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Category: COVID-19

The Disability Community Reacts to New CDC Masking Guidance

Washington, D.C., March 18 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance on February 25th that reversed masking guidelines in areas with low rates of hospitalization, regardless of case numbers or whether individuals are vaccinated and boosted. In a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, advocates from more than one hundred national, state and local organizations expressed their deep concerns about the new guidance and its impact on disabled and marginalized populations. At the time of this publication, Director Walensky has not provided a response to the concerns stated in the joint advocacy letter.  

As the letter outlines, universal masking by the public dramatically decreases the spread of COVID-19 and is a layer of protection for everyone. Such guidelines increase safety for the most vulnerable populations, which include people with disabilities, older adults, those who are immunocompromised, and children under the age of five whom are ineligible for vaccines. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021, a record of nearly 1.2 million adults with disabilities were added to our communities. Without policies aimed at protecting all Americans, the most vulnerable are put in a position of being responsible for their own safety from the virus.

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.

Vermont COVID Recovery Plan Prioritizes People with Disabilities

Montpelier, VT, February 25 – Vermont recently released their 2021 recovery plan, and it contains good news for Vermonters with disabilities.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last year, states are rolling out extensive plans about how they will spend federal funds. The Green Mountain State has $478.6 million dollars allocated to drive economic recovery efforts under Gov. Phil Scott. Some of the announced priorities are making homeless shelters ADA compliant, creating a mobile mental health crisis intervention program, providing broadband internet access to people with disabilities, and preventing COVID infections at Adult Day Services.

Overall, Vermont is spending $161.4 million, or 33.6 percent of the state’s CARES Act allocation, on programs that will improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. 

COVID-19 Updates for People with Disabilities from the Biden-Harris Administration

Washington, D.C., February 24 – Today, the Biden-Harris Administration released a fact sheet on their work addressing the intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disability community. Here is some of the key information they shared:

Ensuring Accessible Testing for All Americans

Millions of new tests have been manufactured by the National Institutes of Health’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx®) Tech Program. However, as documented by key advocates, the packaging, instructions, and design of the diagnostic devices have made it challenging for people with disabilities to use them independently. The NIH RADx® Tech Program is now reviewing elements of the kits that may be used without assistance. The Administration is actively encouraging collaboration between federal agencies and community organizations to make more tests fully accessible.  

Disability Group Pushes Government to Better Understand COVID’s Impact on Students with Disabilities

Submitted testimony will help inform Department of Education efforts to collect better disability data. Washington, D.C., March 22 – As the nation continues to grapple with the lessons learned from one year of lockdown, virtual education and the other results of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education solicited…

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.

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.