Disability Policy News

March 22, 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)
                 March 22, 2021   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 11

hand putting ballot in box

Voting rights

Senators Merkley (D-OR), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Schumer (D-NY) have formally introduced the For the People Act (S.1) in the Senate. The purpose of the bill is to expand voter registration and voting access, limit political gerrymandering, and reform campaign finance and ethics laws. This bill functions as companion legislation to the For the People Act (H.R.1), which passed along party lines in the House earlier this month. It is extremely unlikely that the bill will be passed in the Senate under current rules. 

Plain language:

  • Congress is working on a bill to make it easier for people to vote.
What it means to you:

  • There can be many barriers to voting for people with disabilities. It is important that any changes to how voting works make it easier, not harder, for people with disabilities to vote.
Action steps:

black and white image of capitol domeABLE Age Adjustment Act

Senator Casey (D-PA) introduced the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S.331), which would increase the age threshold for tax-favored Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts from 26 years-old to 46 years-old. These accounts enable individuals with disabilities to save for and pay for disability-related expenses. The higher age threshold will allow individuals who attained a disability before 46 years-old to establish an account.

Plain language:

  • There is a bill that would let more people sign-up for an ABLE account.
What it means to you:

  • ABLE accounts let people with disabilities save money to pay for things they need because of their disability.
Action steps:

three dollar bills, black and whiteAppropriations

Members of Congress are currently seeking your input on Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 priorities. Now is the time for network directors, faculty, partners, trainees, families and allies to educate their members of Congress about why investments in programs that support people with disabilities are important.

AUCD's FY 22 Budget Request by Program:


FY 20 Enacted

FY 21 Enacted

FY 22 AUCD's Request

FY 22 President's Budget Proposal

Autism and other DD


$52.344 million

$35.245 million

$53.844 million

$36.245 million

$56.5 million

$38 million

To be announced


$41.619 million

$42.119 million

$45 million

To be announced

NCBDDD (within CDC)

$160 million

$167 million

$180 million

To be announced


$11.8 million

$13.8 million

$14 million

To be announced


$12.25 million

$12.25 million

$14 million

To be announced

NICHD (includes IDDRCs)

$1.59 billion

$1.59 billion

$1.708 billion

To be announced

Plain language:

  • AUCD is starting the process of asking for its yearly money from the federal government.
What it means to you:

  • Many AUCD programs get their funding from the federal appropriations process.
    • Appropriations is the act of setting aside money for a specific program from the federal budget.
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

On Thursday, March 18, 2021, the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, COVID-19 One Year Later: Addressing Health Care Needs for At-Risk Americans, included the testimony of Dr. Amy Houtrow, MD, PhD. Dr. Houtrow focused on the disparities and impact of COVID on those with disabilities.

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, at 10:00 AM the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing, Examining Our COVID-19 Response: Improving Health Equity and Outcomes by Addressing Health Disparities. Witnesses include Taryn Mackenzie Williams, of the Center for American Progress. The impact on those with disabilities will be a key discussion point.

Plain language:

  • The Senate wants to learn more about how COVID-19 has affected the lives of Americans.
Action steps:

  • Watch or read the testimony.
  • Share or reference it in your ongoing efforts to educate members of Congress and local policy makers about the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities.

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 guidance on school reopening, changing social distancing guidelines for students. New research shows that schools now only need to plan for three feet of social distancing rather than six feet. The new guidance also includes additional prevention measures meant to help schools reopen safely.

Plain language:

  • The CDC has new information to help schools reopen safely.
Action steps:

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

The U.S. Department of Education released information on how much funding each state and territory will receive from the American Rescue Plan Act. The COVID-19 relief money can be used by state education agencies to address any of the impacts of COVID-19 on pre-K-12 education. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also announced that it will provide $10 billion to states to support COVID-19 testing for K-12 staff, teachers, and students.

Plain language:

  • The government is giving schools money to help solve some of the problems from COVID-19. 
What this means to you:

  • Students with disabilities often have medical needs to consider as schools reopen safely. This money will help schools meet those needs.
Action step:

  • View the press release announcing the funds and the amounts allotted to each state.
  • Contact your state education agency to learn more about how the funds will be used and share what students with disabilities need to return to school in-person safely.

black and white image of capitol domeHome and Community-Based Services Access Act

Congresswoman Dingell (D-MI), Senator Hassan (D-NH), Senator Casey (D-PA), and Senator Brown (D-OH) released a discussion draft of the HCBS Access Act and are requesting feedback from stakeholders. The draft bill would mandate Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) in Medicaid to provide services, create national minimum requirements for HCBS, and make it possible to improve upon those services and the direct support professionals workforce.

To build on the discussion draft, the offices are currently seeking feedback on:

  • Provider pay and rate structures of states for HCBS;
  • Workforce development, including but not limited to wages and benefits for direct service workers and personal care attendants as well as training and recruitment; 
  • HCBS infrastructure in States that support family caregivers, provider agencies, and independent providers, including but not limited to housing, transportation, employment and enrollment systems and processes; 
  • Other related policies and programs, such as Money Follows the Person and spousal impoverishment protections; 
  • Many other critical items to further expansion and improve access to HCBS for those who desire the supports.

Plain language:

  • Lawmakers are working on a bill to improve Home and Community Based Services across the country. They want to hear from you about what you need and any ideas you have.
What this means to you:

  • Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) help people with disabilities live in their own homes and receive services in the community. It is important that all people with disabilities have access to good HCBS no matter where they live.
Action step:

black and white image of capitol domeKeeping All Students Safe Act 

A group of states' Attorneys General sent a letter to Congressional leaders in support of the Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA). The letter specifically cites the disproportionate impact of harmful practices such as seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities in PreK-12 education. KASSA would be the first federal law to protect students from harm at school and would provide funds to train teachers on positive, evidence-based behavior management. The bill has been introduced in previous Congresses but has not yet been introduced in the 117th Congress.

Plain language:

  • A federal law is needed to protect students with disabilities from being secluded or restrained at school.
    • Seclusion is when a student is separated from other people, often to punish them.
    • Restraint is when a student is physically kept in one place, often to punish them.
Action step:

  • Read the letter sent to Congressional leaders.
  • Learn more about the harmful practices of seclusion and restraint from the 2017-18 Civil Rights Data Collection produced by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Learn more about KASSA with this AUCD fact sheet.
  • Let your Members of Congress know that this is important to you and ask them to support action on this issue during this congress.

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

On Thursday, the Senate voted 50-49 to confirm Xavier Becerra as Secretary of the Department of Health & Humans Services (HHS). AUCD supported his nomination, and we are looking forward to working with HHS under his leadership.

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:

black symbol of building to look like hospitalPatient-Centered Outcome Research Institute

The Patient-Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI) Board of Governors approved $48.5 million in new funding for new research projects. While some of the funding has been allotted, the Board plans to issue new funding announcements seeking research proposals.

Plain language:

  • New research funding is available for projects related to patient-centered care and patients with disabilities.
Action steps:

  • Learn more about the funding and upcoming calls for research proposals on PCORI's website.

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 next AUCD event will be virtual on April 16. You may register for that free event 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. Registration is now open!
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 can register now!
  • The next AUCD pre-DPS events will be virtual on April 16. You may register for that free event now.
Action steps:

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

We are excited to announce that Tuesdays with Liz is back on her new Youtube channel! In this new episode, Liz talks about why you should get the COVID-19 vaccine and shares her own experience getting the vaccine. Subscribe to Tuesdays with Liz today!