Disability Policy News

April 5, 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)
                 April 5, 2021   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 13

medical injection needle and calendar, black and white

COVID-19 Vaccine

President Biden announced on March 29, 2021, that the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the CDC will be working to increase COVID-19 vaccine access for people with disabilities. $100 million in grants will be issued to help deal with the significant barriers to vaccination that people with disabilities are experiencing. $4 Million dollars will go to UCEDDs working to meet needs in their states and territories. The funding will be used to assist individuals with scheduling vaccine appointments, provide transportation to vaccine sites, direct support services needed to attend vaccine appointments, connection to in-home vaccination options, and education about the importance of receiving the vaccine.

Plain language:

  • The White House is working to make sure people with disabilities can get COVID-19 vaccines.
What it means to you:

  • State and local groups will have more money to help people get vaccines.
Action steps:

outline of a road underneath a bridge, black and whiteInfrastructure

On Wednesday March 31st, President Biden released the American Jobs Plan, a proposal for infrastructure reform and economic recovery. Much of the plan focuses on traditional infrastructure, such as repairs for bridges and updating public buildings, but also includes plans to invest in other critical systems, such as Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services. The plan calls for an end to subminimum wages for people with disabilities, employment support services for competitive, integrated employment, and an investment of $400 billion in Medicaid Home and Community Based Services.

The proposal is a framework that will need to be translated into legislative text and passed through Congress. Priorities in the disability community that may be considered as part of the legislative package include:

  • Ending subminimum wages and modernizing disability employment supports to allow for competitive, integrated employment;
  • Continued expansion of access to HCBS for people with disabilities, ending waiting lists for services and ensuring a stable, valued direct support workforce;
  • Meeting the educational needs of students with disabilities in PreK-12 and higher education; and
  • Ensuring all modernization of physical and virtual infrastructures are accessible.

Plain language:

  • President Biden has a new plan for improving our country's infrastructure.
    • Infrastructure means the buildings, roads, bridges, power lines, and other things our country needs to work every day. It can also include systems that make our country work like schools, healthcare, and other government services.
What it means to you:

  • Disability issues are a large part of the American Jobs Plan, creating a need for all members of Congress to hear from you about Home and Community-Based Services and Competitive Integrated Employment.
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:
  • Email your Congressional delegation sharing AUCD's language and ask:
    • LEND
    • Members of Congress are encouraged to show their support for LEND by signing the Letter requesting an increase in funding to align with the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee's (IACC) recommendations for funding at NIH, CDC, HRSA, and Dept of Ed, as well as HRSA's funding of the LEND program. Your member of Congress can sign this letter by sending an email to [email protected] by Friday, April 23.
    • UCEDD
    • PNS
    • IDDRC
  • Learn more about the federal appropriations process in plain language from AUCD.

Seal of the United States Department of Education, colorStudent Loan Borrowers Relief

The U.S. Department of Education announced that it will not require borrowers who received a total and permanent disability discharge to submit earnings documentation for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. This change will be made retroactive to March 13, 2020, the start of the COVID-19 national emergency.

Plain language:

  • The U.S. Department of Education will not ask for paycheck information during COVID-19 from many people with disabilities who took out loans.
Action steps:

Seal of the President of the United States, eagle with blue backgroundFederal Judicial Nominations 

President Biden announced the nominations of 10 individuals to serve as Federal Circuit and District Court Judges, and one individual to serve as a Superior Court Judge for the District of Columbia. These nominees reflect a diverse group of candidates, including three African American women chosen for Circuit Court vacancies, as well as candidates who, if confirmed, would be the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history, the first AAPI woman ever to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and the first woman of color ever to serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland. Their nominations now head to the Senate for debate and confirmation.

Plain language:

  • President Biden has made his first choices for new federal judges.
What it means to you:

  • Federal judges have the power to make rulings on laws that affect the whole country. Their decisions can make big changes to issues of interest to the disability community like healthcare, immigration, and discrimination.
Action steps:

black and white image of capitol domeOpportunity for Input: Home and Community-Based Services

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 infrastrcuture in states that support family caregivers, provider agencies, and independent providers, including but not limited to housing, transportation, employmebnt, and enrollment systems and processes;
  • Other related policies and programs such as Money Follows the Person and Spousal Impoverishment Protections; and 
  • Many other critical items to further expand 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 steps:

black and white image of capitol domeOpportunity for Input: Employment

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has issued a request for stakeholder comments on workforce innovation to address lost jobs in the COVID-19 pandemic. Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) are asking for the following information in pursuit of bipartisan solutions:

  • how to enhance or improve workforce training in direct relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, including ways to address workforce needs of the health care and public health sectors;
  • reforms to programs authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
  • ways to develop, modernize, and diversify the national apprenticeship system, including innovative approaches such as youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship; and
  • strategies to encourage innovation to address worker and industry needs.
This is an excellent opportunity for members of the disability community to advocate for the inclusion of employees with disabilities in national economic recovery efforts. All comments must be submitted to [email protected] by April 9, 2021.

Plain language:

  • Lawmakers want to hear new ideas on how to help more people return to work after COVID-19.
What this means to you:

  • People with disabilities are an important part of the country's workforce. We need to make sure they are included in economic recovery efforts.
Action step:

black symbol of building to look like hospitalHealthcare.gov

This week, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced that the special enrollment period that began on February 15 for HealthCare.gov will continue through August 15, 2021. This three-month extension allows people to enroll in or switch health plans with the credits that were included in the American Rescue Plan (ARP). People who received unemployment for at least one week this year are eligible for $0 premium plans and the highest level of cost-sharing reductions.

Plain language:

Action steps:

  • If you need health insurance, go to Healthcare.gov before August 15th. If you already have coverage, help your family and friends sign-up and enroll.

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:

logo of AUCD Policy TalkAUCD Policy Talk

In preparation for Hill visits with Disability Policy Seminar, we recommend:

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 a new Youtube channel! In the latest 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!