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

The Senate’s HEALS Act Does NOT Meet Our Needs: Take Action Today!

On Monday, the Senate introduced the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act. This new COVID-19 relief package was released as a series of bills. See more information about each bill. As a reminder, the House passed the HEROES Act back in May.

The HEALS Act fails to meet the urgent needs of the disability community. It does not include ANY of the priorities we have been urging our members of Congress to address, like targeted funding for home and community based services (HCBS) – which are critical to keeping disabled people out of congregate settings where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly.

It does, however, include a dangerous provision that would give businesses – including schools and medical providers – immunity from being held liable for harm they cause in almost all circumstances. Plus, it specifically shields employers and people who own, lease, or operate public accommodations from violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The liability relief provision removes accountability and is solely about protecting businesses and profits; not at all about protecting people. It puts the safety, rights, and lives of everyone at risk.

Congress needs to hear from us again. They need to hear – once again – about the importance of including the needs of the disability community in their COVID-response. They need to hear about all the things that are important to include, but they especially need to hear why including additional funding for home and community based services (HCBS) is important. HCBS funding is critical to ensuring disabled people can stay in their own homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Congregate settings have always been dangerous, but during the pandemic, they have become more dangerous than ever. That’s why HCBS funding more than ever before is a matter of life and death.

You can see a full list of priorities in this letter from CCD (PDF), of which NCIL is a member. NCIL also worked with other disability organizations to highlight our most critical priorities for Congressional leadership (PDF).

Take Action!

Contact your Members of Congress today! It is critical our Members of Congress hear from us while they are negotiating a final package. Even if you have called your Members before, they need to hear from you again. Make sure to tell them why HCBS funding is critical, and that it MUST be included in the next COVID-19 package!

  • You can find your Senators’ contact forms at senate.gov and your Representative’s contact form at house.gov/representatives.
  • You can use Resistbot to turn texts into faxes, mail, or hand-delivered letters by texting “RESIST” to 50409.
  • You can find your Members’ phone numbers, 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).

Here are sample scripts. Please personalize it and put it in your own words if you can:

Senate:

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

I am (calling / writing) as your constituent to urge you to include funding for home and community based services in the COVID-19 relief bill. The need for dedicated HCBS funding is more urgent than ever. We have seen rampant rates of infection and death in nursing facilities and other congregate settings. Many disabled people rely on HCBS to live in their own homes, but people are struggling to stay in the community. Without more funding, many more people will be forced into congregate settings, where they will be at much greater risk of catching COVID-19. HCBS funding is desperately needed to ensure we can stay safe in our own homes. The House included funding for HCBS in the HEROES Act, but the Senate did not include it in the HEALS Act. It is critical that this funding be included in the final Congressional package.

I also ask that you oppose the provision in the HEALS Act that would shield businesses from liability for harm they cause related to COVID-19. This is very dangerous provision that threatens the rights and safety of all people, and especially disabled people.

Thank you for your time, and I hope I can count on you to protect your disabled constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Your name)

House:

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

I am (calling / writing) as your constituent to urge you to include funding for home and community based services in the COVID-19 relief bill. The need for dedicated HCBS funding is more urgent than ever. We have seen rampant rates of infection and death in nursing facilities and other congregate settings. Many disabled people rely on HCBS to live in their own homes, but people are struggling to stay in the community. Without more funding, many more people will be forced into congregate settings, where they will be at much greater risk of catching COVID-19. HCBS funding is desperately needed to ensure we can stay safe in our own homes. The House included funding for HCBS in the HEROES Act, but the Senate did not include it in the HEALS Act. It is critical that this funding be included in the final Congressional package.

Thank you for your time, and I hope I can count on you to protect your disabled constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Your name)

Comments

  1. Mark Johnson says

    Related Virtual Rally tonight: https://www.facebook.com/events/624913798405137/

  2. Mark Johnson says

    As you’re aware, this week marks the 55th Anniversary of Medicaid and 3rd Anniversary of ACA/Medicaid being saved.

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