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Updates from Access Living: Covid-19, Federal Disability, Action Alerts


April 22, 2020 | by Amber Smock

Updates from Access Living: Covid-19, Federal Disability, Action Alerts

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

Three fast links for your quick reference:

Today, we’d like to share updates about advocacy on disability and Covid-19 at the federal level.

First, it helps to know the difference between “relief” and “recovery,” when dealing with Congress. “Relief” legislation is to address the immediate crisis facing our nation because of COVID-19. The current Congressional work on COVID-19 bills has been and will be for a while, “relief” work. “Recovery” legislation is more about economic recovery. Down the road, Congress will probably work on one or more “recovery” bills to help our country’s economy improve.

Yesterday, April 21, the U.S. Senate passed a narrow Covid-19 relief bill which is known as the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. This is known to advocates as the Covid-3.5 bill (it is after the third major relief bill, but not broad enough to be considered the fourth full bill.) This bill provides more money for small businesses and nonprofits through the Paycheck Protection Program of the Small Business Administration. It also provides extra funding for hospitals and health providers on the Civid-19 front lines. The hope is for the House to pass this bill this week, and then on for the President’s signature. We do need to note that this bill continues to exclude undocumented persons from benefiting from Covid-19 testing and treatment, which is highly problematic.

Efforts continue on a broader Covid-4 bill. Both Senate and House offices have been generating language for that bill, but officially the bill will originate in the House. The key House committees that will drive that bill are:

  1. House Ways and Means (Chair is Richard Neal, Massachusetts)
  2. House Education and Labor (Chair is Bobby Scott, Virginia)
  3. House Energy and Commerce (Chair is Frank Pallone, New Jersey)

Please notice that for each of the committees above, if you click on the committee name, it takes you to the list of the members of that committee.

On HCBS Covid-19 advocacy, some members of Congress are now advocating for relief funding specific to home and community based services (HCBS). For example, allowable uses for HCBS spending could include things like overtime pay, hazard pay, shift differential pay, travel reimbursement, recruitment efforts, training efforts, PPE, to make sure direct service professionals, personal care attendants, home health workers, all have the resources/pay that they deserve during this crisis.

It continues to be very important to tell members of Congress that we need money dedicated to home and community based services. In prior Covid-19 relief bills, more federal match money was given to states, but that money will likely go to mandatory programs first, like hospitals, nursing homes, and other congregate institutional settings. HCBS programs are waiver programs, not mandatory, so that means HCBS programs would be less likely to see new money. So this is why it has been, and will continue to be, important to educate people that DEDICATED HCBS funding is important. Please keep up the good work telling your members of Congress that HCBS is important to you. You can use this email tool; be sure to personalize your letter with your story.

Action opportunity: help us fight for SNAP flexibility! Many people across the country are struggling to use SNAP for food deliveries. This is a critical issue because even though the amount for SNAP, or food stamps, has increased nationwide, if people cannot go to the store to use their card, they may be going hungry. There is also an effort going on to try to help make sure SNAP recipients can use their cards for food delivery service. Congress needs to hear from advocates about why using SNAP for food delivery is important. Here is an email tool you can use to contact your member of Congress about SNAP.

Following up on the short deadlines related to certain folks having to file tax returns for an economic stimulus check for their children, advocates are pushing back against setting such deadlines in too short a time frame. Regarding the economic stimulus payments for children of people with Social Security or veterans benefits, many in Congress feel that the deadline of noon Eastern that was set for today is ridiculously short. Pushback is occurring. However there is a concern that if the deadline WERE extended, then it would delay stimulus checks for all Social Security recipients until 2021. It is expected that a similar deadline will come up for SSI recipients. The effort to secure economic stimulus checks for all remains ongoing.

Thank you, once again, for your advocacy.