Disability Policy News

May 17, 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)
                 May 17, 2021   |   Vol. MMXXI, Issue 19
Seal of the President of the United States, eagle with blue backgroundBiden-Harris Administration

Appointments and confirmations to staff the new Administration continue. This past week:

  • President Biden announced his intent to nominate Catherine Lhamon for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.
The following positions progressed in the Senate:

  • A Senate committee voted on May 12 to advance Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator nominee Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. She now awaits confirmation by the full Senate.
  • Senators on May 11 approved the confirmation of Andrea Palm to serve as Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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.

hand putting ballot in boxVoting Rights 

On May 11th, the Senate Rules Committee deadlocked on the For the People Act (S.1), legislation to overhaul elections. The panel voted 9 to 9 on the For the People Act; the tie means the bill does not formally advance, though Leader Schumer can bring the bill to the floor through a special rule.


Plain language:

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

  • Learn more about the For the People Act:
  • Read a statement expressing concern over the paper ballot mandate included in the For the People Act signed by twenty national disability rights organizations, including AUCD.
  • The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has released a new report on disability and voting accessibility in the 2020 elections. Read the report here.

black and white image of capitol dome
American Rescue Plan

On March 11th President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (P.L.117-2). The $1.9 trillion legislation provided additional relief to address the continued impact of COVID-19 on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses. The law includes investments to address the needs of the disability community. We are starting to see these investments implemented and guidance issued to guide states in this process.

Plain language:

  • President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act. It provides money for Home and Community Based Services and education for students with disabilities.
What it means to you:

  • The money included in the Act for people with disabilities is a result of all the advocacy efforts of the disability community over the past year. You can engage with how these dollars are being used in your state and community.
Action steps:

black and white image of capitol domeBehavioral Intervention Guidelines Act of 2021

The Behavioral Intervention Guidelines Act of 2021 (H.R. 2877), introduced by Reps. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), passed by a vote of 323-93 on May 13, 2021. The bill would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop best practices for schools to establish behavioral intervention teams and properly train them on how to intervene and avoid inappropriate use of mental health assessments and law enforcement. Voices in the civil rights and disabilities communities have shared concerns related to the growing research that documents the biases that are often part of behavioral evaluations and the risk of interventions linked to the justice system. U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Angus King (I-ME) plan to introduce a Senate version of the bill.

Plain language:

  • This bill will ask parts of the federal government to work together to work on tools that they hope will help to prevent violence.
What it means to you:

  • Voices from research, practice and lived experience are needed to make sure this legislation does not increase the use of biased tools and justice system interventions in ways that harm student with disabilities and students of color.
Action steps:

black and white image of capitol domeRecovery Proposals

Congress continues work on legislative text to respond to The American Families Plan, the American Jobs Plan, and the Republican Senate Leader's Road Map. Priorities in the disability community that are being considered as part of the legislative packages include:

  • Ending subminimum wages and modernizing disability employment supports to allow for competitive, integrated employment;
  • Continued expansion of access to Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) for people with disabilities, ending waiting lists for services and ensuring a stable, valued direct support workforce;
  • Meeting the needs of children, including children with disabilities in childcare and education from birth through college; and 
  • Ensuring all modernization of physical and virtual infrastructures are accessible.
Voices from the Disability, Aging and HCBS workforce communities have a joint letter expressing support for a 10-year investment in HCBS as part of recovery legislation. National and state groups are invited to sign on.

Plain language:

  • Congress is working on a big bill that could help people with disabilities. You may be hearing about it as a 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. It is very important that all members of Congress are hearing from their constituents about how these investments will impact people and systems in your community.
Action steps:
  • Read and consider signing onto the joint letter from Aging, Disability, and Workforce groups.
  • Read the White House fact sheet on the American Families Plan.
  • Read the White House fact sheet on the American Jobs Plan.
  • Read the Republican Road Map.
  • 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 Congress.gov to find your Members of Congress.
    • Leave a brief message sharing that Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) and Competitive Integrated Employment are important to you. Ask to be updated on how the Member will support these issues.

medical injection needle and calendar, black and whiteVaccine Requirements for Facilities

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a rule on May 11, 2021, that would require long-term care (LTC) facilities and residential facilities serving clients with intellectual disabilities to educate and offer the COVID-19 vaccine to residents, clients, and staff, and requires LTC facilities to report weekly COVID-19 vaccination status data for both residents and staff. CMS is seeking comment on opportunities to expand these policies to help encourage vaccine uptake and access in other congregate care settings, such as psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs), group homes and assisted living facilities. CMS is looking to hear from you about the following:

  • What barriers exist to the implementation of a COVID-19 vaccination policy for residents and staff of all congregate living facilities?
  • How can equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines be ensured for residents of congregate settings?
  • How can regulations be revised to ensure that congregate settings are able to reduce the spread of COVID-19?
  • Whether your state or country has included residential and adult day health or day habilitation staff on the vaccine-eligible list of health care providers? What other impediments do staff face in getting access to vaccines?
Plain language:

  • The government is asking for public comments on a rule to make sure people with disabilities who live in group settings have information about and access to COVID vaccine.
What this means to you:

  • Your input is needed to make sure policy changes around vaccine reach all congregate settings.
Action steps:

black and white image of capitol domeDirect Support Professionals

Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act (S. 1437). This bill would direct the Office of Management and Budget to revise the Standard Occupational Classification system to establish a separate code for Direct Support Professionals, a change that would make it easier to have clear data on the challenges of this workforce.

Plain language:

  • This bill will collect better data on Direct Support Professionals.
    • Direct Support Professionals (DSPs): People whose job is to provide help and support people with disabilities to live their best lives. They can provide support for transportation, personal care, housing, home care, community integration, and more.
What it means to you:

  • DSPs are frontline workers who support people with disabilities so they can have full and independent lives. The lack of a DSP-specific SOC hinders the creation of effective policies for this workforce. Without specific federal data, states do not have adequate tools to project employment trends and/or establish realistic wage rates. States heavily rely on SOC data to determine the rates paid to providers of disability supports, including the cost of DSP wages.
Action steps:

  • Learn more about the bill by reading the fact sheet.
  • Consider including this issue as you contact your Members of Congress about the importance of including HCBS in the recovery and infrastructure efforts for their support: United States Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121.

Seal of the United States Department of Education, colorSchool Reopening

On May 13, 2021 the Department of Education's  Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a new resource: Questions and Answers on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment. The Q&A provides answers to common questions about schools' responsibilities under the civil rights laws and is designed to help students, families, schools, and the public support all students' rights in educational environments.

You'll find many important topics covered in the Q&A, including protection against discrimination for students with disabilities, including the rights of students with disabilities to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) during remote learning and school reopening; and the rights of students with disabilities related to mask exemptions, physical distancing, accessibility and placement issues, and waivers; and the responsibilities of higher education institutions.

Plain language:

  • The Department of Education has a new tool to help make sure the rights of students with disabilities are protected.

medical injection needle and calendar, black and whitePfizer Vaccine for 12 year-olds

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for ages 12-15. That means that people age 12 and older now have access to vaccination.


Action steps:

  • Share resources with those 12-15 years-old who need to understand access to vaccination.

medical injection needle and calendar, black and whiteAccess to COVID-19 Vaccines for People with Disabilities

On May 13, 2021, The CDC released updated guidance for people who are fully vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you are fully vaccinated, in most settings you don't need to wear masks indoors or outside, and you don't need to maintain physical distance. It is hoped that this will help encourage everyone to get vaccinated by the President's goal of 70% vaccination of the eligible population by July 4th.

Plain language:

  • Work is happening to make sure people with disabilities can get COVID-19 vaccines. If you have been vaccinated, there are now less restrictions.

What it means to you:

  • Work is happening to make sure everyone has access to vaccines.

Action steps:

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

Learn about the #AUCD2021 Conference and what next year's Board President Dr. Danny Armstrong has in store. This year's theme is research! Read more about the Conference and proposals here

Did you know that Liz has a new YouTube Channel? You can help spread her message by:
  • Subscribing to the Tuesdays with Liz YouTube Channel!
  • Like videos on the channel
  • Make comments on the channel