COVID-19 Disability Advocacy Updates from Access Living


March 19, 2020 | by Amber Smock

Dear Access Living friends and allies,

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to move rapidly, we want to share some key updates and opportunities for action. We know this is a very personally stressful period for so many people, and yet advocacy work is still going full blast. Please review carefully so you don’t miss any details.

Mutual Aid Mobilizing Spotlight: We’d like to highlight this news story about the Disability Justice Culture Club in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a great example of a local organization run by queer disabled and/or neurodivergent people of color, taking grassroots action to make personal impact.

Important Illinois DHS-DRS Updates: Yesterday, the Illinois Department of Human Services issued an announcement that it will close 120 local offices across the state on a temporary basis during the COVID-19 crisis. See the announcement at this link. For those in the Home Services Program, please be sure to read this link to know what to do while the offices are closed.

COVID-19 Federal Advocacy Moving Rapidly: Last night, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. Here is an overview of what that package does from a disability standpoint. This is the second major relief package he has signed; the first was a supplemental appropriations package that he signed on March 6. See this link from AUCD for a handy overview of the relief packages. Now, disability advocates are pushing hard for Congress’s THIRD package to include key provisions from Senator Bob Casey’s Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act.

Urgent Action Item: One thing we need your help on IMMEDIATELY is to contact your US Senators using this email tool to send a quick emails to ask your Senators to include disability items in the third package.

Where Else Can You Get Updates?: A great page where you can see the latest on federal disability advocacy on COVID-19 is from the Center for Public Representation: see this link. At the time of this writing, CPR’s staff are working to update the page with more info about the third package.

Advocating for Federal Support for CILs: Additionally, the national convening organization to which Access Living belongs, the National Council on Independent Living, is also asking Congress for $100 million for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) to support the front line work that CILs are doing in disability communities across the country. We urge our friends to support this effort by going to this action alert link and contacting their members of Congress.

About Those Checks: You may have also seen in the news that US Senator Mitt Romney has suggested that coronavirus stimulus efforts include having the federal government send everyone a $1,000 check. We have to be on guard that a check that shifts people’s income would not cause them to lose social benefits that rely on income limits or asset limits. Fortunately, our terrific disability allies in DC, plus members of Congress, have been pushing to make sure that any checks won’t damage access to benefits like SSI, Snap, Medicaid and so on.

SSA Suspends CDRs Temporarily: A piece of good news that broke yesterday is that the Social Security Administration has suspended Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) for now. You can see more in this FAQ from the SSA. What is a CDR? See this link. Disability leaders were at the forefront of asking for CDR suspensions; congrats to those leaders on this victory.

Please share this info widely with people who need to know. Thank you for your disability advocacy!