Disability Inclusion in COVID-19 Response

The disability community is at high risk from COVID-19. Inclusion for healthcare is a matter of life and death. We are pulling together as many resources as we can and actions that you can take to help ensure that all kids and all adults with disabilities are protected.

We disabled activists know no one is going to include us equitably in messaging about this latest public health threat. We have no historical evidence of inclusion, so why should we expect it to start now?

Charis Hill

COVID-19 has impacted the lives of all of us. The virus poses a risk to everyone’s health, and is proving to be especially dangerous for people with certain types of disabilities and chronic health conditions as well as older adults. The pandemic has disrupted our lives and changed the way that we go to school, work, socialize, and more.

Government and private sector responses may also pose additional harm to disabled people if discrimination based on disability results in the denial of healthcare. And, there is a very real possibility that the spread of COVID-19 will result in a drastic reduction of personal assistants available to provide support to disabled people who rely on their assistance with activities of daily living.

Key COVID-19 Issues for People with Disabilities

(via Andrew Pulrang at Forbes)

  1. The people most often cited as being at serious risk are largely, by some definition, people with disabilities.
  2. It can be harder for disabled people to take prudent steps to protect themselves from the coronavirus outbreak.
  3. COVID-19 coronavirus threatens not only disabled people’s health, but their independence.
  4. This outbreak has the potential to add new perspectives and urgency to a number of long-time disability issues.
  5. You can help a lot just being aware and sensitive to the specific risks and obstacles faced by disabled people in an outbreak of contagious illness like COVID-19

ALERT – Having trouble with COVID-19 Federal Economic Impact payments?

People with disabilities, particularly those on SSI and certain Veterans Administration benefits have been having a number of issues and concerns with Federal Economic Impact payments. Specifically, whether they will need to file tax returns related to the one time $1200 CARES Act payment. The IRS has set up a support portal.  The Arc has also set up a downloadable fact sheet – Coronavirus Stimulus Payments -Recovery Rebates.

UPDATE 4/16/2020 – Many SSI recipients will automatically receive their payments!


Letter to US Congressional Leadership from AAPD and 270 other organizations

Dear Leaders McConnell and Schumer and Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

The COVID-19 pandemic occurring in the United States should be of utmost concern to every lawmaker in the country. We are grateful to the Senate for their leadership as they work to craft and pass the third package of coronavirus-related relief. The undersigned Disability, Civil Rights, Health and Faith-Based organizations write with the following priorities that must be included in the legislation being considered around COVID-19. People with disabilities are, and will be, particularly at risk as COVID-19 spreads across the country, facing high risk of complications and death if exposed to the outbreak and needing to isolate themselves for protection. We urge Congress to focus on people with disabilities, regardless of immigration status, and their needs in legislation in response to the outbreak.

The following represents a non-exhaustive list of the needs that must be addressed for people with disabilities, their families, and the workforce that supports them:

Economic Stimulus and Increased Asset Limits and Benefits

  • Economic stimulus should be easily and equitably available to low-income individuals and asset limits for people with disabilities and older adults in Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, SNAP, and other means tested programs should be eliminated or raised so these crucial benefits will not be a risk from the stimulus.
  • Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits should be boosted for the duration of the epidemic to help people with disabilities afford the increased costs of health care supplies and medically necessary isolation.

Home and Community-Based Serviced (HCBS) in Medicaid

  • Increase FMAP match beyond the 6.2 bump to ensure that Medicaid and state governments have the resources they need to ensure care for people with disabilities.
  • Pass the Corona Virus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities, including its HCBS grants to support Direct Support Professional (DSP) and Home Health Workforce and to support aging adults and people with disabilities in their homes and communities.
  • Pass the Ensuring Direct Access to Direct Support Professionals Act (S. 3220/H.R. 5443).
  • Make the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program permanent.

Housing

  • Immediately provide an increase in McKinney-Vento Emergency Solutions Grants.
  • Pass legislation to stop evictions to prevent homelessness during the pandemic, including the Eviction Crisis Act.
  • Increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, and the Community Development Block Grant program and increase funding for Department of Agriculture housing programs.

Medication/Treatment

  • Ensure that all testing and treatment for COVID-19 are provided at no cost for all individuals whether insured or not. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act focuses on testing, not treatment.
  • Ensure that individuals can access medication and supplies refills for 90 days from all payers, including allowances for partial fills and controlled substances, without cost sharing and with financial assistance to allow for self-isolation for at-risk people with disabilities.
  • Ensure that service providers have access to the necessary training, equipment and medical supplies. There must also be assurance of sufficient production of medications to meet a higher volume of needs during this time.
  • Ventilator and PPE Production: Congress must appropriate funds specifically for ramping up production of both Personal Protective Equipment and ventilator production. The Secretary of Health and Human Services should be given authority to expedite bringing new production facilities online and do everything possible to mobilize a “whole-of-country” response to meet these production challenges.

Paid Leave/Sick

  • Ensure paid sick days and paid leave provisions include caregivers who can’t work because they are caring for an adult or a child with a disability or aging family member whose program has closed or care worker is sick. This was not included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Rights

  • Provide states with resources they need to ensure that even during this crisis, people with disabilities have the supports they need to remain in the community and are not forced into institutional or other congregate settings in violation of their civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C., and at increased risk to their health.
  • Ensure the rights of individuals with disabilities and older adults, to be free from discrimination on the basis of disability or age in programs and activities, are protected during all phases of disaster preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation.
  • Congress should require HHS to issue guidance regarding rationing of care to ensure that when rationing treatment begins, decisions about how medical treatment should be allocated are made without discriminating based on disability. The National Council on Disability has already raised concerns about this issue in a letter to HHS’ Office of Civil Rights.
  • Do not allow any weakening of the protections of the ADA for businesses or in the building of new facilities if necessary.
  • Provide additional funding to states to ensure accessible voting as states are moving to absentee and mail-in voting.

School/Education

  • Ensure that any legislation to support access to virtual education and other supports are inclusive of the unique needs of people with disabilities, including requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

We know that we must act now to prevent much of the worst impact of this outbreak. We urge the Congress to act quickly so that the rights of people with disabilities are recognized in this crisis.

Sincerely,

AAPD and 270 other organizations.

 

Resources

Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities – COVID-19

Public Policy Resources – The Autism Society

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Sponsors and Allies

American Association of People with Disabilities

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US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights Coronavirus Statement

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