Disability Policy News

May 4, 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)
                 May 4, 2020   |   Vol. MMXX, Issue 18

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

Paycheck Protection Program and Heath Care Enhancement Act

Became law on April 24, 2020

  • $321 billion to refill the CARES Act's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
  • $60 billion in economic disaster loans for small businesses
  • $75 billion to help hospitals treat COVID-19 patients and address drops in revenue
  • $25 billion for states to increase testing capabilities

Package 4

Congress has begun work 

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

What happened last week: 

    Congress continues to work on a larger Package 4 to meet the growing needs of Americans. The Senate returns to DC this week and the House is working on virtual platforms to hold session. 

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 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:

office of the white house

Administrative 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 Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued updated guidance for people receiving SSI with dependents eligible for COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments. SSI recipients who did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019 and who have dependents must submit additional information using the IRS's Non-Filer tool by Tuesday, May 5, 2020, to receive the full amount of their Economic Impact Payments as soon as possible. Eligible SSI recipients will start receiving their automatic payments directly from the Treasury Department in early May.
  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos submitted her report to Congress required by the CARES Act, saying learning must continue for all students and does not recommend waivers to IDEA. 
  • The White House established the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes. Read more about the investments and actions being taken for seniors and people with disabilities in nursing homes.


Congressional Action

Congressional leaders are using various strategies to respond to the needs of people during COVID-19. This includes introducing new legislation and issuing letters to federal agencies and Congressional leadership requesting clarification, guidance, and public statements for the record that the needs of people with disabilities are included in Package 4. These include:

  • Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García (D-IL) introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2020 (H.R.6637). This legislation reforms policies and expands federal health care resources for racial and ethnic minorities, as well as other underserved populations who face discrimination and barriers to care due to their immigration status, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and English language skills.
  • Senate Democrats (Warren, Casey, Gillibrand, Hassan, Brown, Duckworth, Markey and Baldwin) sent a letter to House and Senate leadership about priorities for the next COVID19 relief package. It includes a focus on HCBS funding, protecting civil rights of people with disabilities, and access to PPE. 
  • Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) introduced Strengthening COVID- 19 Unemployment Insurance (UI) Protections (H.R.6680) which would make changes to the UI provisions and strengthen the CARES Act.
  • Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA-03) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation, the "Relaunching America's Workforce Act" (H.R. 6646), to  authorize funding to help workers quickly re-enter the workforce. This bill includes authorizing $500 million to support training and temporary employment responding to the COVID-19 national emergency, including for health care, direct care and frontline workers.


The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education will hold a hearing on COVID-19 Response on May 6th.

Plain Language:

  • Members of Congress are meeting to talk about appropriations for the next budget.

What this means to you:

  • This subcommittee oversees appropriations for AUCD priority programs. 

Action steps:

VR 100 Vocational Rehabilitation 1920-2020Vocational Rehabilitation Services

The U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) submitted a report to Congress regarding the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) called The State Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program Before and After Enactment of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014. This report summarizes trends in the performance of the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program with respect to the characteristics of individuals served, the services they received, and the employment outcomes they achieved using data collected and reported by VR agencies to RSA within the Department prior to and following the enactment of WIOA. The report also describes the technical assistance RSA has provided to the State VR agencies as they have implemented the changes to the VR program made by WIOA.

Plain Language:
  • The federal government wrote a paper on how employment services are for people with disabilities.

What this means to you:
  • This report is useful to learn the trends on services since WIOA.

Action Steps:
  • Read the report.
  • Share with your Members of Congress this report and your state's employment data and work for your center.

Department of Health & Human Services USA picture of eagle with three faces overlayed to make it look like an eagleDepartment of Health and Human Services

A letter from Attorney Generals from California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin was sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging it not to finalize its proposed regulation, "Nondiscrimination in Health and Health Education Programs or Activities" (Section 1557 Rule).  The letter says that the plan proposed would (a) undermine critical protections that prohibit discrimination; (b)  risk restricting access to care at a dangerous time; and (c) directly conflicts with the Office of Management and Budget's directive to focus on "mission critical work." 

Plain Language:

  • A letter was sent to the federal government saying they should not complete a regulation on discrimination in healthcare systems.

What this means to you:

  • Discrimination within the healthcare system leads to poor coverage and health outcomes. Individuals who have experienced discrimination in healthcare like people with disabilities often postpone or forgo needed healthcare, resulting in poorer health outcomes. HHS moving forward with this rule during a national pandemic could create unnecessary confusion and administrative burdens for state agencies, healthcare providers, and patients.

Action Steps:

capitol domeCongressional Updates

Following a special election for Maryland's vacant Seventh District Congressional seat, which was formerly held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, Kweisi Mfume (D) will serve out the remainder of Cummings' term, which ends Jan. 3. Mfume also seeks a full two-year term and is on the ballot for the state's June primary. Mfume previously represented Maryland's 7th Congressional District for five terms, beginning in 1987.

AUCD Policy Talklogo of AUCD Policy Talk

These are unprecedented and uncertain times for parents, students, school systems, teachers and related service providers, but we must protect every child with a disability's right to a free and appropriate public education. On #AUCDPolicyTalk, Kennedy Krieger Institute director Maureen Van Stone shares about ensuring equitable access to remote learning for students with disabilities. #WhatWeNeed #WeAreEssential #myideamatters Read the full blog post.

Action Steps:

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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

Vote By Mail With Liz

When you don't want to leave the house, you can choose to use an absentee ballot and vote by mail! It is so important that you vote in a way that works best for you so that your voice is heard!

Here are some helpful resources that Liz mentions in this video:


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