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

An Update on the Congressional COVID-19 Package

Yesterday the Senate unanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S. 3548). Read the updated bill (PDF). The package now heads to the House of Representatives, where a vote is expected on Friday.

Some of the disability community’s priorities are included in the package, but many are not. We are continuing to review the bill, and we will provide additional information about what is in the final package and future advocacy to ensure our community’s priorities are included in future relief packages.

Here are some updates on the specific requests we have been making to Congress.

The bill DID NOT:

  • Provide more funding for Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS).
  • Provide more funding or support for personal care attendants (PCAs) and direct support professionals (DSPs). 
  • Make changes to include coverage of family members of adults with disabilities who step in when other supports become unavailable because of the crisis.
  • Adequately protect the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). While the CARES Act does not allow States to waive IDEA, it requires the Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos) to submit a report to Congress with recommendations for waivers, including to IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Ensure access to medications. Congress did not adequately address barriers to accessing medication; they only addressed some barriers under Medicare.
  • Permanently reauthorize Money Follows the Person (MFP). However, the bill did extend the program, along the HCBS Spousal Impoverishment protections, through November 30, 2020.

The bill DID:

  • Ensure all people, including people on means-tested and other disability programs, like Social Security Disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid, are eligible for rebates and emergency income relief provided in the CARES Act. There may, however, be additional barriers, since they are primarily tied to tax returns.
  • Provide more funding for Centers for Independent Living (CILs): Congress did provide an extra $85 million for CILs! However, we asked for funding for Part B and Part C, but all $85 million in the bill is Part C funding.

More action will be needed to ensure that the disability community’s needs are met in future Congressional responses to COVID-19. We will continue engaging with Congress and continue to keep you updated. For more updates and information, resources, and past alerts about COVID-19, visit www.ncil.org/covid-19.

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