Disability Policy News

February 16, 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)
                 February 16, 2021   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 6

AUCD logo that is a blue circle with lines, red lines radiating from the circle. uppercase letters AUCD in blue above red letters Action AlertAction Alert: #MedicaidCantWait Day of Action 

AUCD is partnering with other organizations in the disability community for a national day of action tomorrow, Wednesday, February 17th, in support of COVID-19 relief for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS). These Medicaid-funded services are critical to helping people with disabilities remain in their homes and communities safely. People are currently being asked to stay home, yet this results in avoiding the community organizations that support them. Further investment is needed for people with disabilities and the direct support professionals who serve them to keep everyone safe and healthy.

We ask you to call your Representative and both Senators and ask that they support the inclusion of HCBS funds in the current COVID-19 relief negotiations. You can also tweet at your Members of Congress with the ask and the hashtag: #MedicaidCantWait. We know that funding for HCBS has been included in negotiations on past COVID-19 relief packages but never made it across the finish line, so it is crucial this system finally gets the funding it so desperately needs!

Plain language:

  • Tomorrow, February 17th, is a day of action in the disability community. We ask you to call your two Senators and Representative and tell them why it is important that Medicaid Home- and Community-Based Services get money in COVID-19 relief.

What it means to you:

  • You can help people with disabilities who live in the community and the direct service professionals who support them get the things they need to stay safe and healthy during COVID-19. Be sure to call your Senators and Representative tomorrow!

Action steps:

  • Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 17th, email, call, and tweet at your two Senators and Representative and tell them #MedicaidCantWait.
  • 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.
  • Sample call script: 
Hi, my name is (NAME), and I'm from (CITY, STATE).

I am (calling / writing) to urge you to make sure dedicated funding for Medicaid home and community based services is included in the final COVID-19 package. It is critical that you include the needs of disabled people in this package. 
We have seen rampant rates of infection and death in congregate settings. Many disabled people rely on HCBS to live in their own homes, but people are struggling to stay there. Without more funding, many more people will be forced into nursing homes and other congregate settings, where they will be at much greater risk of catching COVID-19. The need for dedicated HCBS funding is more urgent than ever.
Thank you for your time. I hope I can count on you to protect your disabled constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(your name)

[IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL OR EMAILING: please leave your full street address and zip code. This will ensure your call or email is tallied]

  • Sample tweets:
Congress must fund Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services to meet the emergency needs of people with disabilities and older adults living in the community. #MedicaidCantWait #whatweneed
People with disabilities & older adults rely on a network of services to stay in their homes and communities. They are asked to stay home during #COVID19, but this means avoiding the community organizations that serve them. We need investment in Medicaid #HCBS. #MedicaidCantWait
  • Note: it is important to include the Twitter handles of your Senators and Representative in your tweet to make sure they see it. You can find their Twitter handles by typing their names into the Twitter search box.

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 move ahead with the process of budget reconciliation for COVID-19 relief. Committees in the House of Representatives have begun the process of marking-up proposed funding lines and language. This process is expected to continue throughout the next week with the goal of full House and Senate votes before March 14th when enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) is set to end.

COVID-19 relief issues impacting the disability community: 



 Biden Proposal

Budget Reconciliation



Funding for Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS)


Budget reconciliation includes 7.35% FMAP increase for HCBS for one year.

$9.7 billion COVID HCBS Relief Act reintroduced (H.R.525, S.151).


Adult dependents included in Economic Impact Payments



Proposal for legislation from Sen. Smith (D-MN) and Rep. Craig (D-MN).


Funding for Developmental Disabilities (DD) Network





Funding tied to individuals with Education in Disabilities Act (IDEA)



Supporting Children with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act (S.240).  

Budget reconciliation allows lawmakers to pass a relief package with only a simple majority. Democrats currently hold the majorities in both the House and Senate. While lawmakers work through the budget reconciliation process, it is also possible that they will be able to negotiate a COVID-19 relief package passed through the typical legislative. President Biden and a bipartisan group of lawmakers continue to work on a potential COVID-19 relief package in place of the budget resolution. A bipartisan approach will require agreement of 60 Senators instead of the 50 Senators needed for budget reconciliation. 

Plain language:

  • Congress is working to pass COVID-19 relief. The goal is to pass it in March.
What it means to you:

  • Right now, there is some funding for the disability community in the COVID-19 relief proposal. However, continued advocacy will be needed to make sure that funding is passed. Now is the time to contact your Members of Congress and tell them what you need, for example your Home- and Community-Based Services, stimulus payments, or education.
Action steps:

blue background with letters C-D-C in white. the words Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in blue underneathCenters for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new masking guidance to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. The guidance highlights the importance of good fit to increase the efficacy of masks in reducing exposure to and spreading of COVID-19. The CDC recommends the follow mask options:

  • Wear a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask
  • Wear a medical procedure mask with knotted ear loops and tucked-in sides
  • Wear a mask fitter with a cloth mask
  • Wear a nylon covering over a mask
The CDC also issued an Order at the beginning of February that people wear masks on all public transportation and at transportation hubs.

Plain language:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that everyone wear two masks to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
What it means to you:

  • You should now wear two masks when you are outside your home to stay safe and protect others.
Action steps:

medical injection needle and calendar, black and whiteCOVID-19 Vaccine

President Biden announced the launch of a Community Health Centers Vaccination Program to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in underserved communities. Beginning February 15th, the federal government will ship vaccines directly to Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQHC) funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The phased program will begin with one FQHC in every state and expand to 250 health centers nationwide. Vaccines shipped directly to these Centers will be in addition to the weekly state-distributed allocations. The announcement followed a release of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing alarming racial disparities in doses administered thus far.

The Administration also announced a 5% increase in weekly vaccine supply to states, tribes, and territories beginning last week.

Plain language:

  • The federal government is starting a new program to give COVID-19 vaccines to people living in communities that have not yet gotten a lot of vaccines.
What it means to you:

  • It is important that people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and locations get a COVID-19 vaccine if we are all going to be safe.
Action steps:

Seal of the President of the United States, eagle with blue backgroundBiden-Harris Administration

Appointments and confirmations to staff the new administration continue. To date the following Cabinet Level positions have received Senate confirmation:

  • Secretary of the Treasury: Janet Yellen
  • Secretary of Defense: Lloyd Austin
  • Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines
  • Secretary of State: Antony Blinken
  • Secretary of Transportation: Pete Buttigieg
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas
Additional White House appointment announcements include:

  • New members of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, including Andy Imparato, the former Executive Director of AUCD.
  • Kimberly Knackstedt has joined the Domestic Policy Council as Director of Disability Policy.
Plain language:

  • President Biden continues to appoint people who will serve our country during his administration.
What it means to you:

  • The transition creates new leaders in federal agencies. The work of these agencies will create changes in federal policy that impacts the lives of people with disabilities and their families.
Action steps:

  • Continue to follow news from the Biden Administration at whitehouse.gov.

black and white image of capitol dome

The second impeachment trial of former president Donald J. Trump began in the Senate on Tuesday. Former president Trump was charged by the House of Representatives with the single charge of incitement of insurrection following the brief takeover by his supporters of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6th. Both the House Impeachment Managers, acting as prosecution, and former president Trump's defense team provided their opening arguments and responded to questions submitted by Senators over several days. Following closing arguments on Saturday, the Senate acquitted former president Trump with 57 Senators voting guilty and 43 Senators voting not guilty.

Plain language:

  • The second impeachment trial for Donald Trump ended with the former president not being found guilty.
Action steps:

Seal of the United States Department of Education, colorU.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education released new guidance on how schools can reopen safely. The Covid-19 Handbook Volume 1: Strategies for Safely Reopening Schools provides examples, tools, and roadmaps to support educators and staff in implementing the CDC's recommended safe practices for in-person learning. This first volume covers masking practices, physical distancing practices, and a roadmap for stakeholder engagement. A second volume with additional guidance is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Plain language:

  • The U.S. Department of Education has a new resource to help schools reopen safely.
What it means to you:

  • It is important that schools receive guidance on how to reopen in a way that is safe and helpful for students and educators with disabilities, many of whom have underlying medical conditions that can make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
Action steps:

AUCD logo AUCD Disability Policy Fellowship

The application is now open for the AUCD 2021-2022 Disability Policy Fellowship. The purpose of the Fellowship is to provide significant experiences in national level activities related to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and AUCD administration. This is a paid full-time, one-year position beginning June 2021. The position offers a competitive salary and has the option to be located either in-person at the AUCD Silver Spring office or remote.

Applicants should submit a letter of interest explaining their reasons for wanting to become a Fellow, what they hope to get out of the fellowship, and how they plan to use the knowledge and skills gained. Please include a current resume and at least three letters of reference. A recent writing sample will be accepted but is not required. Please send all documents as attachments via e-mail only to: Rylin Rodgers, Director of Public Policy, at [email protected].

Plain language:

  • The application for the AUCD 2021-2022 Disability Policy Fellowship is now open. You need to apply by March 30th. 
Action steps:

outline of U.S. Capitol Building in blueDisability Policy Seminar

The Disability Policy Seminar and the pre-DPS events for the AUCD network will be entirely virtual this year.

  • The AUCD events will be virtual on March 19 and April 16. You may register for those free events now. 
  • Disability Policy Seminar will be April 19, 2021 to April 22, 2021. The cost to students and self-advocates is $135, and $225 for all others. Stay tuned for a full schedule and registration!
The Disability Policy Seminar offers the opportunity for passionate advocates, self-advocates, experts, and professionals in the field to come together and learn about key federal issues that affect them most. After a wide range of sessions offering training and learning, participants will learn how best to engage with their Members of Congress and be given opportunities to do so. You are welcome to register for both the AUCD events and the Disability Policy Seminar or for either.

Plain language:

  • The Disability Policy Seminar will be a virtual event from April 19, 2021 - April 22, 2021. You will be able to register for it soon.
  • The AUCD Prevents will be virtual on March 19 and April 16. You may register for those free events now.
Action steps:

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

On this week's vintage #TWL, Liz talks with AUCD's 2019-2020 Disability Policy Fellow Sarah Mueller about her experience.

View the job listing here or contact Policy Director Rylin Rodgers at [email protected] for more details.