Congress has come to an agreement to extend government funding, which includes level-funding for the Paralysis Resource Center (PRC), until December 18th, but lawmakers continue to negotiate a long-term funding deal and a desperately needed COVID-19 relief package.
A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives helped revitalize negotiations when they released a $900 billion proposal. Their plan seems to provide a framework for all sides to work with, though there is continued disagreement among party leadership on funding for state and local governments, the scope of liability protections for businesses, and what to do about unemployment benefits.
Regardless of what they decide, we remain concerned that people with paralysis and those who support them will be left behind.
As you know, Congress has done little to address the continued fallout from COVID-19 since the House passed the Heroes Act on May 15th, and now all the key relief provisions from that legislation are set to expire at year’s end. People living with disabilities, their families, and the direct support professional workforce have been left to bear the burden of a public health emergency. As a result, they are at the highest risk for serious illness, unemployment and reduced resources for maintaining their quality of life if Congress does not act.
We must ask Congress to come to an agreement on a bill NOW that adequately addresses the specific and critical needs of people living with disabilities, including:
- Dedicated Resources for Community Based Services. Dedicated resources for Medicaid to support Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) are desperately needed to help people with disabilities and older adults remain safely in their homes rather than being forced into nursing homes and other congregate settings, where infections and deaths from COVID-19 are rampant.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct support professionals. Direct support professionals are a critical segment of the workforce and must be designated as essential workers so that they can get access to the PPE and medical supplies they urgently need to protect their health and safety.
- Paid leave for caregivers. As people living with disabilities continue to lose their usual sources of care, family caregivers are still scrambling and need access to paid leave and sick days to help their loved ones. Congress should include all family caregivers in the emergency paid leave provisions.
- Economic impact payments for all people with disabilities. Congress needs to ensure that stimulus payments are available to everyone, including adults with disabilities who are claimed as dependents. We also urge Congress to extend all provisions providing unemployment, housing and food relief.