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Category: Congress

Daylight Saving Time and the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021

Washington, D.C., April 6 – Last month, the United States Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 with a rare, unanimous vote. The proposed legislation would make daylight saving time permanent effective on November 5, 2023, meaning that Americans would no longer have to change their clocks twice a year.

Proponents of the legislation argue that the time change causes an increase in car accidents and reduces productivity. According to Quartz, “researchers have seen a consistent pattern of car crashes increasing in the days after the switch to daylight saving time, when people lose an hour of sleep, and decreasing in the fall when people gain an hour.” Extra light in the evening, proponents argue, also would benefit the economy as people would be more likely to go out and spend money.

Implementing the American Rescue Plan – What It Means for Marylanders with Disabilities

Annapolis, MD, March 15 – Using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and allocated via a bipartisan agreement, Governor Larry Hogan and the General Assembly of Maryland are prioritizing Marylanders severely impacted by the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maryland’s piece of a $1.9 trillion federal spending package is being directed to address existing inequities in the Old Line State. The goals of the spending are to support impacted businesses, struggling industries, and specifically Marylanders with disabilities.

The first and most direct form of support in the past year was the Temporary Cash Assistance program, which specifically included the payment of short term disabilities benefits to Marylanders in need. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have deeply felt the ravages of the past two years. As noted in an early report from the Arc of the US, people with I/DD “are more likely to have underlying health conditions that leave them more susceptible to the pandemic.” Further, because people with I/DD are often placed into customer facing job roles, many experienced COVID related furloughs or job losses during 2020. In total, there are 335,712 working-age Marylanders living with some form of disability. In 2020, prior to the pandemic, only 40.2 percent of them had jobs.

Sen. Tim Kaine at the 2022 National Skills Summit

Washington, D.C., March 8 – Last week, the National Skills Coalition hosted their annual Skills Summit, featuring a keynote speech by Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) discussing impactful strategies to close the digital skills divide in America.  

In his opening remarks, Sen. Kaine said the COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the importance of “ensuring that all workers are empowered with the skills needed to thrive in today’s economy.” Furthermore, as “technology advances, workers need to have opportunities to continuously up-skill, to adjust or move up in their careers.”  

Answering the call of the present moment, Sen. Kaine argued that Congress should provide funding and establish programs that specifically focus on bridging the digital divide. Recently, the Digital Equity Act was passed as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand broadband access and provide digital technologies. Sen. Kaine called for establishing new and existing worker “baseline digital competencies to support industry and sector level workforce partnerships in developing digital skills training programs.” 

President Biden and the State of the Union: What it Means for the Disability Community

Washington, D.C., March 2 – Last night, President Joe Biden gave his State of the Union Address at the US Capitol Building, as tradition and the US Constitution dictate. Given recent world events, President Biden talked extensively about the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. But the speech also contained multiple mentions of issues with direct implications for the 61 million Americans already living with disabilities and the 1.2 million Americans who are newly disabled thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Capping the Cost of Insulin

One of the guests seated in the gallery with First Lady Jill Biden was 13-year-old Joshua Davis of Midlothian, Virginia, who lives with Type 1 diabetes. President Biden told his story and called for capping the price of insulin. The President said, “for Joshua, and for the 200,000 other young people with Type 1 diabetes, let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month so everyone can afford it.”

Diabetes is a disability that affects over 34 million Americans and has major intersectional implications. The CDC reports that new diagnoses of diabetes were highest among Black and Hispanic/Latinx adults, and that fully 16.3 percent of adults with a disability have diabetes, compared to only 7.2 percent of their non-disabled peers.

Digital Equity at the 2022 National Skills Coalition Conference

Washington, D.C., February 24 – With the touch of a button and thanks to the flexibility of Zoom, the 2022 National Skills Coalition virtual conference welcomed geographically diverse attendees from across the country. This three-day event is one of the nation’s best workforce development-focused conferences and features many important sessions.…

New Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Support Older Americans and Empower People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., February 22 – Last month, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV-01) introduced a new, bipartisan bill intended to address the direct care workers shortage. This new bill, entitled the Improving Care for Vulnerable Older Citizens and People with Disabilities through Workforce Advancement Act, would amend the Public Health Service Act to develop an expanded role for direct care workers who provide long-term services that help older Americans, and help people with disabilities enter the workforce.

Direct care workers are a proven lifeline for those they serve, as well as for families and friends struggling to provide high-quality care. Currently, many direct care workers fail to earn a living wage and almost none have opportunities for career advancement. Reports show low job satisfaction with a very high turn over rates. The expense to replace each Direct Care Worker can be costly and detrimental to the health care of a patient. 

What Biden’s Build Back Better Framework Means for People with Disabilities

The White House outlines framework for the Build Back Better Act, but what does it mean for 56 million Americans with disabilities?

Washington, D.C., October 30 – As October slips into November, the White House is working hard with Congressional leaders to finalize the details, priorities and projects to be funded by the forthcoming Build Back Better Act. After extensive meetings in recent days, a new framework was announced for the forthcoming legislation.

“This framework will guide the drafting of legislative language,” the White House said in a prepared statement released along with the framework. “When enacted, this framework will set the United States on course to meet its climate goals, create millions of good-paying jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the labor force, and grow our economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

This framework has the potential to impact the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities in significant ways through new investments in childcare, health care, and education. However, given how much of this bill is up in the air, a critical question needs to be asked: what specific pieces of this framework directly touch on disability issues?  

RespectAbility Releases 2022 Disability Voter Questionnaire for Senate and Governor Races

Washington, D.C., July 15 – RespectAbility, a nonpartisan national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community, is sending its nonpartisan voter questionnaire to candidates in competitive Senate and Gubernatorial races across the country. The outreach is being done in conjunction with RespectAbility’s online publication,, which focuses on the intersection of disability and electoral politics. The answers to the questionnaire will be turned into nonpartisan voter guides in key battleground states across the country. This questionnaire builds on candidate outreach work done in 20202018 and 2016

Bipartisan Bill Helps Americans with Disabilities Seek Work without Losing Benefits

Washington D.C, July 9 – On June 17, 2021, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Work Without Worry Act. This piece of legislation would allow Americans with disabilities to take on employment opportunities without the fear of losing higher Social Security benefits. 

Currently, if an adult has a disability that began before the age of 22, they may be eligible for Social Security’s Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit. This benefit considers these adults to be dependents on their parent(s) and as such their benefits, like any child under the age of 18, rely on their parent’s Social Security contributions and earnings.

How Candidates & Campaigns Can Connect with Voters with Disabilities: by Nelly Nieblas and Hon. Steve Bartlett

Washington, D.C., June 28 – In the 2020 election cycle, candidates from both political parties who made their campaigns accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities won key races and helped shift the balance of power in America.

The biggest wins for candidates who reached out to voters with disabilities were in the state of Georgia where President Biden and Senators Ossoff and Warnock all made their campaigns accessible to voters with disabilities.

Rep. James Langevin Paves the Way for the Disability Community in Congress

Washington, D.C., May 11 – Over 40 years ago, Rep. James (Jim) Langevin was left paralyzed after an accidental shooting at his job at the Warwick Police Department in his home state of Rhode Island. Langevin, who was only 16 at the time, was suddenly a quadriplegic. Although unexpected, his injury led him to a life of public service, and he has never looked back.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Langevin has been a change agent in his home state for the last 35 years. Since his 1980 injury, he has worked to help Rhode Islanders in need and individuals with disabilities throughout the country. Langevin’s journey into public service began at Rhode Island College, where he served as President of Student Community Government. Following his undergraduate degree, Langevin went to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Thereafter, Langevin launched his career in government in 1986 by being elected to serve as the Secretary of Rhode Island’s Constitutional Convention. After two years in this position, Langevin successfully campaigned and was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives. 

Equality Act Aims to Expand Civil Rights Protections: Why This Matters to the Disability Community

Proposed Civil Rights Bill prohibits discrimination and advances equality for millions of Americans.

Washington, D.C., April 12– On February 25, the Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives. The Act includes a major overhaul of civil rights protections for many Americans, including millions of people with disabilities. Now, it waits for further action by the United States Senate. 

The Equality Act specifically identifies sex, gender and sexual orientation as prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation. As a result, discrimination in areas such as public accommodations and facilities, the criminal justice system, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and education would be prohibited on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation. This would be a major change and significant expansion of civil rights. In 2020, the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County expanded employment protections against discrimination for gay and transgender people.

Senator Casey’s Bill Aims to Incentivize Hiring of Workers with Disabilities

The proposed Disability Employment Incentive Act would offer tax credits for employers who recruit, hire, and retain workers with disabilities.  Washington, D.C., April 9 – A new bill proposed by Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) would offer valuable new tax credits to employers who recruit, hire, and retain workers with…

The American Rescue Plan: What It Means for People with Disabilities

How will this $1.9 trillion law help the 61 million Americans living with a disability?

Washington, D.C., March 12 – This week, Congress passed, and President Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This massive bill includes a range of policies and programs intended to get more Americans vaccinated, help working families, and lay the groundwork for a post-pandemic economic recovery. Critically, it also contains key proposals that will directly benefit millions of people with disabilities, including helping students with disabilities get back to the classroom and directly sending stimulus checks to many people left out of previous relief efforts.

Former Senator Bob Dole’s Impact on Millions with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Feb. 25 – Last week, former Senator Bob Dole announced that he had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. A one-time GOP presidential candidate and long-time advocate for bipartisan solutions, Dole has been a fixture of Washington, D.C. since he was first elected to the Congress in 1960. Throughout decades of public service, he consistently championed many of the key issues impacting millions of people living with disabilities. He did so both as an ally, and someone who became a person with disabilities in combat during World War II.  

A farm kid from Kansas, Dole enlisted in 1942 and soon was selected to be commissioned as an officer. In 1945, while serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy, Dole was wounded by German machine gun fire. He was paralyzed by wounds in his shoulder and with a fractured vertebra in his neck. The wounded Kansan would have to wait nine hours in the freezing cold before he could finally be evacuated to a field hospital. Dole survived with his right arm permanently immobilized and had a long road to recovery that eventually included years of rehabilitation. Like so many people who acquire disabilities, Dole had to relearn key skills and improvise new ways of doing tasks. Because of the impairment in his arm, Dole taught himself to write with his left hand.  

The Potential of the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act for People with Disabilities

This new bill will invest $15 billion to help restore the nation’s public workforce system in response to the economic collapse following the COVID 19 pandemic

Washington, D.C., Feb. 23 – In the response to the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) has introduced a new bill to kickstart the economy and get millions of people back to work. This new legislation is called the “Relaunching America’s Workforce Act” and it contains significant provisions that would specifically help workers with disabilities.

Impact on Individuals with Disabilities

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a much larger impact on the unemployment rates of individuals with disabilities compared to people without disabilities. Specifically, since March 2020, more than 1 in 5 workers with disabilities have lost their jobs at the hands of the coronavirus, compared to 1 in 7 individuals without disabilities. To put it another way, more than 1 million workers with disabilities have lost their job since the start of the pandemic. The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act could play an important role in helping workers with disabilities get back into the labor force. Thankfully, this legislation explicitly mentions individuals with disabilities more than 10 times, and it provides numerous recommendations to help the disability community reenter the workforce.

New Bill Aims to Promote Diversity in Diplomatic Workforce

Washington, D.C., February 4 – Whenever a new Administration settles in at the White House and a new Congress convenes, the tone in Washington shifts. Following a presidential campaign built around commitments to diversity and equity, the Biden Administration has already taken several critical executive actions to fulfill those commitments. Now, the gauntlet has been thrown down and it’s up the 117th Congress to match that commitment.

One of the potential vehicles for Congress to do that is the “Represent America Abroad Act of 2020.” This bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20), would seek to diversify the diplomatic workforce of the Department of State. By creating a new America Mid-Career Foreign Service Entry Program, this bill would directly recruit new diplomats from underrepresented communities across the country. 

New COVID Relief –What Does It Mean for People with Disabilities?

The new $900 billion stimulus bill promises more stimulus checks, extends unemployment supports and impacts everything from businesses to schools.  

Washington, D.C., Dec. 22 – After months of partisan gridlock and inaction, the Congress finally approved a massive coronavirus relief bill last night and sent it to the President’s desk. This mammoth bill, totaling more than 5,000 pages of legislative language and with more than $900 billion in spending, becomes law at the same time as the United States crosses the grim milestone of more than 316,000 dead because of the pandemic. 

New, But Smaller Checks for Individuals With and Without Disabilities:

The new bill does include a new round of stimulus checks to be sent directly to millions of Americans with and without disabilities. This new, smaller check will be a one-time cash payment sent from the government to all U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $87,000 ($174,000 if you are married) and each dependent child under age 17. 

As was the case earlier this year, this will explicitly exclude approximately 13.5 million adult dependents who include high school or college students living at home and millions of people with disabilities. This is a major disappoint for many activists, given past bipartisan support to expand support for adult dependents. 

Likewise, because this stimulus check is considered a rebate, it will NOT be counted against the asset limits faced by people with disabilities if spent within 12 months of receipt. However, people with disabilities who are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will have to file their taxes. This could create a major burden for many of the poorest people with disabilities and other low-income communities, many of whom may find access to filling out the forms a challenge. 

As the COVID Death Toll Rises, Disability Group Continues to Warn Against Medical Rationing

With the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine starting, RespectAbility reminds elected and healthcare officials that medical rationing that harms people with disabilities is illegal and wrong.

Washington, D.C., Dec. 17 – Hospitals across the country are being overwhelmed by new coronavirus cases, with data showing more than 200,000 new cases daily. A new report from NPR’s All Things Considered highlights how the lives of people with disabilities are in the balance and medical professionals are denying equal access to care. The disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility reminds elected and healthcare officials that not only does medical rationing harm people with disabilities, it is also illegal and wrong.