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ACTION ALERT: Keep Up the Fight for Covid-19 Relief for People with Disabilities!

 

August 10, 2020 | by Jerome Palliser

ACTION ALERT: Keep Up the Fight for Covid-19 Relief for People with Disabilities!

Over this past weekend, you have probably heard that Congressional efforts to create a new agreement on Covid-19 relief funding fell apart, and that as a result, President Trump decided to sign some Executive Orders. However, the U.S. Senate is still expected to be in session until Friday of this week, and THERE IS STILL OPPORTUNITY TO ACT. Here’s why.

The Executive Orders signed by President Trump this past weekend only offers limited aid to some people, and they will likely be subject to legal challenges. Congress is the body that has the power under the Constitution to disburse funds and to levy taxes, not the President. Plus, only one of the “Executive Orders” signed by President Trump is a true Executive Order. The other three items are memorandums. Here’s what President Trump did:

  1. He signed a memorandum that delays payroll tax collection for those making under $104,000, but this is technically a tax deferral and not a permanent tax cut. A big problem for the disability view is that payroll taxes help pay for Social Security and Medicare, so this looks like a sideways effort to cut both programs.
  2. He signed a memorandum to restart federal unemployment aid at a level of $400 a week, to run through December 6, 2020. But the federal government would only pay for $300 of this, while the states are expected to kick in the other $100. This is a problem for states (like Illinois) with serious budget problems. The memo also calls for $44 billion to fund unemployment, to be redirected from the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund (it’s hurricane season right now).
  3. He signed an Executive Order for U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield to “consider” whether an eviction ban is needed. It also calls on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to see if they can find any more funds to help out. But there are no promises here of actual action.
  4. He signed a memo to defer student loan payments until December 31, 2020, but this does not cancel the debt and full payments would be required on January 1, 2021.

So where does this leave people with disabilities, our families and our support workers?

Basically, the new Executive Order/memorandum effort does not help protect us from Covid-19. It doesn’t reduce the risk of forced institutionalization. It doesn’t provide extra dollars for home and community based services. It doesn’t help people get out of congregate settings. It puts Social Security and Medicare at risk. Basically, the effort just ignores us. So this week, we need to fight back!

Here is how you can help. We offer some specific members of Congress to contact, plus a phone and an email script. As follows:

Please contact these members of Congress ASAP to demand Covid-19 relief funding and money for disability home and community based services:

  • Anyone living in Kentucky: U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, contact form here or call (202) 224-2541
  • Anyone living in Iowa: U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, contact form here or call 202-224-3744
  • Anyone living in Kansas: U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, contact form here or call 202-224-4774
  • Anyone living in Texas: U.S. Senator John Cornyn, contact form here or call 202-224-2934
  • Anyone living in South Dakota: U.S. Senator John Thune, contact form here or call (202) 224-2321
  • Anyone living in North Carolina: U.S. Senator Richard Burr, contact form here, or call (202) 224-3154
  • Anyone living in Ohio: U.S. Senator Rob Portman, contact form here or call 202-224-3353
  • Anyone living in South Carolina: U.S. Senator Scott, contact form here or call 202) 224-6121
  • Anyone living in Louisiana: U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, contact form here or call (202) 224-5824
  • Anyone living in Oklahoma: U.S. Senator James Lankford, contact form here or call (202) 224-5754
  • Anyone living in Montana: U.S. Senator Steve Daines, contact form here or call (202) 224-2651
  • Anyone living in Indiana: U.S. Senator Todd Young, contact form here or call 202-224-5623
  • Anyone living in Nebraska: U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, contact form here or call 202-224-4224

For these Senators, the phone/email script is:

“Hello, my name is __ and I live in [city/state]. I’m contacting you as your constituent to ask that you work to make a real Covid-19 relief deal that will help people with disabilities with Medicaid home and community-based services, provide real unemployment relief, and ensure access to Civid-19 testing and PPE for all of us. We need you to take action now.”

We also need your help contacting members of the U.S. House.

Two main people need to hear from you. The first is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She can be contacted through this email form or at this number: (202) 225-4965. The second is Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who oversees the main House committee that deals with Medicaid. He can be contacted through this email form (emails from New Jersey residents only) or at this number: (202) 225-4671. An email/phone script for Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Pallone would be:

“Hello, my name is __ and I live in [city/state]. I’m contacting you as a disability advocate to ask that you continue to work to make a real Covid-19 relief deal that will help people with disabilities with Medicaid home and community-based services, provide real unemployment relief, and ensure access to Civid-19 testing and PPE for all of us. Please keep up the fight and don’t forget about disability services.”

Three key members of Congress in the House need thank-you notes from the disability community. They are:

Congresswoman Anna Eschoo from California, email form here or use this phone number: (202) 225-8104

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky from Illinois, email form here or use this phone number: (202) 225-2111

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell from Michigan, email form here or use this phone number: (202) 225-4071

Email/phone script to thank them: “”Hello, my name is __ and I live in [city/state]. I’m contacting you as a disability advocate to thank you, Congresswoman, for your efforts to make a real Covid-19 relief deal that will help people with disabilities with Medicaid home and community-based services, provide real unemployment relief, and ensure access to Civid-19 testing and PPE for all of us. Please keep up the fight, and thank you so much.”

Please share this action alert widely with disability advocates. Thank you.