Disability Policy News

December 14, 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)
                 December 14, 2020   |   Vol. MMXX, Issue 48

three dollar bills, black and whiteAppropriations

Congress passed and the president signed a bipartisan continuing resolution (CR) (H.R.8900to fund the federal government through December 18th. The CR funds the government for an additional week past the previous CR deadline of December 11th, as lawmakers continue to negotiate a larger spending bill for Fiscal Year 2021. In addition to extending funding at Fiscal Year 2020 levels, the CR extends health programs such as Money Follows the Person and Spousal Impoverishment Protections.

The House previously passed a set of appropriations bills to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2021 totaling $1.3 trillion (H.R.7617). The Senate released their own proposed funding measures in early November, but have not formally introduced any legislation. Negotiations continue between the Democratic-led House and the Republican-led Senate with the goal of a large, omnibus bill to fund the government through the full Fiscal Year 2021, which ends September 30, 2021.

Funding levels related to AUCD:


FY2020 Funding

AUCD FY2021 Ask

House-passed Appropriations, 7/31/2020 (H.R.7617)

Senate-proposed funding, FY2021







language says LEND but no LEND number 






















Plain language:

  • The federal government has funding until December 18th. A funding bill needs to be passed by Congress and signed by President Trump by December 18th, or else the federal government will shut down. Congress is trying to pass a bill that will fund the government until September 30th, 2021.
    • A ‘shut down' is when the federal government has to close down because Congress has not passed a bill to pay for it.
What it means to you:

  • It is important that the federal government passes a funding bill and stays open so that people can continue to access government services. This money is spent on different programs that support education, healthcare, job training, housing, and more, including the AUCD network.

Action steps:

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.COVID-19 Relief

Lawmakers continue to negotiate COVID-19 relief legislation. The bipartisan group of lawmakers who introduced a $908 billion plan for COVID-19 relief have yet to finalize the legislative text, as Democrats continue to reject COVID-19 liability shields for businesses and Republicans refuse funding for state and local governments. The White House also released a COVID-19 relief proposal last week totaling $916 billion, but it was immediately rejected by Democratic leadership for not including enough provisions for unemployment insurance. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have stated that any COVID-19 relief should be attached to an omnibus appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2021.

Comparison of topics directly impacting people with disabilities:



 HEROES Act 2.0



'Skinny' relief bill

(S.A. 2652)

Bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Framework


AUCD Priority



Passed the House on 5/15/20.

Voted down in the Senate on 9/10/20.

Announced on 12/1/20.


Cost: $2.2 trillion $500 billion $908 billion  


Liability Wavers


Five-year shield from coronavirus related lawsuits.

Short-term federal protection from COVID-19 related lawsuits.

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.  

$82 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.



 Disabilities network

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



$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."


$26 billion to be split between nutrition services and agriculture.





Plain language:

  • Congress is trying to pass another COVID-19 relief package before going on their holiday break at the end of the week.

What it means to you:

  • It is unlikely that Congress will pass a COVID-19 relief bill that includes funding to help people with disabilities and the people who support them. 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:

  • Read an outline of the $908 billion Bipartisan COVID-19 Relief framework.
  • Learn more about the Heroes 2.0 Act:
  • Learn more about the ‘skinny' relief bill:
  • Check out a breakdown of the COVID-19 emergency relief framework.
  • Read the Action Alert from AUCD for more details on how to contact your members of Congress and what to say when you do.
  • Educate your members of Congress and their staff about how important it is the COVID- relief meets the needs of people with disability and their families.
    • 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.
    • You can use this easy tool to find your members of Congress.
  • Share AUCD's top priorities and your stories about the impact of COVID-19 on your life with your members of Congress. 

Seal of the President of the United States, eagle with blue background

Presidential Transition

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris continue to announce White House Senior Staff and their nominees for high-level political appointments. In the White House, President-elect Biden has announced Ron Klain as his Chief of Staff and Jen Psaki as Press Secretary. Vice President-elect Harris has chosen Hartina Flournoy as her Chief of Staff. The incoming administration has also announced high-level nominees for appointments overseeing healthcare, including including Xavier Becerra for Secretary of Health and Human ServicesDr. Vivek Murthy for Surgeon General, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky for Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The transition team has also announced a slew of nominees for domestic affairs, including Secretary Tom Vilsack for Secretary of AgricultureCongresswoman Marcia Fudge for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Denis McDonough for Secretary of Veteran Affairs.

Plain language:

  • President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and their staffs are working to be ready to start work on January 20, 2020. Part of getting ready is choosing people to hire for jobs across the government.

What it means to you:

  • A transition creates change in federal policy that impacts the lives of people with disabilities and their families, following the transition and learning about who is working on issues you care about can help prepare us to share our expertise and voices.

Action steps:

medical injection needle and calendar, black and white

COVID-19 Vaccine

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination for immediate, emergency use late Friday evening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued guidelines as to who should be Phase 1 vaccination priorities. It is states, however, that designate priorities. In the coming weeks federal, state, and local entities will continue to update guidance and plans related to distribution. The voices of advocacy will continue to be needed to educate and ensure the vaccine is equitably distributed and that everyone has the information they need to understand their vaccination decision.

Plain language:

  • There is now a vaccine that can stop you from getting sick from COVID-19. It will take many months for everyone to get vaccinated. You can help by learning about the vaccine and sharing good information.
What this means to you:

  • Officials and the public will need information to make sure that vaccine is equitably distributed.

Action Steps:

    black symbol of building to look like hospitalMaternal Health

    The Senate is considering a pair of House-passed bills aimed at improving maternal health before the end of the current term on Friday. The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act of 2020 (H.R.4995) expands rural obstetric networks through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to improve outcomes in birth and maternal morbidity. The Helping MOMS Act of 2020 (H.R.4996) allows states to extend postpartum coverage from 60 days to one year under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Both bills passed the House of Representatives in September with bipartisan, unanimous support.

    Plain language:

  • Congress might pass legislation to provide better healthcare to new moms before the end of the year.
What this means to you:

  • Quality healthcare for pregnant women and new moms is important for the health of women and children with and without disabilities.
Action steps:

  • Learn more about the bills:
    • Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act of 2020 (H.R.4995)
    • Helping MOMS Act of 2020 (H.R.4996)
  • Read a letter urging Congressional action on the legislation from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs and signed by AUCD.
    • Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 (voice) or (202) 224-3091(tty) and ask to be connected to the offices of your Senators and Representatives.
    • Or send an email to your lawmakers using this tool from March of Dimes.

logo for Administration for Community Living; three people in a circle, red, blue, and yellow, next to the blue letters ACL. Administration for community Living in blue underneathLifespan Respite Care Services

The House of Representatives passed the Lifespan Respite Reauthorization bill (H.R.8906), which supports state lifespan respite care services for family caregivers of children and adults with disabilities. The legislation authorizes $50 million for lifespan respite over 5 years through block grants monitored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A companion bill previously passed in the Senate (S.995), and the House-passed version is expected to pass the Senate this week.

Plain language:

  • Congress is working on a bill to give more money to programs that provide respite care to family members of children and adults with disabilities.
    • Respite care means temporary programs or support workers that fill in for full-time caregivers to give them a break.
Action steps:

logo of AUCD Policy TalkAUCD Policy Talk
Feeling excited about policy and advocacy after the #AUCD2020 Conference?! Write a post for the AUCD Policy Talk blog! We accept submissions on a variety of topics related to disability policy, including education, healthcare, transportation, stories of advocacy, and more! 

Action steps:

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz Weintraub
Tuesdays with Liz

Keeping a healthy lifestyle is important for everyone, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. LEND and UCEDD Director Dr. Carol Curtin of the Shriver Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School speaks to Liz about her work with the Healthy Weight Research Network. Learn more at www.hwrn.org.