely on, including SSI, SNAP, and Medicaid.
  • Protections for the civil rights of people with disabilities, including ensuring they are not forced into institutional settings (where they are also at higher risk) or discriminated against in access to care and treatment

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is a first step to addressing some of these issues. On March 19, Senate Republicans introduced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Following much negotiation, the CARES Act passed the Senate on March 25 and the House on March 27. The final bill included some of the disability community’s priorities, but many were omitted and we will continue to advocate for those to be included in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation. For more on what was and was not included, check out the list we’ve put together here, which we will continue to update as we review the final bill. The Progressive Caucus Action fund has also put together a side-by-side comparison of what is included in the final version of the CARES Act that passed in the Senate with what is in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, introduced by House Democrats on March 23.

You can find more details on all of the passed and proposed legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic below.

Federal Agency Response

Federal agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Administration for Community Living (ACL), and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) are also releasing guidance and resources related to the coronavirus outbreak.  We will continue to monitor those efforts as well to ensure the needs of the entire disability community are addressed by the guidance and resources released by agencies. You can find relevant guidance and resources from federal agencies below.

On March 16, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that in response to the coronavirus pandemic (also known as COVID-19), it “will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19” in making public charge determinations, “even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g. federally funded Medicaid).” This means that immigrants can receive treatment without an impact on their immigration status. For more background information on the public charge rule, check out our webpage here and you can find more on the litigation related to the rule here.

On March 23, CPR, Disability Rights Washington, The Arc and partners filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regarding illegal disability discrimination in treatment rationing protocols being developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint focuses on treatment rationing protocols described in a COVID-19 response plan released by the Washington Department of Health and the Northwest Healthcare Regional Network that gives priority for treatment to younger, healthier patients, discriminating against older patients and patients with disabilities without considering their individualized cases and ability to survive this acute crisis.

On March 24, CPR, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, The Arc and partners filed another complaint with the HHS OCR regarding treatment rationing protocols. This complaint focuses on the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Emergency Operations Plan regarding ventilator rationing during health emergencies, which states that hospitals are not to provide ventilators to people with certain intellectual and cognitive disabilities.

These protocols, the complaints argue, violate federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The complaints each ask HHS OCR to take immediate action to provide guidance on what health care providers in must do to comply with federal laws protecting the rights of all patients, including those with disabilities, during the crisis.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and the National Council on Disability (NCD) have also written letters to HHS OCR (which can be read here and here) urging guidance on treatment rationing protocols. More information on the Washington state complaint can be found here and on the Alabama complaint here.

This page will continue to be updated throughout the crisis. Below are resources related to the coronavirus and its impact on people with disabilities, as well as information for contacting your members of Congress about coronavirus response legislation.

Passed and Proposed Legislation

Passed Legislation:

  • Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (Text | Summary)
    • Sponsor: Rep. Lowey (D-NY-17)
    • Signed into law on 3/6/20
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Text | Summary)
    • Sponsors: Reps. Lowey (D-NY-17), Scott (D-VA-3), Neal (D-MA-1), Bishop (D-GA-2), DeLauro (D-CT-3), Pallone (D-NJ-6), and Peterson (D-MN-7)
    • Signed into law on 3/18/20
    • Summary of the paid leave provisions

Proposed Legislation:

  • Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act (H.R. 6379) (Text | Summary)
    • Sponsors: Reps. Lowey (D-NY-17), Neal (D-MA-1), Pallone (D-NJ-6), DeFazio (D-OR-4), Scott (D-VA-3), Velázquez (D-NY-7), Waters (D-CA-43), Maloney (D-NY-12), and Lofgren (D-CA-19)
  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (S. 3548/H.R. 748) (Text)
    • Sponsors: Sens. McConnell (R-KY), Alexander (R-TN), Crapo (R-ID), Grassley (R-IA), Rubio (R-FL), Shelby (R-AL), and Wicker (R-MS)
    • Passed the Senate on 3/25/20
    • List of disability priorities included and not included
    • Summary of supplemental appropriations provisions
    • Text of supplemental appropriations provisions
  • Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act (S. 3544) (Text | Summary)
    • Sponsor: Sen. Casey (D-PA)
  • Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act (H.R. 6305) (Text | Summary)
    • Sponsors: Rep. Dingell (D-MI-12), Schakowsky (D-IL-9), Matsui (D-CA-6), Lamb (D-PA-17), Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), Pressley (D-MA-7), and Deutch (D-FL-22)
  • PAID Leave Act (Text | Summary)
    • Sponsors: Sens. Murray (D-WA) and Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. DeLauro (D-CT-3)
  • Pandemic Assistance Disaster Act (Text)
    • Sponsor: Sen. Harris (D-CA)
  • Coronavirus TANF Expansion Act (Text)
    • Sponsor: Sen. Cotton (R-AR)
  • Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Act (Text)
    • Sponsor: Sen. Cotton (R-AR)
  • Coronavirus Unemployment Insurance Expansion Act (Text)
    • Sponsor: Sen. Cotton (R-AR)
  • Coronavirus Credit Expansion Act (Text)
    • Sponsor: Sen. Cotton (R-AR)

Additional Legislative Proposals:

  • Memo from Sen. Schumer (D-NY) detailing proposed emergency appropriations and policy responses

Resources from Federal Agencies

Administration for Community Living (ACL)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Congressional Research Service

HHS Office for Civil Rights

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

National Council on Disability

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Social Security Administration (SSA)

Other Resources

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Communication First

Kaiser Family Foundation

Manatt Health

National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)

National Employment Law Project

National Health Law Program (NHeLP)

National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)

Office of U.S. Senator Bob Casey

Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center (SARTAC)

World Health Organization (WHO)

Advocacy Materials

Letters

  • Letter to Congress on disability priorities from coalition of disability, civil rights, faith-based, health advocacy organizations led by AAPD (3/23/20)
  • Letter from Families USA’s “Give Families And States Covid-19 Support Now!” Coalition to Congress regarding “Phase 3” legislation (3/23/20)
  • Letter to HHS OCR regarding COVID-19 treatment rationing from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (3/20/20)
  • Letter to the Senate from the Disability and Aging Collaborative (3/16/20)
  • Letter to the Senate from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (3/14/20)
  • Letter to the Senate from the Coalition on Human Needs (3/13/20)
  • Letter from Senators to the White House Task Force on COVID-19 on Access to HCBS (3/12/20)
  • Letter from Senators to the White House Task Force on COVID-19 on Accessible Information (3/12/20)
  • Letter from Senators to the White House Task Force on COVID-19 on Nursing Homes (3/12/20)
  • Letter to the White House Task Force on COVID-19 from the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (3/9/20)
  • Open Letter to Federal Officials from Public Health and Law Experts Issuing Guidelines for U.S. Response to Coronavirus Transmission (3/6/20)

Other Materials

Contact Your Members of Congress

Contact your Members of Congress:

  1. Email is the best way to contact your members right now. You can use this easy tool to find your members of Congress. This tool also has links to each member’s Twitter and Facebook and a link to contact them via email.
  2. This tool can also be used to easily tweet your members of Congress or Congressional leadership
  3. You can also email your members directly through this portal put together by our friends at The Arc.

Easy Email Script:

Hello, this is [Name]. I’m a resident of [Town, State]. 

I am writing to [Senator’s or Representative’s Name] because I believe it is critical that any legislation passed in response to COVID-19 meets the needs of the millions of people in this country with disabilities, who are among those most affected by this crisis. While the Family First Act that was signed into law last week provided a starting point, more must be done to support people with disabilities throughout this pandemic.

The disability community has identified priorities that need to be addressed. The House’s Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act addresses many, but not all of those priorities. However, the CARES Act that was introduced in the Senate fails to address any of the disability community’s priorities.

I urge you to please support the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act now and to work to make sure the CARES Act includes the home and community-based services (HCBS) grant funding, paid leave coverage for caregivers, inclusive emergency income relief, and protections for the civil rights of people, and particularly students, with disabilities included in the House bill.

I ask that you please work with your colleagues to ensure that any response to the coronavirus pandemic include:

  • Increased Medicaid funding to help states cope with increased need for home and community based services (HCBS) by people with disabilities and seniors. The HCBS grant funding in the House bill and in the Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act (S. 3544) must be included in the final bill.
  • Paid leave coverage for when a person needs to fill in to provide care to an adult family member with a disability because their care worker is sick or their program closes. This is addressed for parent caregivers only in the House bill and not at all in the Senate version.
  • Emergency income relief that includes people with disabilities. This means eliminating or raising asset limits in the means tested programs many people with disabilities rely on, including SSI, SNAP, and Medicaid, which the House bill does, but the Senate bill does not.
  • Access to a 90-day supply of medication and medical supplies and ongoing access to long-term services and supports
  • Protections for the civil rights of people with disabilities. No legislation should include any limitations on the civil rights protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, or the Affordable Care Act. The House bill, not the Senate, fully protects the rights of students with disabilities.

Thank you!

[Please include your full street address and zip code to ensure your email is tallied]

Sample Social Media:

Facebook:

[Tag your Senator/Representative/Congressional Leadership], people with disabilities are among those most at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. #WhatWeNeed is support for people with disabilities and inclusion of the disability community’s priorities in any new #COVID19 bill:  https://buff.ly/2QOqWEn

Twitter:

[Tag your Senator/Representative/Congressional Leadership], any #COVID19 legislation must meet the needs of people w/ disabilities. #WhatWeNeed is to support PwDs & include disability priorities in the new #COVID19 bill: https://buff.ly/2QOqWEn.

Please also consider contacting Congressional leadership as well. Those members are:

Senate:

House of Representatives:

 

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