The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is having, and will continue to have, an outsized impact on the disability community. State and local governments around the country have declared states of emergency and on March 13, President Trump announced a national state of emergency in response to the outbreak to make additional funding available to combat the continued spread of COVID-19.
Congress is working quickly to begin addressing the crisis. On March 14, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes increased Medicaid funding, emergency paid leave, increased funding for food assistance, and free coronavirus testing. A summary of the bill can be found here. It is an important first step. We urge you to contact your Senators as soon as possible. We hope the Senate can make some improvements to the paid leave to accommodate people with disabilities either in this bill or the next package. The Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (of which the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is a member) sent a letter to the Senate urging passage of the House bill with updates to better meet the needs of people with disabilities and identifying further areas where legislation is needed.
To meet the needs of people with disabilities, their families, and caretakers during this outbreak, legislation from Congress must, among other things, include:
- Increased Medicaid funding to help state Medicaid systems cope with increased need
- Access to a 90-day supply of medications and medical supplies and ongoing access to the long-term services and supports (LTSS) people with disabilities need, whether they are on Medicaid or private insurance
- Inclusive paid leave that includes paid leave not only when the person or a family member is infected but also when the person needs to fill in for a caretaker who is sick or provide care when a program closes
- Protection of civil rights, including ensure non-discrimination in accessing care and treatment and ensuring people are not forced into institutions and other congregate settings (where people are at even more risk)
- Federal agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Administration for Community Living (ACL) are also releasing guidance and resources related to the coronavirus outbreak. We will continue to monitor those efforts as well as to ensure that the needs of the entire disability community are addressed by the guidance and resources released by agencies.
Your voice matters.