Disability Policy News

May 25, 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 25, 2020   |   Vol. MMXX, Issue 21

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 includes people with disabilities. Your education to members of Congress about the impact on people with disabilities is important during this time.

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

Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act)


Passed the House on May 15, 2020


  • Home and Community Based Services investment to support wages, services, leave, and related critical needs to support access to home and community- based services.  
  • $10,000,000 for Developmental Disabilities Act Programs
  • $10 Billion additional for nutrition services and increased flexibility to support greater access for people with disabilities
  • Requirement for CDC Field Study Pertaining to Health Inequities   
  • Specifically: "the impact of disability status on health care access and disease outcomes"

What happened last week: 

    Senate leadership has not yet expressed an interest in "taking up" or considering the legislation. It may be the case that Senate action may come in June or later. Senators continue to work introducing legislation that indicates their priorities to be included in the next package.
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 greater 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. 

      • CMS updated their recently released guidance on emergency waivers to include a reference to Olmstead - the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

US Senate logoCongressional Action

Congressional leaders are using various strategies to respond to the needs of people during COVID-19. This includes 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:

  • Senator Wyden led a letter on behalf of many Senators to the Department of Labor to clarify when workers could refuse to return to work because of unsafe conditions.
  • Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the bipartisan State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act (S. 3752) to provide billions in new funding to state and local governments that have been hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus.

Plain Language:

  • Members of the Senate are working to agree on legislation for the next relief package to help state and local governments.

What this means to you:

  • Long-term state budget strains and deficits could lead to cuts in critical support to people with disabilities.

Action Steps:

CMS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid ServicesCommitte on Health Education Labor and Pension

Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

On June 3rd, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will hold nomination hearings, including the nomination of Julie Hocker (current Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities at the Administration for Community Living (ACL)) to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy.

Plain Language:

  • The Senate is going  to  consider Julie Hocker for a new job in government in the Department of Labor.

What this means to you:

  • This is a presidential political appointed position. It would leave a leadership vacancy at ACL.

Action Steps:

AUCD Policy Talklogo of AUCD Policy Talk

"The current COVID-19 health crisis - along with unprecedented levels of unemployment, income loss, and uncertainty - has made it clear that programs like General Assistance are more critical than ever." Jennifer Wolf from Pennsylvania Health Access Network analyzes the impact of General Assistance for many, including #PWD, on this week's #AUCDPolicyTalk.

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

Vintage Episode: Joe MacBeth on Direct Support Professionals

 AUCD recognizes and thanks direct support professionals (DSPs) who work hard every day to support people with disabilities and help them be an active part of the community. #COVID19 #Policy4All


Subscribe to Updates  Browse Archived Issues


For more from AUCD, follow @AUCDNews and like AUCD on Facebook

For definitions of terms, please see AUCD's List of Policy Definitions