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March 30: Coronavirus Update and Action Alert

 

March 30, 2020 | by Amber Smock

March 30: Coronavirus Update and Action Alert

Dear Access Living friend and allies,

Please read our email today carefully as we have several things to share, including some Illinois-specific items.

Federal Stimulus Advocacy: After a great deal of advocacy and complex debate, the third COVID-19 stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, was signed into law by President Trump last Friday, March 27. Thank YOU to everyone who took action on this bill! The following overview was shared with us by advocates in Washington:

Important Points to Know About the CARES Act:

  • SSI and SSDI recipients will receive cash rebates if they receive an annual SSA-1099 or filed taxes. If they do not have either of these forms, they will need to complete a 2019 tax filing or look for a special form from the IRS to complete.
  • Money Follows the Person funding and the Spousal Impoverishment protections were extended until November 30, 2020.
  • The ability to waive provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were removed from the draft law.
  • $30 billion was allocated to the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund, which can be used for IDEA, 504, and other disability instruction and services. It will be critical for state and local advocates to immediately talk with their state Departments of Education and local school districts about how those funds will be used to support students with disabilities.
  • $150 billion was allocated to state and local governments. As with the school funds, stakeholders will need to advocate for the use of these funds to provide blind, deaf, developmental disability, vocational rehabilitation, and other disability services.
  • Small Business Administration loans will be available for non-profit agencies.
  • $85 million in additional funds for Centers for Independent Living and $50 million for Aging and Disability Resource Centers to address the COVID crisis.

The CARES Act Also is Missing a Number of Important Items:

  • Lack of dedicated Medicaid funding for home and community based services (HCBS)
  • Lack of funding to support direct service professionals and direct service agencies
  • Lack of funding to ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) for home care and family care providers
  • Lack of funds to support family care providers, family leave, and sick leave to support people with disabilities
  • Lack of directives to ensure information about the public health emergency is described in accessible formats

Take Action:

Action Alert: Use this email action alert to contact Congress again today. Not only do we want to thank members of Congress for the work we have done so far, but we also need to let them know that there still remains great need for people with disabilities during this crisis.

DACA Immigration Advocacy: Some of you may know that there is an important case facing immigrants with DACA status (DACA means Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals). The Trump Administration terminated DACA and there are several legal challenges to stop the termination of DACA. See this link for more info about the case and this link for a social media toolkit to support those who have DACA, many of whom have disabilities or support a person with a disability.

Illinois SNAP Benefits Temporary Increase: On Friday, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that Illinois will be receiving funds under the federal Families First legislation that will result in a temporary increase of Illinois SNAP benefits (food stamps). SNAP benefits will see a relatively big jump. For example, a person with a disability who had previously received $16 per month under SNAP would see $194. The amounts will vary. Also, the website to watch for State of Illinois updates on COVID-19 is: https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/. See this link for the Governor’s Saturday announcement about expanding and expediting Medicaid coverage.

Healthcare Rationing: A topic that is getting a great deal of attention right now is whether medical systems may discriminate against people with disabilities in life saving situations and/or with ventilator support during the COVID-19 crisis. Across the nation, disability advocates began pushing through media and through federal complaints to fight to save disabled lives. On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) put out guidance that stated that disability (and other) discrimination would not be allowed. However, advocates need to work hard to make sure that states and local health providers do not discriminate in emergency situations. This situation is rapidly evolving, including in Illinois. Stay tuned.

In closing: Our thoughts today are with the many who have thus far passed away from COVID-19, including Louisiana disability advocate April Dunn, who worked in the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs. Let us continue fighting for survival in their memory.