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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Action Alert: Tell Congress to Include People with Disabilities in Their COVID-19 Response!

The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was signed into law on April 24, 2020. This emergency legislation provides $484 billion in financial relief. A majority of that funding – over $300 million – will go into the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which will give loans to small business owners to stay in business and retain their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also adds funding for hospitals and other healthcare providers, COVID-19 testing, and the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund (and expands who is eligible for these funds). These relief efforts are all important and needed, and we are glad to see this package pass Congress.

Congress is already working on their next big COVID-19 relief package. And while each of the four Congressional COVID-19 packages so far has contained important pieces, we have yet to see a package that meaningfully takes disabled people’s needs into account.

Disabled people are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are at risk of severe symptoms and complications if exposed to the virus. We are facing significantly increased barriers and discrimination that are threatening our health, our safety, and our lives. It is simply unacceptable to leave us out of the COVID-19 response.

Take Action!

Congress is currently working on the next big COVID-19 relief package. Congress needs to hear from their constituents – again – about the importance of including people with disabilities in their COVID-19 response, and the key priorities that must be included.

Since many members and staffers aren’t in their offices to take calls right now, we recommend using email and social media. Please contact your Members of Congress today and tell them what you want to see in the next package!

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

  • Home and Community Based Services (HCBS): Dedicated funding for Medicaid HCBS, like the grants found in the Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act (H.R. 6305 / S. 3544).
  • Protection of our Rights: Protection of the rights of people with disabilities, which includes preventing involuntary institutionalization, prohibiting discrimination in medical decision-making and medical rationing, and making sure Congress does not allow any waivers to laws that protect our rights. This also includes tracking of data, funding for additional enforcement of Olmstead, and increased funding to State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) specifically for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) instructional and support services during this pandemic.
  • Medication Access: Ensuring access to medications, supplies, and equipment for all people, including people who rely on controlled substances.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators: Ensuring access to PPE for personal care attendants (PCAs), direct support professionals (DSPs), and other direct care workers, and increasing production and distribution of PPE and ventilators to meet the needs across the country.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Creating a permanent infrastructure to support disabled people in all national emergencies and disasters by enacting and funding all elements of the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA).
  • Voting Rights: Providing additional funding to states to ensure the right to independent and accessible voting as states develop and modify their election plans.
  • Housing: Expanding on the housing assistance provided in the previous bills, including: instituting a broad, comprehensive moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; funding increases for housing resources including (but not limited to) Section 811 funding; and the creation of an emergency assistance fund.
  • Social Security and SSI and protect benefits: Boosting Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for the duration of the pandemic, and lifting SSI asset limits and Medicaid program rules to ensure eligibility is not impacted. Similarly, Congress must expand protections from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and ensure unemployment doesn’t threaten income-based eligibility for programs like SSI or Medicaid.

You can also see additional requests and details in this letter from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (PDF). NCIL is a CCD member and a Task Force co-chair. This letter was sent to Congressional leadership urging additional action to address the needs of people with disabilities.

Please reach out to your Members of Congress today and ask them to make sure that all future legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic addresses the needs of their disabled constituents!

You can find your Senators’ contact forms at senate.gov and your Representative’s contact form at house.gov/representatives. You can also use Resistbot to turn texts into faxes, mail, or hand-delivered letters by texting “RESIST” to 50409. You will be helped to write a letter, which Resistbot will deliver. You can find your Members’ Twitter handles, Facebook pages, and other contact information on Contacting Congress. You can also tweet at Congressional leadership – Mitch McConnell (@SenateMajLdr), Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer), Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi), and Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader). A sample email template and some sample tweets are below.

Here is a sample script. Please personalize it and put it in your own words if you can:

Hi, this is (NAME), and I’m from (CITY, STATE).

As a constituent, I urge you to include provisions in the next COVID-19 relief bill that addresses the needs of people with disabilities. The previous packages were a good start, but much more has to be done to meet our needs. People with disabilities are disproportionately at risk during this pandemic, and we are relying on Congress for assistance to stay healthy and safe. We are also relying on Congress to ensure our rights are protected and enforced during this time.

I am writing to ask that you keep the following urgent needs in mind as you work on legislation to address the pandemic (choose as many of the priorities from above and / or from the CCD letter that are most important to you):

  • Priority #1
  • Priority #2
  • Priority #3

Thank you for your time, and thank you for working to ensure your disabled constituents have what we need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

(Your name)

Below are some sample social media posts you can use. Feel free to make your own, and feel free to tag your Members of Congress when you tweet!

#COVID19 is impacting the disability community in so many ways. Our lives are not disposable, and our civil rights are not up for discussion. Congress must prioritize our needs in the next relief bill! #WeAreEssential

Social distancing is creating new challenges for disabled people to access healthcare, long-term services & supports, housing, transportation & more. Congress must prioritize our needs in the next #COVID19 relief bill! #WeAreEssential

Disabled people are at higher risk as #COVID19 continues to spread. It is vital our rights are protected & enforced during these challenging times. Congress must include our priorities in the next relief bill! #WeAreEssential

#COVID19 is making congregate settings more dangerous than ever. Congress must prioritize their disabled constituents in the next relief bill by protecting our right to live in the community and by funding HCBS. #WeAreEssential

Comments

  1. Thank you.

  2. Grace DelStritto says

    Please include disable people people with disabilities in the COVID-19 response, and the key priorities that must be included.

  3. john Mikatavage says

    I have been honored to work with people who have disabilities for 38 years. They need your assistance now more than ever. They need to be served at home and need to stay out of Nursing Homes. For those in Nursing Home Transition God Help Them!

  4. Catreana Riegel says

    Hi, this is Catreana Riegel, and I’m from Hamburg, PA.

    As a constituent, I urge you to include provisions in the next COVID-19 relief bill that addresses the needs of people with disabilities. The previous packages were a good start, but much more has to be done to meet our needs. People with disabilities are disproportionately at risk during this pandemic, and we are relying on Congress for assistance to stay healthy and safe. We are also relying on Congress to ensure our rights are protected and enforced during this time.

    I am writing to ask that you keep the following urgent needs in mind as you work on legislation to address the pandemic

    Priority #1 Protection of our Rights: Protection of the rights of people with disabilities, which includes preventing involuntary institutionalization, prohibiting discrimination in medical decision-making and medical rationing, and making sure Congress does not allow any waivers to laws that protect our rights. This also includes tracking of data, funding for additional enforcement of Olmstead, and increased funding to State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) specifically for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) instructional and support services during this pandemic.
    Priority #2Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators: Ensuring access to PPE for personal care attendants (PCAs), direct support professionals (DSPs), and other direct care workers, and increasing production and distribution of PPE and ventilators to meet the needs across the country.
    Priority #3 Housing: Expanding on the housing assistance provided in the previous bills, including: instituting a broad, comprehensive moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; funding increases for housing resources including (but not limited to) Section 811 funding; and the creation of an emergency assistance fund.
    Thank you for your time, and thank you for working to ensure your disabled constituents have what we need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Sincerely,

    Catreana Riegel

  5. Elizabeth Irizarry says

    Hi, this is (Elizabeth), and I’m from (Reading, PA).

    As a constituent, I urge you to include provisions in the next COVID-19 relief bill that addresses the needs of people with disabilities. The previous packages were a good start, but much more has to be done to meet our needs. People with disabilities are disproportionately at risk during this pandemic, and we are relying on Congress for assistance to stay healthy and safe. We are also relying on Congress to ensure our rights are protected and enforced during this time.

    I am writing to ask that you keep the following urgent needs in mind as you work on legislation to address the pandemic :
    Priority #1 Home and community base services
    Priority #2 Social Security and SSI and protect benefits
    Priority #3 Protection of our Rights

    Thank you for your time, and thank you for working to ensure your disabled constituents have what we need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Sincerely,

    (Elizabeth Irizarry)

  6. charity Nicole gayle says

    People with disabilities without the health crisis face isolation and inclusion. This hard time is especially difficult for us all more so for individuals with disabilities. More than ever do they need support from Congress for additional resources to help them through this time. Home based services need to be funded and staffed so that needs of people are being met. It’s extremely difficult to get services because of the shut downs, thats even more reason to increase services to help people who are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

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