Disability Policy News

January 11, 2021


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)
                 January 21, 2021   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 1

black and white image of capitol dome

Omnibus and COVID-19 Relief Package

After a delay that created a gap in access to unemployment support for many Americans, President Trump signed the end-of-year Budget and COVID Package on December 27, 2020. The package funds all parts of the government for Fiscal Year 2021, provides some additional resources and relief to respond to the impacts of the COVID epidemic ,and extends key programs.

Plain language:

  • At the end of last year a large bill was passed and signed into law that funds government programs, helps some people who are hurt by COVID, and continues some programs. 
What it means to you:

  • Adults who are not dependents and who do not make more than $75,000 a year will get a stimulus payment of $600.
  • States will be able to provide additional weeks of unemployment benefits to people who are out of work.
  • Government funded grants and programs, including those that support UCEDDS, LENDs, and IDDRCs will continue to be funded.
  • States will be able to continue or start Money Follows the Person projects that will help people leave institutions and nursing homes to live in the community.

Action steps:

  • Read the full Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
  • Reach out to members of Congress to educate them on the value and impact of funded programs such as UCEDDs, LENDs, and IDDRCs.
  • Learn more about the appropriations process from AUCD.
  • Contact your Members of Congress to share what needs still exist and need to be addressed in the ongoing COVID emergency.
  • Share AUCD's top priorities and your stories about the impact of COVID-19 on your life with your Members of Congress.

black and white image of capitol dome
Insurrection and Aftermath

On Wednesday, a group of supporters of President Trump led a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol Building and took control of the building for several hours. Both chambers of Congress and Vice President Pence, who were in the process of certifying the Electoral College votes, were escorted to safety. The U.S. Capitol Police regained control after several hours with the help of DC Metro Police and other police and national guard units sent by neighboring states. Four rioters and one member of the U.S. Capitol Police have died as a result of the events.

Congress returned to work late Wednesday evening and certified the Electoral College results of the 2020 Presidential election despite the objections of over 100 Republican lawmakers. This typically routine process is the final step before President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are inaugurated on January 20th.

Lawmakers of both political parties have since called for President Trump's immediate removal, citing his role in inciting the attack, either through his resignation, impeachment or the 25th Amendment. Several White House staff members and two Cabinet members - Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos - have also stepped down. Federal authorities continue to investigate and arrest those who participated in the attack.

Plain language:

  • Congress has made it official that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be the next President and Vice President. A group of Trump supporters tried to stop this from happening by taking over the U.S. Capitol Building. Many lawmakers want President Trump to stop being President early and some people who work for the President have quit.
What it means to you:

  • The impact of the events of this week are not yet fully understood. Our personal and collective efforts will be important to the future of our democracy.
Action steps:

black and white image of capitol dome
117th Congress

The 117th Congress officially began work on January 3rd, 2021. Democrats will retain control of the House of Representatives with 222 seats compared to the 211 Republican seats (note: 2 vacancies). Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) secured a fourth term as Speaker of the House in a narrow vote largely along party lines.

In the Senate, the Democrats have officially gained the majority following the wins of two Democratic candidates in the January 5th Senate runoff elections in Georgia. Reverend Raphael and Jon Ossoff will replace the two Republican incumbents to create a 50-50 party split in the Senate. Vice President-elect Harris, serving in her capacity as President of the Senate, provides the tiebreaker for a Democratic majority. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will serve as Senate Majority Leader and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will serve as Senate Minority Leader, reversing their roles in the previous Congress.

Plain language:

  • The new 117th Congress started work on January 3rd. The House of Representatives has more Democratic lawmakers and is led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Senate will have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, but will be led by Democrats because Vice President-elect Harris is a Democrat and can vote to break ties.
What it means to you:

  • It is important to know which political party has the majority of seats in the House and Senate because the majority decides leaders, committee assignments for members, and the schedule for introducing and voting on legislation. Following these decisions and learning about who is working on issues you care about can help prepare you to share your expertise and voice.
Action steps:

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 their nominees for high-level political appointments ahead of Inauguration Day. Recently announced nominations include Dr. Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education, Judge Merrick Garland for Attorney General, Lisa Monaco for Deputy Attorney General, Vanita Gupta for Associate Attorney General, and Kristen Clarke for Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division

President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be sworn into office on Wednesday, January 20th, 2021, on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. While the ceremony will be in-person, many of the celebrations that traditionally take place following the event will be virtual.

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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated their list of underlying conditions that put adults at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to include Down syndrome. Many states are relying upon the CDC guidance to inform their vaccine allocation and distribution plans. This update may allow for adults with Down syndrome in your state to receive the vaccine more quickly.

Plain language:

  • The CDC says that adults with Down syndrome have a high chance of getting very sick if they get COVID-19. 
What this means to you:

  • Adults with Down syndrome might be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner now. Check your state COVID-19 vaccine plans to learn more about when you can get the vaccine.
Action Steps:

logo of AUCD Policy TalkAUCD Policy Talk
"Thanks in part to the services I get through a Medicaid Waiver, my disability hasn't stopped me from achieving similar achievements and goals to those of my brother and his friends."

This week on Policy Talk, Adrian Forsythe Korzeniewicz, a self-advocate and Advocacy Program Specialist at a national disability rights organization, shares the positive impact that Medicaid Waivers have had on his life.

Action steps:

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

On this week's vintage #TWL, Liz talks to AUCD Executive Director John Tschida about who he is and why he is proud of the AUCD network.

Note: At the time this interview was recorded, John Tschida was serving as Acting Executive Director.