Disability Policy News

April 13, 2020

Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
                 April 13, 2020   |   Vol. MMXX, Issue 15

CDC COVID-19 image


Congress and the administration are responding to the COVID-19 crisis in a variety of ways. It is important in the fast-moving decision process that the various relief and safety efforts meet the needs of people with disabilities. The latest congressional COVID-19 response addressed many of those needs, but more work is needed!

Congressional Efforts:



What it means for People with Disabilities

Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

Became Law on
March 6, 2020

The bill requires that agencies "pay back" money that was moved from programs like NIDILRR and emergency heat funding when the crisis began. 

Families First Coronavirus
Response Act

Became law on March 19, 2020

Free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured. Increased paid leave. Enhanced Unemployment Insurance to people unable to work. Increased funding for food security programs.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act)



Became law on March 27, 2020

  • Allows state Medicaid programs to pay for direct support professionals to assist disabled individuals in the hospital
  • $13.5 billion available for formula grants to States, which will then distribute 90 percent of funds to local educational agencies to meet needs of all students, including students with disabilities
  • $85 million for Centers for Independent Living
  • $50 million for Aging and Disability Resource Centers
  • Extension of Money Follows the Person and Spousal Impoverishment through November 30, 2020
  • Waives nutrition requirements for Older Americans Act (OAA) meal programs during the public health emergency related to COVID-19 to ensure seniors can get meals in case certain food options are not available

Package 4

Congress has begun to work on 

Your voices are needed to make sure the needs of people with disabilities are addressed!

What happened last week: 

The Senate came back into session to try to pass a limited additional package (COVID 3.5). This package might have provided:

  • $250 billion in assistance to small businesses, with $125 billion channeled through community-based financial institutions that serve farmers, family-, women-, minority- and veteran-owned small businesses and nonprofits in rural, tribal, suburban and urban communities across our country, and improvements to ensure all eligible small businesses can access this critical funding and are not turned away by banks; 
  • $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers and health systems, providing desperately needed resources to the frontlines of this crisis, including production and distribution of national rapid testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
  • $150 billion for state and local governments to manage this crisis and mitigate lost revenue, doubling down on the investment secured in the CARES Act;
  • Strong additional support for families with a 15% increase to the maximum SNAP benefit to help put food on the table.

This effort failed as there was not bipartisan agreement

Plain Language:

  • Congress is working on bills to support people during COVID-19. They need to hear from you about the needs of people with disabilities.

What this means to you:

  • More than 105 million Americans - or about 4 in 10 adults - are at heightened risk if infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including older adults, people with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions. The front-line workers and family caregivers who support these individuals also face increased risks, requiring additional resources and supports to protect their health and well-being.

Action steps:

Action Alert: COVID-19COVID-19 Implementation

Money will be flowing to states as part of recently passed federal emergency relief legislation to support COVID-19 response efforts. AUCD shares opportunities to build relationships with key partners and stakeholders in your state and leverage funds to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Sample messaging is included to use and customize when contacting state and local partners.

Action Step:

office of the white houseAdministrative Action

The Executive branch is using its powers to respond to the growing impacts on people and the economy during COVID-19. Many of these policy changes do not require Congressional approval. 

  • The WorkforceGPS website posted federal resources to support American Job Centers in serving individuals with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Information is shared from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Administration for Community Living, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Job Accommodation Network, the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion, and more.
  • The Department of Labor issued temporary regulations to implement public health emergency leave under Title I of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and emergency paid sick leave to assist working families facing public health emergencies arising out of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic.
  • Important News: The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) will use the existing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) definition of "son or daughter." You may use EPSLA for leave to take care of your son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons. This includes children under 18 years of age and children age 18 or older who are incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.

AUCD logoAUCD Emergency Preparedness SIG and the Community Education and Dissemination Council

AUCD SIG and Council are hosting a network share of products, resources, programs, and services that UCEDDs have developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support people with disabilities and disability-related organizations. They are inviting UCEDDs across the network who would like to share their response efforts through a webinar to be broadcasted later this month.

Plain Language:

  • There is a survey to complete to share resources created that help people with disabilities during COVID-19.

What this means to you:

  • This is an opportunity to highlight the rapid response work your center is doing to meet the needs in your state. Summary and highlights will be shared with Members of Congress and Federal Agencies to support AUCD's continued ask for systems funding.

 Action Step:

  • Complete the survey to participate in this "network share" of response efforts.

hospitalRationing of Care

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights has updated a bulletin on Civil Rights Laws and HIPAA Flexibilities that apply during the COVID-19 Emergency and reached an early case resolution with Alabama removing discriminatory ventilator triaging guidelines.

Plain Language:

  • If you are experiencing discrimination know that there is guidance and help to advocate.

What this means to you:

  • Stakeholders can use this in working with states and medical professionals in developing fair and non-discriminatory plans.

Action steps:

Department of Education logo

Department of Education

The Secretary of Education must submit, within 30 days of enactment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act a report to Congress with recommendations on any additional waivers the Secretary deems necessary under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act) and other education laws. Over 70 organizations from the disability community and beyond, including AUCD, sent a letter Congressional Leadership that no additional waivers are necessary under either the IDEA or the Rehabilitation Act. 

Plain Language:

  • People are advocating for the rights of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

What this means to you:

  • Any recommendation submitted to Congress by the Secretary of Education would need to be approved and passed in legislation by Congress.

Action Steps:

  • Our friends at the National Center for Learning Disabilities created four quick documents that define key terms, share relevant laws, and give parents and educators a quick start guide to virtual learning, compiled common questions, emerging best practices, and examples of how educators, schools, districts, and states can and should move forward during this challenging time without stepping back from IDEA or civil rights:

puerto rico flagPuerto Rico

The U.S. Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Friday that allows anyone from Puerto Rico to apply for Supplemental Security Income. The decision comes after the federal government filed a lawsuit seeking to recover more than $28,000 in SSI disability benefits paid to a U.S. citizen after he moved from New York to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to care for his wife. If upheld this ruling would impact the estimated 700,000 people in Puerto Rico who would likely qualify for SSI.  The federal government will likely appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Plain Language:

  • The court system is hearing a case about if people who live in Puerto Rico can get Supplemental Security Income.

What this means to you:

  • Because the ruling from Friday will be appealed, the ability for people in Puerto Rico to get SSI has not yet changed.

checklistCampaign 2020

Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. It is now expected that Former Vice President Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee running against expected Republican nominee President Donald Trump. Presidential candidates have various policy plans that impact the disability community. Some have specific disability plans, while others have disability embedded throughout other plans. Stay informed with each. What's in it? What's not? What could this mean to you?

Democratic Candidate:

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Republican Candidates:

President Donald Trump

Action Step:

  • We need to continue to support people with disabilities, families and supporters to get out the disability vote.
  • Learn more about voting from our plain language guide and Tuesdays with Liz episodes:
  • Ask the presidential candidates on social media how they will meet the needs of people with disabilities:
    • Sample posts:
      • [@JoeBiden or @realDonaldTrump] what is your disability policy plan? #CriptheVote #RevUp

AUCD Policy Talklogo of AUCD Policy Talk

"We know that we are supposed to be social distancing. We know that we shouldn't have guests in our home. We know we shouldn't go outside right now. We listen, and we know all of this, but what else do we know?" Read today's #AUCDPolicyTalk as Jamie Ray-Leonetti and Frank Leonetti share their experiences of living with a disability during #Coronavirus. #WhatWeNeed #COVID19 #WeAreEssential

Action Steps:

AUCD logoLove Policy? We do too!

Check out AUCD's new policy resource, a one-page fact sheet to help explain AUCD's policy efforts, and engage with us today!


Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz Weintraub

Tuesdays With Liz

Person-centered Planning with Autistic Leader Nicole LeBlanc

Person-centered planning is when a person with a disability is in control of their choices with the support and help that they choose. Autistic leader Nicole LeBlanc shares with Liz why person-centered planning is important.


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For definitions of terms, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms