Update: January 15, 2021

Last night, the incoming Biden-Harris administration released the first part of its proposed COVID-19 relief plan. It includes many important priorities, including full federal Medicaid funding for administration of vaccines and additional housing and nutrition funding.

It does not at this stage appear to include additional dedicated funding for home and community-based services (HCBS). HCBS funding is urgently needed to help disabled people and older adults live safely in their homes rather than being forced into nursing homes and other congregate settings where COVID-19 is rampant.

You can find the latest on COVID-19 legislation and proposed legislation here and more on advocacy efforts can be found here.


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.

Congressional Response

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.

CPR and other disability organizations are already working on advocacy for the next COVID-19 package being negotiated in Congress. We are working closely with our allies to promote inclusion of the disability community priorities that were not included in the CARES Act. 

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. 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, especially dedicated funding for home and community based services (HCBS).

Additional funding for HCBS is crucial to help people with disabilities and seniors remain in their own homes. HCBS funding is critical to help people with disabilities and seniors avoid unnecessary placements in congregate settings (such as nursing homes), where they face a heightened risk of infection and of violation of their civil rights, as well as unnecessary hospitalization, where people with disabilities may be at heightened risk for being denied life-saving care. For more info on the basics of HCBS and why additional HCBS funding is so important to the fight against COVID-19, check out our HCBS COVID-19 fact sheet

The Senate is about to begin negotiating the fourth COVID-19 relief package and we need to push to make sure dedicated HCBS funding is included, so please contact your Senators and Senate leadership now. More information can be found on our advocacy page, including information on contacting your Senators, email and call scripts, and sample social media. 

You can find more details on all of the passed and proposed legislation on our COVID-19 legislation 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 and you can find additional information on our COVID-19 advocacy, congregate settings advocacy, legislation, waiver, and medical rationing and hospital visitor policies pages.

Resources from Federal Agencies

Administration for Community Living (ACL)

Census Bureau

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

Congressional Research Service

Department of Agriculture

Department of Education

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury

Federal Emergency Management Agency

HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)

HHS Office for Civil Rights

Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC)

National Council on Disability

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Social Security Administration (SSA)

Other Resources

American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Center for American Progress

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Commonwealth Fund

Communication First

Community Living Policy Center

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Educating All Learners Alliance

Families USA

Family Equality

Georgetown University Center for Children and Families

Health Affairs

Immigration Justice Campaign

Kaiser Family Foundation

Manatt Health

National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services

National Disability Institute

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)

National Employment Law Project

National Health Law Program (NHeLP)

National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)

National Partnership for Women and Families

Northwest ADA Center

Office of U.S. Senator Bob Casey

Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies

Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign

Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center (SARTAC)

World Health Organization (WHO)

Advocacy Materials


  • Letter from the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations to Senate leadership urging an increase to the FMAP in the next COVID-19 response bill (5/20/20)
  • Letter from advocacy organizations led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to Congressional leadership on priorities for education equity in COVID-19 response (5/7/20)
  • Letter to Congressional leadership from advocacy organizations led by Justice in Aging regarding coronavirus response priorities for older adults (4/30/20)
  • Letter from members of Congress to Congressional leadership on priorities for people with disabilities in the COVID-19 response (4/29/20)
  • Letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to members of Congress on COVID-19 priorities (4/27/20)
  • Letter from advocacy organizations led by Families USA to Congressional leadership regarding priorities for future COVID-19 legislation (4/23/20)
  • Letter from members of Congress to Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Rettig on stimulus payments for people experiencing homelessness (4/22/20)
  • Letter from the CCD LTSS Task Force to Secretary Azar, Administrator Verma, and Director Redfield in response to the Administration’s “New Nursing Homes COVID-19 Transparency Effort”
    announcement (4/21/20)
  • Letter led by the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign to Congressional leadership on priorities for package four (4/21/20)
  • Letter from the National Governors’ Association to Congressional leadership requesting supplemental funding (4/21/20)
  • Letter from members of Congress to Congressional leadership on protecting maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions in the Families First Act (4/21/20)
  • Letter from the National Housing Law Project (NHLP) and the National Low-Income Housing Coalition to HUD on housing priorities in response to COVID-19 (4/21/20)
  • Letter from national organizations to Congressional leadership on the need for nondiscrimination protections in the coronavirus response (4/20/20)
  • Letter from members of Congress to Congressional leadership on protecting immigrant families in coronavirus legislation (4/20/20)
  • Letter from advocacy organizations led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to members of Congress on health and economic security priorities for future COVID-19 legislation (4/16/20)
  • Letter from the Hispanic Federation to Congressional leadership on priorities for package four (4/14/20)
  • Letter from CCD to Congressional leadership in support of HCBS grants (4/13/20)
  • Letter from Congress members to House leaders supporting inclusion of funding for homeless programs in fourth coronavirus response package (4/10/20)
  • Letter from Human Rights Campaign and over 70 other national organizations urging President Trump to fully invoke the Defense Production Act (4/9/20)
  • Letter from CCD and allies to Congressional leadership opposing IDEA waivers (4/9/20)
  • Letter from Senators to CDC requesting demographic data regarding COVID-19 testing (4/7/20)
  • Letter from Senators to Secretary Mnuchin asking to ensure people who are experiencing homelessness receive COVID-19 recovery rebates (4/7/20)
  • Petition from the National Health Law Program, the Coalition on Human Needs, and other healthcare advocates asking HHS to reopen the federal ACA exchange
  • Template Letter to Governors and Attorneys General on Medicaid and Controlled Substances drafted by AAPD
  • Template Letter to Insurance Commissioners on Private Payers drafted by AAPD
  • 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 from NGA to Congressional leadership with request for third Congressional COVID-19 bill (3/20/20)
  • Letter from 32 national advocacy organizations to Congressional leadership on COVID-19 housing priorities (3/19/20)
  • 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

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