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

Congress Passes COVID-19 Bill; Disability Community Needs Continue to be Unmet

Last night, Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-response package and a $1.4 trillion appropriations bill to fund the government through Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, which ends on September 30. The President is expected to sign it today. You can view the full package, called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 – CAA (PDF), and additional links can be found below.

Since the last COVID-19 relief package in April, people have been struggling to survive during this health and economic crisis. The assistance provided in this bill is one very small step in providing the much-needed relief people and families have been waiting for. However, it fails to provide the broad, meaningful support that’s needed, and fails to respond to the increasingly dire needs of the disability community.

The overall package includes a 3-year reauthorization of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program, through September 2023. After a long series of short-term extensions, this is great – if long overdue – news. The package also extends the Spousal Impoverishment protections through September 2023. The Independent Living Program is funded at $116.1 million, which is level funding, for Fiscal Year 2021. The COVID provisions include some important assistance, including: funding for a second round of smaller, $600 stimulus payments to individuals; funding for emergency rental assistance and an extension of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021; a renewal of supplemental unemployment benefits at $300/week this time (instead of the previous $600/week), and an extension of other unemployment benefits from the CARES Act; funding to the CDC and states for vaccine efforts and COVID-19 testing, tracing, and mitigation programs; and funding for schools, transportation, food assistance, small businesses, and more.

However, many crucial needs were excluded from this bill, including funding for home and community based services, additional Medicaid funding, and nearly all of the other priorities the disability community has been pushing for since the pandemic began 10 months ago.

The disability community has been infected, dying, and otherwise impacted at disproportionate – and truly staggering – rates. We have been waiting since April for another COVID-19 relief package that would finally address our community’s needs, but despite our persistent advocacy, our needs were once again ignored.

With this package, Congress sent a message to their disabled constituents that our needs don’t matter to them. We will keep working to change that. We are ready and eager to keep fighting for the real relief our community needs. And we are ready to push the new Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration to act quickly in the new year to finally provide the long-overdue support the disability community so desperately needs.

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