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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!

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.

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 Senate leadership asking them to support the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and urging additional action to address the needs of people with disabilities.

Take Action!

Congress needs to hear from their constituents about the importance of including people with disabilities in their COVID-19 response. And given the rapidly-shifting environment, Congress is working fast to pass their next package! Please call 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 constituents with disabilities!

All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or 202-224-3091 (TTY). You can find your Senators’ direct phone number and contact form at senate.gov and your Representative’s direct number and contact form at house.gov/representatives. If calling is not accessible to you, 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. When asked which legislators to send it to, choose “CONGRESS”.

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).

I’m calling to ask (SENATOR or REPRESENTATIVE) to make sure that any legislation related to the coronavirus pandemic addresses the needs of people with disabilities. The first two packages were a good start, but 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.

I am calling to ask that you keep the following urgent needs in mind as you work on legislation to address the pandemic (CHOOSE THE OPTIONS THAT ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU):

  • Please provide more funding for Medicaid so it can pay for the increasing costs of the pandemic.
  • We need you to protect the rights of people with disabilities. We need you to prevent discrimination in medical decision-making. We need you to prevent discrimination in access to care and treatment. And we need you to prevent involuntary institutionalization.
  • We need you to ensure we have access to healthcare, including an adequate (90-day) supply of medication, medical supplies, and equipment. This includes a plan for addressing potential medication shortages. This also includes a plan to address widespread shortages of key equipment including ventilators, protective equipment, and diagnostic tests.
  • Please help ensure ongoing access to home and community-based long term services and supports. People belong in the community.
  • Please pass a permanent reauthorization of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program. People are being forced into institutions and we need to be able to bring them home.
  • We need you to expand paid sick and medical leave to reflect the needs of people with disabilities and chronic illnesses and their family members. This includes paid leave when a person needs to fill in to support a family member with a disability. When the people paid to provide critical supports are sick or unavailable because of the crisis, we need family members to be able to support us.
  • We need emergency income relief. This needs to plan for disabled people by eliminating or raising asset limits in means tested programs.
  • Please increase funding for Centers for Independent Living (CILs). The National Council on Independent Living has requested $100 million so CILs can continue meeting the needs of people with disabilities in their communities in response to this crisis. Our people on the front lines need resources to respond to this crisis.

Thank you for your time.

Comments

  1. Please include people with disabilities bills leave no person behind!

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