Feb. 4, 2021: Cold Weather, Vaccine Updates, Federal Covid-19 Relief, Masks on Public Transportation, Amtrak Settlement


February 4, 2021 | by Amber Smock

Cold Weather, Vaccine Updates, Federal Covid-19 Relief, Masks on Public Transportation, Amtrak Settlement

Thursday, January 4, 2021

We have a lot of important updates for you today.

Bitter Cold in Cook County – Dangerously Low Temperatures Expected:

For those living in Cook County, Illinois, please note that we are facing several days of very low weather temperatures. Please be prepared and check on those you know who may not have access to safe heat. Check out this link for a list of warming centers in Cook County. If you are a renter wondering about your rights to adequate heating, please contact the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (see this link). Stay warm, everybody!

Vaccine Updates, Chicago and Illinois:

The state of Illinois has issued a letter at this link advising that family caregivers/support persons CAN get vaccinated if they have medical documentation regarding the disability of the person for whom they provide support. Also, the state’s vaccine locator website is at this link. For those living/working in Chicago, the City has launched a new Zocdoc project to help Chicagoans identify whether they are eligible for the vaccine and sign up for appointments, if available. Check out this news story and Zocdoc tutorial at this link. For folks with disabilities who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine, but are at high risk of serious consequences from Covid-19, please reach out to your local public health departments to share your stories. It is important that they know why the vaccine is important to you.

Congress Debates New Covid-19 Relief Package:

Congress is currently working through passage of a major new Covid-19 relief bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, but the process is complicated by intense partisan debate. President Biden and the Democrats have proposed a $1.9 trillion package, which has passed the House and is now being debated in the Senate. NPR carried a summary of the process and political dynamic at this link. An overview of previously passed legislation, with a disability lens, is at this link.

New Face Mask Requirement on Public Transit:

As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are requiring the wearing of face masks on transportation for the public. See this link for the announcement. This includes domestic and international travel, and applies to airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares. Pace has also announced that it will require all riders to wear face masks. The goal is to slow the spread of Covid-19. Chicagoans with disabilities who may have difficulty with this should let us know by emailing us at advocacy@accessliving.org.

Update on Amtrak Accessibility:

On January 29, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a new settlement with Amtrak related to riders with disabilities. The purpose of the settlement was to resolve the department’s findings of disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement, Amtrak will fix inaccessible stations and pay $2.25 million to victims hurt by inaccessibility at 78 stations nationwide. Please visit this link to learn more. The applicable stations in the state of Illinois are: Centralia, Effingham, Gilman, Homewood, Mattoon, Plano, Princeton, Rantoul, and Summit. You can also find Equip for Equality‘s statement on the settlement at this link.

Thank you for your advocacy, as always. Please feel free to share this information with community members.