The recovery plan is insufficient for people with disabilities, according to disability advocates
President Donald Trump signs the CARES Act, a $ 2 trillion stimulus bill in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the Oval Office of the White House late last week. (Erin Schaff / Pool / Getty Images / TNS)
A $ 2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump offers some benefits to people with disabilities, advocates say, but could also result in unprecedented changes to the disability education law.
The bill signed late last week represents Congress’ latest effort to deal with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes additional funding for housing for people with disabilities, money for independent living centers, support for schools in their transition to e-learning, and it empowers Medicaid-funded disability service providers. to apply for federal small business loans.
Many people with disabilities – including those receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits – will be entitled to $ 1,200 in cash payments from the government as part of the relief program.
Advertising – Continue Reading Below
In addition, the legislation incorporates a handful of elements that disability advocates have long sought. For the first time, the law will allow direct support professionals, or DSP, to support and continue to support people with disabilities if they are hospitalized. And, it will expand a federal program known as Money Follows the Person – which provides funds to states to cover employment supports, housing and other services so people with disabilities can move from institutional settings to homes in the community – until November.
However, advocates say lawmakers have overlooked several areas in which people with disabilities will need support as the coronavirus continues to spread.
“This is an unprecedented crisis for everyone, and everyone includes people with disabilities and their families. While this bill provides important support in this pandemic, people with disabilities, their families and the direct support professional workforce are at enormous risks that have been largely overlooked in this response, ”said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
Advocates had been pushing for additional funding for home and community services to ensure more people do not end up in institutional settings where the coronavirus can easily be spread, as well as funding to support demand for DSP. Additionally, they wanted lawmakers to address the need for masks and other personal protective equipment for PSDs who cannot maintain a six-foot distance while doing their jobs of helping people with disabilities with their daily tasks.
Legislation also does nothing to guarantee paid time off for family members who must take time off work to care for people with disabilities, a growing concern as many providers have closed day programs and other services. , said defenders.
Meanwhile, the the new law gives US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos 30 days to prepare a report to Congress with recommendations on any waivers the secretary deems necessary under the IDEA to “provide limited flexibility” to states and school districts during the urgency.
DeVos does not have the authority to issue IDEA waivers – this would require further action from Congress – but it opens the door to releasing school districts from some of their special education obligations.
“It is just very disappointing that some insist on threatening the students who are most in need of support in a bill intended to bring relief and support to the American public,” said Denise Stile Marshall, CEO of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA, a non-profit organization that represents lawyers specializing in education.
Yet the law could have had a more immediate impact on IDEA. Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., Said she has successfully fought Republicans’ efforts to include a provision in the latest measure that would have allowed DeVos to issue waivers on her own without any involvement from lawmakers.
“I’m glad we were able to remove language that would deny students with disabilities their rights,” Murray said. “But there is still a long way to go to ensure people with disabilities have access to essential services – from healthcare to independent living support to transportation – during this public health emergency.”