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

Independent Living & The Rehabilitation Act

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.

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

Thank you for all the efforts you have already made to get Congress to include the needs of people with disabilities in the next COVID-19 relief package. Last week the Senate introduced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which does not address the needs of the disability community. Yesterday the House introduced the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act. This bill does address some, but not all, of our priorities.

Disabled people are at disproportionate risk during this pandemic, and it is critical that all future legislation addresses our needs. And negotiations are happening now! That means we have just a little more time to contact our members of Congress as they continue working on their final package!

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

Congress will be working through the weekend on their Phase 3 legislative package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress has already passed two bills (more information at www.ncil.org/covid-19), and while these were good steps, neither addressed the specific needs of people with disabilities. Disabled people are at disproportionate risk during this pandemic, and it is critical that all future legislation addresses our needs!

The key priorities the next bill must include are:

  • More funding for Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS)! We need to make sure states have the resources to respond to increasing needs so people with disabilities can access the supports and services we need, and so people aren’t involuntarily institutionalized during this pandemic.
  • More funding for personal care attendants (PCAs) and direct support professionals (DSPs)! Among other things, this funding could be used to increase rates for PCAs / DSPs; provide paid sick time, family leave, overtime or hazard pay to PCAs / DSPs; and provide HCBS to individuals on waiting lists.
  • More funding for educational services for disabled students and protection of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)! Senator McConnell’s recent proposal opens the door to waiving protections under IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As schools are working hard to ensure that learning continues even as schools are closed, now more than ever we need IDEA and Section 504 to be protected. And, we need significant increases in funding to State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) for IDEA instructional and support services during this pandemic!
  • Ensuring access to medications! This must include removing barriers to accessing a 90-day emergency supply of medications regardless of payer (including for controlled substances), as well as flexibility around the amount that can be filled / refilled.
  • Increased funding and expansion of nutritional services! The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expanded some nutritional services, but it didn’t go far enough. Congress needs to increase funding and further expand nutritional services, including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Meals on Wheels.
  • More funding for Centers for Independent Living (CILs)! As you saw in our previous alert, Congress must ensure CILs have additional funding to respond to this crisis and meet the needs of disabled people in their communities.

Take Action!

Our Members of Congress must hear from their disabled constituents. They need to know that people with disabilities matter and cannot be left out of the COVID-19 response! Congress is moving quickly, so please contact your Senators and Representative now, and continue to reach out all through the weekend! We urge you to contact them in as many ways as you can, including social media! Please note that because of the pandemic, there aren’t many staffers in Congressional offices to answer phones right now. If you can, focus on email and social media to make your voice heard!

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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!

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COVID-19 Updates: What’s New at ACL.gov

Source: Administration for Community Living (ACL)

Thank you to the aging and disability networks for continuing to share the resources you’re creating for the people we serve. We have added several of them to our COVID-19 page on ACL.gov since our last update. Please keep them coming!

We’ve also updated information about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. CDC says that current evident suggests that the virus is may remain viable on a variety of surfaces for hours to days. Although transmission of the virus to people from contaminated surfaces has not been documented, CDC recommends routine cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces as a general precaution.

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Urge Your Members of Congress to Support Funding for CILs in the Next COVID-19 Package!

NCIL has been closely monitoring and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been working to provide tools and resources to the Independent Living network; engaging with partner organizations, Congress, and the ILA; and continuing to advocate for the needs of people with disabilities across the country.

Earlier this week NCIL sent a request to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-Ed). NCIL requested $100 million for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) in the next COVID-19 response package. Read the letter.

CILs around the country have been actively responding to the needs of disabled people in their communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. CILs are coordinating services, providing information and referrals, helping people avoid involuntary institutionalization, and advocating for the disability community’s rights and evolving needs during this crisis. People with disabilities are at disproportionate risk during this pandemic, and all around the country, CILs are working – on their own, and with community partners and governments – to ensure people with disabilities survive. Read the letter to see some examples of what CILs around the country are doing in response to COVID-19.

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Funds and Guidance Available to CILs to Operate Food Pantries

Food insecurity disproportionately impacts people with disabilities, and barriers to accessing food have already been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A small number of Centers for Independent Living (CILs) have been able to assist disabled people in their communities by operating food pantries, and Portlight Strategies (portlight.org) and Kelly’s Kitchen (kellys-kitchen.org) would like to help expand this capacity.

If your CIL has or would like to start a food pantry in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please fill out the online form. If your CIL currently has a food pantry, Portlight Strategies and Kelly’s Kitchen may be able to provide financial support; if your CIL is interested in starting a food pantry, they can provide guidance and money to do so.

COVID-19 Update from the Administration for Community Living

Source: Office of Independent Living Programs, Administration for Community Living

Dear Colleagues,

Across the country States, communities, and businesses are struggling to identify best practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with the Office of Personnel Management, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) staff are exercising maximum telework opportunities as the greater DC community is impacted by COVID-19.

The Office of Independent Living Programs (OILP) is actively working with our Administration on Disabilities (AoD) program partners, Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), the National Independent Living Council (NCIL), the National Association of Statewide Independent Living Councils (NASILC), and IL-NET at ILRU to provide resources that are relevant to the independent living network. If you have resources you have developed or identified as helpful to the network please feel free to send them directly to me to be shared with others. We are actively working on a mechanism for the network to share good practices and ideas during the COVID-19 response.

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IL-NET Presents… A National Webinar: Operating Independent Living Programs in the Face of Coronavirus – A Q&A Session for CILs and SILCs

Friday, March 20, 2020; 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Eastern

Register online

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Registration has re-opened for this event. We had reached our maximum capacity, but we have worked with our webinar provider to increase our capacity and can now accept additional participants.  Registration will close at Noon Eastern on Friday, March 20. 

The IL-NET National Training & Technical Assistance Center is offering a Q&A session with a panel of peers and experts, including public health experts, Center for Independent Living (CIL) and Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) Directors from communities impacted by Coronavirus / COVID-19, and experts in emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.

We all have questions related to the Coronavirus, but none of the media response or broader expert guidance details how community-based, disability-rights groups like CILs and SILCs should respond. Our panel of peers and experts will share their guidance and answer your questions about operating Independent Living programs and providing services during the epidemic.

You won’t want to miss this important webinar. Sign-up Today!

Registration: This event is free-of-charge. Registration must be completed by 12:00 Noon Eastern on March 20, 2020.

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Action Alert: Oppose the Proposed Independent Living Changes in the President’s Budget

Last week we sent out an information alert with information about cuts and harmful proposed changes to the Independent Living (IL) Program in the President’s 2021 Budget.

As a reminder, the budget includes a $7.5 million cut to Part B funding. It also includes a $5 million increase to Part C funding, but those funds are reserved for competitive employment grants.

Importantly, there are also three legislative proposals related to the IL Program:

  • The first proposal would allow funds currently appropriated for training and technical assistance (T/TA) to be used for program evaluation and performance measurement.
  • The second proposal would remove the requirement for any reviews of Centers for Independent Living (CILs) to be conducted onsite.
  • The final proposal would allow the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to stop contracting out for T/TA.

All three proposals are bad ideas and would all harm the IL Program. Regarding the first proposal, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) states that the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shall ensure the Independent Living Administration (ILA) has sufficient resources to provide technical assistance, support, and oversight. If ILA leadership does not believe they have sufficient funds to carry out their responsibilities, they should be asking for more funding rather than reallocating funding from one important duty to another.

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