On March 27, the president signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), or Senate Bill 3548. The bill was the third piece of federal legislation to provide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. While the first and second bills were fairly limited in scope — providing $8.3 billion in emergency healthcare funding and paid sick leave — the CARES Act represents, at more than $2 trillion, the largest stimulus package in the history of the United States.
The new law’s main provisions include $300 billion in direct payments to Americans, $260 billion to bolster the unemployment insurance program, $340 billion in assistance to state and local governments, and $150 billion for healthcare providers to boost equipment and treatment. The measure also directs a significant outlay toward loans and other assistance for major corporations and small businesses.
Many people with developmental disabilities may benefit from sections of the CARES Act that impact the greater public. However, disability advocates were pushing for a collection of measures to address the needs that are specific to the disability community in this time of crisis, many of which did not find their way into the bill. As federal lawmakers consider additional COVID-19 relief legislation, there will be a continued push to include that necessary assistance.
Below is a brief summary of how the CARES Act will assist the disability community, as well as a list of relief measures that were not included in the bill.
Provisions of the CARES Act that will help people with disabilities:
- Income relief: Ensuring that people on means-tested and other disability programs, like Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicaid, are eligible for rebates and emergency income relief provided in the CARES Act. (There may, however, be additional barriers, since these are primarily tied to tax returns.)
- Loans for providers: Expanding eligibility for small business loans to include nonprofit Medicaid providers.
- Disability programs: Making more funding available for housing for people with disabilities, nutrition assistance, centers for Independent Living, and some aging programs.
- Money Follows the Person: Extending funding for Money Follows the Person through Nov. 30, 2020, which will help move people out of congregate settings where social distancing and self-isolation may be more difficult.
- Support at hospitals: Permitting individuals with disabilities to have support people with them during short-term hospital stays.
- Education: Providing education funding, including for the provision of special education services.
- Voting: Allocating dollars to assist states with voting efforts as many move to increase use of absentee and mail-in voting.
Some items that advocates believe should be included in future COVID-19 relief legislation:
- Specific funding for Home and Community Based Services
- More funding or support for personal care attendants and direct support professionals
- Paid leave for family caregivers who have to take off from work to care for a family member with a disability
- Allowance of 90-day refills of prescriptions and medical supplies for people on Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or private insurance
- Language directing federal agencies to issue guidance prohibiting illegal discrimination in rationing of care
Looking ahead, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) will continue working with its partners to track the implementation of the CARES Act and the development of any future COVID-19 relief packages. To stay up-to-date with COVID-19 information, click here.