Urge Congress to Include the Needs of People With Disabilities in Coronavirus Relief Legislation

People with disabilities are more likely to have underlying health conditions – this means that they will be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and need immediate support!

Legislation is quickly moving through Congress to respond to this global crisis. We need legislation NOW that expands access to health care, ensures that direct support professionals (DSPs), who support people with disabilities to live independently, can continue to do their vital work, and much more.

Ask your Members of Congress to include the vital needs of people with disabilities in this legislation, specifically:

  • Increased federal reimbursement for state Medicaid programs to help states respond to the crisis
  • Ability to access a 90-day supply of medication and medical supplies
  • Emergency requirements for all health insurers to cover testing
  • Expanded nutrition assistance
  • Workforce support, including paid sick leave and paid leave for all workers

Without this legislation, people with disabilities face possible institutionalization, which would violate their rights and risk their health.

Urge Congress to ensure that the rights and needs of people with disabilities are center to coronavirus relief legislation!

Sec Hou Releases Further Guidance on Budget Principles Going Forward

Dear Partners,

We extend our continued gratitude for your work to support our community members during this crisis. We – together – are who others look to in times of challenges. Each day, we are asked to make difficult decisions balancing the best interests of our staff, community members, and those we serve. Last week we sent guidance regarding COVID-19 (the 2019 novel coronavirus) to you and your organization to help you continue to prepare and respond.

I am writing today with an important update on budget principles we hope will provide relief and reassurance as you move forward.

  • You will not be financially penalized if you slow or stop services during this emergency. Community-based human service providers will be held harmless and kept whole as operations are diminished or temporarily suspended during this national and state emergency. Specifically:
    • From today through mid-April (and longer as needed), in the event fee-for-service billings are less than normal, IDHS is committed to providing capacity grant funding to make up the lost revenues from reduced billings to ensure the preservation of Illinois’ social services delivery system and safety net. 
    • In the event grant programs (fixed rate and expense-based) are asked to (or decide to) close temporarily, in response to COVID-19, IDHS will continue to fund operations.
  • Critically: staff who work for your organizations should continue to be paid.
  • Likewise, organizations taking on increased public responsibility during this time may receive additional funding commensurate with the temporary reorganization of services. On a limited basis, going forward, existing contracts may be amended to account for increasing needs for services on a case-by-case basis. Please contact your program liaisons for more information.

Every effort will be made by IDHS to continue the critical mission of our social service system. 

More information will be coming soon on the above efforts – but we wanted to write to give you an update based on the current circumstances.

We will stay in communication with you as we learn more from our state and federal partners. You can always reach out to your program contact, or you can email us at dhs.stakeholder@illinois.gov with questions. You can also find past communications that have gone out to providers on our website.  Additional information is available from the Illinois Department of Public Health at their Coronavirus-2019 website and the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-889-3931.  As always, my team is committed to your well-being and to the health of all those we serve. Thank you for the work you do.  Sincerely, Grace B. Hou, Secretary, IDHS

House Approves Coronavirus Relief Bill

The House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201). The bill is now being considered in the Senate. The bill includes a 6.2% federal medical assistance percentage increase to support Medicaid funding to the states. There are some provisions that will provide limited paid sick leave for some workers. The Arc staff is working to expand the paid leave provisions and to ensure that other packages include the needs of people with disabilities and the direct professional workforce. Take action today! Read The Arc’s statement here.

As summarized in the House Speaker’s press release, the bill provides for:

  • Free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured
  • Paid emergency leave with both 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave
  • Enhanced Unemployment Insurance, a first step that will extend protections to furloughed workers
  • Strengthened food security initiatives, including SNAP, student meals, seniors nutrition and food banks
  • Clear protections for frontline workers, including health care workers and other workers who are in contact with those who have been exposed or are responsible for cleaning at-risk places 
  • Increased federal funds for Medicaid, as states face increased costs

Senate Democrats reportedly are considering legislation focusing on grants for community economic development and small businesses, public transit agencies, and rental assistance for low-income households. The president has proposed suspending the payroll tax that funds Social Security and Medicare, but that proposal is considered a “non-starter” by Democrats, and is not necessarily supported by Republicans either; Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) declined to endorse that proposal. See Coronavirus Stimulus Talks Ramp Up as White House Mulls Options (Roll Call, 3/11/20).

Family Support: House Approves Reauthorization of Older Americans Act With Senate Amendments

On March 11, the House passed the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 (H.R.4334) with Senate amendments. This bill reauthorizes the Older Americans Act, including the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). The NFCSP provides information to caregivers about available services, assistance in accessing services, individual counseling, support groups, caregiver training, respite care, and supplemental services. This bill removes a 10% cap on funding for services for “older relative caregivers,” a term that includes family caregivers of adults with disabilities ages 18-59. The measure now awaits the President’s signature. The Arc supports this legislation.

Family Support/Employment: House Committee Holds Hearing on Paid Sick Leave Legislation

On March 11, the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on the Healthy Families Act (H.R.1784). This bill provides for paid and unpaid sick leave for employees to meet their own medical needs and those of their families. It requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide their employees with at least one hour of earned paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours of paid sick leave a year. Visit the Committee website for more information or to view archived video of the hearing. The Arc supports this legislation.


Housing: Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Comments Due Today

On January 14, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a proposed rule that erodes the protections of the Fair Housing Act. The proposed rule is a big step back from efforts to fight housing discrimination and segregation in the U.S. The proposed rule has many harmful changes and removes language requiring that steps to affirmatively further fair housing include expanding opportunities for people with disabilities to live in “the most integrated setting appropriate to the individual’s needs.” A comment template can be found here. Submit comments here by March 16. Learn more with this short explainer and at www.fightforhousingjustice.org/affh.

Education: Education Department Releases Guidance Documents Relating to COVID-19 Outbreak

On March 12, the Department of Education (ED) released three guidance documents regarding responses to COVID-19: one relating to flexibility in accountability standards under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, another relating to student privacy protection under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and a third relating to services for students with disabilities. The Department of Education announced in its guidance that it will consider targeted waivers of the assessment requirements, the 95% assessment participation rate requirement, and chronic absenteeism benchmarks. The FERPA guidance details how schools and colleges should handle disclosure of COVID-19 infections under the “health and safety emergency” exception. The final document details the responsibilities of school districts, state early intervention lead agencies, and early intervention providers during a COVID-19 outbreak. The Arc is pleased that the Department of Education has provided much-needed guidance to stakeholders. However, The Arc believes the guidance leaves many questions unanswered. Specifically, it does not address whether school districts must provide free and appropriate public education for students with significant disabilities when operating through online/distance learning, how students will receive support typically provided by special education teachers or paraprofessionals, or under what conditions compensatory education must be provided.

Education: ED Reports Doubling of Students Identified with Autism New data from the Department of Education indicate that the percentage of students with disabilities identified with autism has increased from 4.97% in 2008 to 10.51% in 2018. Students with autism were less likely to drop out than students with disabilities overall, but more likely to receive a certificate of completion. Students with autism were also less likely than students with disabilities overall to be included in the regular class 80% or more of the day and more likely to be included in the regular class less than 40% of the day. Girls, black or African American students, and Hispanic/Latino students were less likely to be identified with autism when compared to all students with disabilities.