Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) joined U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and 12 more colleagues in a letter urging House and Senate leadership to address the needs of people with disabilities as House and Senate leadership negotiates a fourth stimulus package to mitigate the health, social and economic impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“This unprecedented public health emergency has exposed the pre-existing scarcity of medical treatment, equipment, and other resources available to the disability community,” wrote the senators. “As it develops its next COVID-19 package, Congress must keep the experiences of people with disabilities in mind to ensure that their needs are addressed during this global pandemic.”
Recent COVID-19 legislative packages have not adequately addressed the needs of people with disabilities, although they are uniquely at-risk. There are an estimated 61 million American adults who live with a disability. People with disabilities are two times as likely as those without disabilities to live in long-term poverty. They are also more likely to work in part time and low-wage jobs without access to health insurance or paid sick leave than people without disabilities. As COVID-19 continues to spread, the disability community is highly vulnerable to economic shocks and access to affordable COVID-19 and other health care.
Using examples from a series of pre-existing bills that leaders could reference to develop these priorities, the senators’ letter urges House and Senate leadership to prioritize the following policies in its upcoming COVID-19 package:
- Boost Medicaid funding to support people with disabilities, including an increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) to ensure that state governments can continue to provide people with disabilities with the care they need;
- Provide at least $50 billion in additional funding for Medicaid Home- and Community-Based Services (HCBS) programs to keep people with disabilities in their homes and get them necessary support;
- Provide emergency income relief for people with disabilities, including through confirming that COVID-19 stimulus checks do not impact their benefit eligibility in programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Program, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income;
- Protect the civil rights of people with disabilities, including through strong oversight to ensure anti-discrimination laws and guidance are adhered to and through collecting disability-specific COVID-19 outcome and testing data;
- Expand paid leave protections for the disability community, including ensuring that caregivers who must take time off of work to care for family members with disabilities can access paid leave;
- Ensure people with disabilities can access food and medication by requiring access to 90-day supplies of medication and medical support services, food and medicine delivery, and other critical services; and
- Expand access to Personal Protective Equipment for people with disabilities and their caregivers to ensure that medical services can be safely provided.
The full text of the letter can be found here.