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

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!

The key priorities the next bill must include are:

  • More funding for Medicaid home and community based services: 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 are not involuntarily institutionalized during this pandemic.
  • More support 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.
  • Making sure family caregivers for disabled adults are covered by paid leave: Paid leave must cover family members of adults with disabilities who step in when other supports become unavailable because of the crisis.
  • Ensuring people on means tested programs can access emergency income relief: People with disabilities and others on SSDI, SSI, and other means tested programs need to be able to receive relief payments like everyone else without worrying about income or asset limits.
  • 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.
  • Permanently reauthorizing Money Follows the Person: People belong in the community. People are being forced into institutions and we need to be able to bring them back home.
  • 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! Please note that because of the pandemic, there are not many staffers in Congressional offices to answering the phones right now. If you can, focus on email and social media to make your voice heard!

  • You can find your Senators’ contact form at senate.gov and your Representative’s contact form at house.gov/representatives.
  • You can also use Resistbot to turn texts into emails, faxes, or 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”.
  • You can find your Members’ Twitter handles, Facebook pages, and other contact information on Contacting Congress. A common hashtag being used is #WhatWeNeed.
  • You can also tweet at Congressional leadership – Mitch McConnell (@SenateMajLdr), Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer), Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi), and Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader).

For more updates and information, resources, and past alerts about COVID-19, visit www.ncil.org/covid-19.

Here is a sample email. 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 writing 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. 

The disability community has identified priorities that need to be addressed in this package. The CARES Act does not address these. The Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act addresses some of them. I urge you to please make sure that the final legislation addresses all of these critical priorities:

  • More funding for Medicaid home and community based services;
  • More support for personal care attendants (PCAs) and direct support professionals (DSPs);
  • Making sure family caregivers for disabled adults are covered by paid leave;
  • Ensuring people on SSDI or SSI are able to receive COVID-19 relief payments like everyone else, without worrying about income or asset limits;
  • Protection of the civil rights of people with disabilities including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • Ensuring access to prescription medications;
  • Permanently reauthorizing Money Follows the Person; and
  • More funding for Centers for Independent Living.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

(NAME)

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