Include People with Disabilities in the Next Coronavirus Relief Package

UPDATE  (3/28/2020) : Last night the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law after it passed through the Senate late in the day. The Families First Act increases Medicaid funding through a 6.2% FMAP (Federal Medical Assistance Percentage) increase, provides free COVID-19 testing, provides for some emergency paid sick and family leave, expands food assistance, and expands unemployment benefits.This comes after Congress passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act on March 6. Through that, Congress provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both of those were good first steps. However, there are major gaps in the legislative response to the pandemic, and Congress is already working on a third response bill. It is critical that all future legislation addresses the needs of people with disabilities. Disabled people are at disproportionate risk of severe symptoms and complications from COVID-19, and we need to be a part of the COVID-19 response!

Some of the key priorities for the next response bill include:

  • More funding for Medicaid (and especially Medicaid home and community based services) than was in the Families First Act;
  • Protections of the rights of people with disabilities, which includes prohibiting discrimination in medical decision-making, preventing involuntary institutionalization, and making sure people who do end up in institutions have a way to get out;
  • Ensuring access to healthcare, including an adequate supply of medications and equipment;
  • Expansion of paid sick and medical leave to reflect the needs of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses and their family members; and
  • As you saw in our previous alert, ensuring CILs have additional funding to respond to this crisis and meet the needs of disabled people in their communities.

As disability right advocates, you’ve made countless calls to your elected officials. You know how to make your voice heard. Now, we need you to do something different: use email and social media to tell your members of congress, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Kevin McCarthy that they MUST center the needs of disabled people in the new coronavirus relief package.

(via the Autistic Self Advocacy Network)

The disability community has been overlooked in Congress’s previous attempts to address COVID-19. Now, Congress is working on a third bill, the largest one yet—and we are being excluded again. People with disabilities are being hit the hardest by COVID-19. If we are going to get through this, we need Congress to pay attention to us and make sure the third bill includes things like:

  • Extra funding so Medicaid can still provide home and community based services during the crisis.
  • Making sure family caregivers for adults with disabilities are covered by paid leave.
  • Making sure that people on SSI or SSDI are able to receive cash payments like everyone else, without worrying about income or asset limits.
  • Making sure that people with disabilities can get our medications refilled.
  • Making sure we don’t face discrimination in health care.
  • Protecting the rights of students with disabilities.
  • Permanently reauthorizing Money Follows the Person, to make sure that people who are institutionalized during the crisis can return to their homes and communities.

Because of the virus, there aren’t many people in Congress answering the phones right now. But we can still make our voices heard. Here’s what you can do:

  • Email your Members of Congress using this tool from The Arc.
  • Tweet at your Members of Congress and tell them that they must include the disability community’s needs in the new coronavirus relief package.
    • I call on [@Member-of-Congress] to include people with disabilities in the 3rd #COVID19 relief package! #WhatWeNeed
    • Including people with disabilities in the #COVID19 relief package isn’t optional, [@Member-of-Congress]. We need your help to get our community in the 3rd package. #WhatWeNeed
    • Disabled people are especially vulnerable to #COVID19. #WhatWeNeed is inclusion of the disability community in the 3rd COVID19 relief package.
  • Tweet at Congressional leadership—Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Kevin McCarthy to demand that our community be included in the package.
    • .@GOPleader, we NEED disability inclusion in the 3rd #COVID19 relief package! People with disabilities are especially vulnerable during this crisis. #WhatWeNeed
    • I’m counting on @SpeakerPelosi to boost the voices of the disability community, and get us included in the 3rd #COVID19 relief package #WhatWeNeed
    • The 3rd #COVID19 relief package must include the needs of people with disabilities. Can I count on you to fight for us, @senschumer? #WhatWeNeed

People with disabilities are at the most risk with COVID-19. Our independence, our health, and our lives are on the line-and we cannot let our elected officials forget that. Now more than ever, we must let those who represent us know that there will be nothing about us without us.