Disability Policy News

August 10, 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)
                 August 10, 2020   |   Vol. MMXX, Issue 32


This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically.Action Alert: COVID-19 Relief Package 4

Congressional leaders remain at a stalemate over the next COVID-19 relief package and it remains unclear when or even if legislation will be passed. Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met for negotiations with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and the Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin several times last week, but both sides have shown an unwillingness to compromise. Rep. Pelosi and Senator Schumer continue to work from the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), which passed the House in early May, and have indicated they will not accept a package that does not include continued unemployment payments at $600/week. Meanwhile, Republicans remain divided over the need to even pass further aid, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that any proposal must include sweeping liability shields for businesses to protect them against coronavirus-related lawsuits. Members of both the House and Senate returned to their home states over the weekend for the August recess, further indicating that Congressional leaders are nowhere close to a final deal. 

Of note to the disability community, Senator Casey (D-PA) led 41 other Democratic Senators in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell last week urging him to include money for Medicaid in the next relief package, including for home- and community-based services (HCBS). The letter also outlined the harmful impact sweeping liability waivers to civil rights laws would have on people with disabilities and other marginalized communities, and asked the Majority Leader to abandon such measures. 

On Saturday August 8, President Trump signed a series of executive actions intended to extend and expand COVID-19 relief, including to suspend payroll tax collectionprevent evictionscontinue student loan deferrals through at least the end of the year and provide for partially reviving expanded unemployment insurance. It is not clear the legal authority under which the president was acting in taking these actions. Their impact remains unclear. 

Comparison of topics directly impacting people with disabilities: 


 HEROES Act (H.R.6800)


AUCD Priority

Liability Wavers


Five-year shield from corona-virus related lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title I, unless an entity - like a business, school or government agency - engaged in "gross negligence" or "intentional misconduct."

No liability waivers under ADA and other civil rights legislation.


$90 billion in funding for schools, none tied to IDEA. 

$105 billion in funding for schools, none tied to IDEA.  

$12 billion in funding specifically for IDEA.  

Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS)

Investment to support wages, services, leave, and related critical needs to support access.


$20 billion in funding for HCBS.

Developmental Disabilities network

$10 million for Developmental Disabilities Act Programs (UCEDDS, P&As, DD Councils).

$10 million for Protection and Advocacy Agencies. 


 $2 million for unspecified Technical Assistance.

$30 million for Developmental Disabilities Act Programs (UCEDDS, P&As, DD Councils).


 $10 billion for nutrition services and increased flexibility to support greater access for people with disabilities.

Requirement for CDC Field Study Pertaining to Health Inequities, including "the impact of disability status on health care access and disease outcomes."

Forms bipartisan Congressional "rescue committees" to recommend plans for shoring up Social Security and Medicare.



Plain Language:

  •  Republicans and Democrats have very different ideas for the next COVID-19 package. Congress and the White House are working together to decide which parts of each plan to use for a final package, but they have not made much progress. The President took some actions, but we don't know if this will change anything.

What this means to you:

  • It is very possible that Congress will not spend any money to help people with disabilities and the people who support them. It is also possible that Congress will pass a law that takes away some civil rights protections during COVID-19. You can call or email Congress to tell them about how COVID-19 has changed your life, for example your housing, services, health, school, or work. Every call and email matters.

Action Steps:

  • For a broader comparison of the HEROES Act vs the HEALS Act, view these charts developed by the New York Times.
  • Read the full statement from AUCD urging action to protect civil rights.
  • Check out the updated Action Alert from AUCD for more details on how to contact your members of Congress and what to say when you do.
  • Email or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 (voice) or (202) 224-3091(tty) and ask to be connected to your Senators and Representatives.

seal of the president of the United States, color Executive Order on Telehealth

President Trump signed an Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access in response to the unique challenges of rural communities when seeking healthcare. The order directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to extend telehealth services offered to Medicare beneficiaries beyond the public health emergency and to streamline payment for some Medicare services in rural areas. The order further commissions a report on policies to improve healthcare access and quality of care for rural communities, as well as mandates the development and implementation of physical and communications healthcare infrastructures. This focus on rural healthcare is part of President Trump’ wider appeal to rural communities in the upcoming election, which he views as the backbone of his base.

Plain Language:

  • President Trump wants to make it easier for people in rural areas to get the healthcare they need. He made a rule that people with Medicare can still use telehealth after COVID-19 ends. 
    • Telehealth is when a person can have a doctors appointment through the phone or a video call.

What it means to you:

The disability community has long been advocating for the expansion of telehealth to help people with disabilities receive healthcare from their homes. This is good news for many people who have trouble accessing their doctors because of health conditions, transportation, remote location, or another reason. 

Action steps:

  • Read the Executive Order from the White House.
  • For more information on telehealth, see this fact sheet from the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University. 

Prescription Medication RX bottle

The National Council on Disability released a statement opposing the use of the International Pricing Index (IPI) to determine the cost of medications in the United States. The statement comes following a series of executive orders signed by President Trump last month that aim to lower the prices of prescription drugs. It is unclear if the orders will have much effect, as both drug makers and market experts indicate that they could prove difficult to implement. This statement underscores the continued concern from the disability community about the dangers of using discriminatory metrics like quality-adjusted life years in drug pricing.

Plain Language:

  • The President signed an order that uses quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) to set drug prices. The disability community opposes using the quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) used in other countries because they can increase discrimination against people with disabilities in healthcare.
    • An executive order is a type of written instruction that presidents use without input from Congress or judges. Executive orders can only be given to federal agencies, not to citizens.

What it means to you:

  • The executive orders may be hard to implement, so Congress and both Presidential campaigns need to hear from you about your concerns that they could increase discrimination.  

Action Steps:

black and white image of capitol domeThe Senate 

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced a bill called the Mentoring to Succeed Act (S.4407) to increase federal funding for school-based mentoring programs to serve at-risk youth. The five-year grant program would support partnerships between school-based programs and community partners to help at-risk youth succeed in school, overcome adversity and trauma, and transition to postsecondary education and the workforce. 'At-risk youth’ is broadly defined in the legislation and includes students with disabilities. The Act would amend the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (P.L.109-270), which was last reauthorized in 2018 with bipartisan support. Of note, the AUCD has endorsed the Mentoring to Succeed Act.

Plain Language:

  • Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth want to help students that face challenges do well in school, work, and life. Their plan is to give more money to school programs that connect a mentor with a student. 
    • mentor is a person who supports another person to reach their goals by giving advice and setting a good example.
    What it means to you:

  • The Act would support many children, including those with disabilities, to succeed in school, work, and life.

    Action Steps:

  • Read the full text of the Mentoring to Succeed Act.
  • Read more about the benefits of mentoring for youth with disabilities from the Office of Disability Employment Policy. 

judge's gavel, black and white Public Charge

The Department of Justice issued a hold on the public charge rule after an injunction issued by the federal district court of New York earlier this month. The decision stops the rule from being implemented, applied, or enforced nationwide for the duration of the national public health emergency as declared by the Trump administration, or until either the 2nd Circuit or Supreme Court overturn it.  

 Plain Language:

  • A court decided the public charge rule cannot be enforced during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
    • A public charge is a person who wants to become a United States citizen and has either used public benefits from the government before or might need them in the future. Public benefits are programs like Medicaid or SNAP Food Benefits. 
    • The public charge rule tries to stop people who are considered public charges from becoming United States citizens. 
What it means to you:

  • Pausing the rule helps stop confusion and uncertainty in the immigration system for people hoping to become United States citizens, including people with disabilities.

Action Steps:

hand putting ballot in box Voting 2020

Election 2020 is rapidly approaching! And with the primaries coming to an end and the 2020 general election coming soon, it’s time to get down to business! For all voters it’s crucial to understand the dynamic process that is voting. AUCD encourages everyone to get engaged. Your vote is needed and your voice can make a difference by helping others vote!

Plain Language:

  • It is time to make sure you are registered and ready to vote in the upcoming election. 

What it means to you:

  • We encourage you to use tools to be ready and to help others be ready to vote. 

Voting tools and resources:

Action Steps:

  • Get registered or confirm your registration.
  • Plan how best to vote this year.
  • Learn about candidates.
  • VOTE.

logo of AUCD Policy TalkAUCD Policy Talk

“Frank and I don’t know all the answers, but we do know one thing. His personal care attendants have continued to show up for us, every day since this pandemic began. They are our heroes.”

This week on AUCD Policy Talk we reflect on the incredibly important care and services provided every day by personal care attendants in a post by Jamie Ray-Leonetti, Associate Director of Policy at Temple University Institute on Disabilities. Funding the Medicaid-funded home- and community-based services (HCBS) that employ many personal care attendants is crucial to ensuring their continued health and safety, as well as the health and safety of the people they serve.

Action Steps:

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz Weintraub

Tuesdays With Liz

Racism is a disability issue. For a second time, Liz talks with AUCD Board President Sachin Pavithran about race and disability. Sachin is also the Policy Specialist at the Center for Persons with Disabilities, a UCEDD at Utah State University. We also encourage you to read AUCD’s statement on the death of George Floyd.


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