Update: May 15, 2020
Today, the House passed a new relief package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800). The bill addresses many of the disability community’s most urgent priorities, including additional funding for home and community based services, Medicaid, and housing programs and hazard pay for direct service providers. It has now been sent to the Senate, though when the Senate will take it up remains unclear.
For more on what priorities are and are not included in the HEROES Act, check out our summary here. A section-by-section summary of the bill is also available here. The House Appropriations Committee has also made available a one page summary of bill and a one page summary of state and local fiscal relief provisions.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has hit the disability community especially hard. In response to the pandemic, state and local governments around the country have declared states of emergency and issue stay at home orders and on March 13, President Trump announced a national state of emergency to make additional funding available to combat the continued spread of COVID-19. However, there is still much that needs to be done to address the needs of people with disabilities and below we detail the response from Congress and federal agencies, along with the ways that the disability community is advocating for our needs to be included in the federal response to this 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. Senate Republicans then introduced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which, following much negotiation, 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 are now working to ensure those are included in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation.
For more on what was and was not included in the CARES Act, check out the list we’ve put together here. 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.
More must be done to meet the needs of people with disabilities and it must be done now. 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 next coronavirus relief package is being negotiated now, and we need to make sure people with disabilities are included.
Disability organizations, including CPR, sent a letter to Congressional leadership identifying the most critical priorities for the disability community that must be addressed in the next round of legislation and have also drafted a list of priorities we will continue to advocate for, including:
- Funding for HCBS grants, like those in the Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act (S. 3544/H.R. 6305) to help people with disabilities and older adults remain in their homes rather than in congregate settings, where they face a greater risk of contracting COVID-19
- Access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct care workers and increased production of PPE and ventilators
- Increased funding for the housing programs and funds that help people with disabilities obtain accessible, affordable, integrated housing, and avoid unnecessary placement in congregate settings, including the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, as well as protection against evictions and foreclosures throughout the crisis
- Disaster relief that is responsive to the needs of the disability community, which will be disproportionately impacting by additional disaster events that occur during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can find more details on all of the passed and proposed legislation on our COVID-19 legislation page. and more details on advocacy related to the next COVID-19 relief package and what you can do on our advocacy page.
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. Similar complaints regarding treatment rationing protocols and guidelines were later filed in Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Utah, and New York.
These protocols and guidelines, 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 Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and the National Council on Disability (NCD) also wrote letters to HHS OCR (which can be read here and here) urging guidance on treatment rationing protocols.
On March 28, in response to the disability community’s strong advocacy, HHS OCR published a bulletin on what health care providers must do to comply with federal laws protecting the rights of all patients, including those with disabilities, during the crisis. CPR and partners then developed guidance explaining the requirements in HHS OCR’s bulletin and how states and health care providers can take concrete steps to modify policies and practices to avoid disability discrimination and an evaluation framework to assist stakeholders in evaluating Crisis Standards of Care in their states. For more on medical rationing, please visit our webpage.
This page and our other COVID-19 webpages 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.