Dozens of small people icons forming a map of the United States

The Census Is Here: Are You Ready to Be Counted?

Dozens of small people icons forming a map of the United States

Did you receive a letter from the census and are wondering what it is and what you need to do? In 2020, it is easier than ever to complete your census from home.

The census seeks to account for every individual living in the United States. But many people with disabilities are left out of the count—harmfully impacting funding, services, and supports. Making sure you and your community are counted in the 2020 Census is an easy and important way to advocate for people with disabilities. After reading this introduction to the census, head to our census page for more resources and information, including information about how group homes are being counted.

What is the census?

Every 10 years, everyone in the United States is counted through the census. This data impacts many things:

  • How much money state and local governments get;
  • Where that money goes, like Medicaid, housing vouchers, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and education programs; and
  • How many representatives each state gets in the House of Representatives.

Why does it matter?

When the government does not have an accurate count of who is living in communities, they do not know how much money the community needs. When there isn’t enough money, services and programs for people with disabilities can be cut.

When everyone is counted, our communities get their fair share of federal funding to help keep all people safe and healthy—something that even more important now as we navigate COVID-19. Health care, education, and emergency planning all depend on getting an accurate census count.

What types of questions does it ask?

They will ask a short list of questions about everyone in your household, including demographics like age, sex, and race.

How do I complete it?

Even with many self-isolating, it’s easy to complete. It takes just a few minutes to fill out and can be done safely right in the comfort of your home. You can fill out the census in three ways: online, over the phone, or by mail. First they will mail the forms, and later, census workers will visit households who have not yet responded.

For more information and free resources, visit Los recursos también son disponibles en español!

People with disabilities count—make sure you’re counted!

Small Victories, but Stimulus Bill Overlooks Many Critical Needs of People With Disabilities, Their Families, and Workforce in COVID-19 Crisis

Washington, D.C. – While the legislation passed by Congress this week to address the COVID-19 pandemic will help in some ways, many of the grave issues facing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), their families, and workforce, were ignored.

“This is an unprecedented crisis for everyone, and everyone includes people with disabilities and their families. While this bill does provide some important support in this pandemic, there are huge risks facing people with disabilities, their families, and the direct support professional workforce that were largely ignored in this response,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The big missing pieces in this $2 trillion bill are:

No new funds for in-home supports. As we have seen in nursing homes in Washington state and on cruise ships, COVID-19 is particularly dangerous in congregate settings. To address the needs of people with IDD who need care at home, Congress must approve funding to expand home and community-based services and minimize the risk of people with disabilities being forced into institutions. States need these additional, new dollars to minimize waiting lists for home and community-based services, and to hire enough workers, provide wage increases and overtime pay to the workforce.

Doesn’t address the shortage of personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, needed for direct support professionals and providers to be safe. The direct support professional, or DSP, staff often help people with disabilities with very personal tasks that can’t be done from six feet away, yet the gear necessary to do these tasks safely is scarce, and Congress did not expand access to personal protective equipment for DSPs. This will lead to illness and death.

No paid time off for family caregivers of people with disabilities. A family caregiver who has to take off from work to care for a loved one with disabilities is not guaranteed paid time off.  Their employer, if they provide time off, will not be eligible for the tax credits Congress provided for employers to cover the costs of paid sick days and expanded Family and Medical Leave Act. As disability service providers have been ordered by government agencies to stop some services, families are scrambling to provide care to their family members with a disability, often at the expense of their job.

Forcing people with disabilities receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to jump through needless hoops to access stimulus payments. People with disabilities were included in the stimulus payments, Recovery Rebates, which are exempt from asset and income limits. But to access payments, people must have filed 2018 or 2019 taxes, or now file them, even people with IDD who receive SSI who earn too little to file taxes.

“We know that thousands of people with disabilities and family members implored their Members of Congress to include these needs in this bill. We are going to have to be a lot louder in the coming weeks, as we face the grim reality of this virus spreading further, putting the health, wellbeing, and lives of people with disabilities, their family members, and direct support professionals on the line,” said Berns.

The stimulus package does respond to some critical needs of people with IDD and their families by:

Including non-profit organizations that receive Medicaid funds in the small business loan assistance. At first left out of the package, this inclusion is incredibly important for people with disabilities, family members, and service providers because without access to small business loans, some service providers may not survive.

Allowing direct support professionals to accompany and assist the people they support when they are in the hospital. Prior to this bill, this level of support was not allowed. This will assist individuals who end up hospitalized with their transition home after they recover.

Funding for special education and some protections for students. Additional funds that can be used for various education programs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. The bill does not grant the Department of Education any authority to waive the IDEA, but it does include a directive for the Secretary of Education to make recommendations for waivers for education laws, including IDEA.

Funding for housing. The bill provides $12 billion in funding for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs, and important eviction and foreclosure protections.

Extending, but not permanently putting in place, a successful program which moves people with disabilities out of segregated settings and into the community. Money Follows the Person program, or MFP, provides flexibilities and funds to support states to continue transitions to the community and away from congregate settings. However, at a time when the risk for institutionalization is high, instead of permanently extending MFP, Congress opted for its fifth short term extension, which now expires November 30, 2020. We will continue to seek permanent reauthorization of this program.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Arc logo

Disability Discrimination Complaint Filed Over COVID-19 Treatment Rationing Plan in Washington State

SEATTLE – As COVID-19 cases increase, the experience in other countries and predictions of U.S. health officials is that there will not be enough acute care services or equipment, such as ventilators, to meet the demand of patients with the virus who require intensive treatment.  Health care professionals in the United States are already developing protocols for responding to COVID-19, including treatment rationing that will determine who will and will not have access to life-saving treatment.   

Self Advocates in Leadership (SAIL), Disability Rights Washington (DRW), and The Arc of the United States (The Arc) filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) about their grave concerns that the plans being put in place discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and place their lives at serious risk.  We call for OCR to take immediate action to address this discrimination and assist local jurisdictions and providers to develop non-discriminatory approaches before there are lethal consequences to application of these illegal policies.

The complaint focuses specifically on the plan released Friday by the Washington Department of Health and the Northwest Healthcare Regional Network that even those who developed the plan admit “is not going to be pretty.”

“I know already that intellectually disabled people get denied care because of being seen as lacking value,” said Ivanova Smith, Chair of Self Advocates in Leadership and individual complainant in the letter filed today with HHS OCR. “I deserve the same rights as anyone else. These policies discriminate against me and put my life at risk.”

Published descriptions of the goals and flow charts in the WA DOH and NHRN plan mirror the existing policy of the state-run University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC), which gives priority to treating people who are younger and healthier and leaves those who are older and sicker—people with disabilities—to die.    

A Seattle area patient of the University of Washington Medical Center explained that “I am concerned that a doctor will see my diagnosis of cystic fibrosis in my chart and make lots of erroneous assumptions about me. Cystic fibrosis often comes with significant breathing difficulties and a life expectancy of 30 years,” said Rose, not her real name due to fear of retaliation. “However, tests show that I have better breathing capacity than most people without cystic fibrosis and although I’m 28 years old, I have never been hospitalized and I am not anywhere close to dying. If I get COVID-19 and need intensive treatment like a ventilator, I fear the person making decisions about who gets treatment and who doesn’t will see my file among dozens or even a hundred or more people all competing for limited spots and my diagnosis will stand out and be used to exclude me from getting treatment despite what my individual medical tests and record say.”

Rose’s case shows how this plan will have a heavy impact on people with disabilities.  While medical knowledge of COVID-19 is constantly evolving, it is known that having an underlying medical condition heightens the effect of the virus. The conditions frequently mentioned include compromised immune, respiratory, cardiovascular and endocrine systems. All of these are common symptoms of many different physical disabilities and when significant enough form the basis of the disability on their own.

“The disability community is a broad, inclusive community where individuals with a variety of unique life experiences join forces to fight the many ways they are similarly discriminated against. We will not sit by as members of our community are left for dead. We stand up for those with preexisting disabilities and those with newly acquired disabilities who are impacted by COVID-19. We implore OCR to rein in and provide urgently needed guidance to the health care professionals who are prepared to relegate members of our community to die,” said David R. Carlson, Director of Advocacy, Disability Rights Washington.

“As COVID-19 sweeps our country, we are reminded once again that for far too long, the lives of people with disabilities have been undervalued. It is cruel that a person with a disability seeking medical treatment during this pandemic may not receive the care they need or they may be left to suffer or die because they are seen as less than or other. It is urgent that the federal government make very clear right now, on the front end of this health emergency, that it will swiftly enforce federal laws that protect against medical rationing plans discriminating against people with disabilities. We know this is just the beginning, and that there are many more days and months to come. The federal government must get it right, now, from the start. The lives of millions of people with disabilities across the nation are at stake – and those lives do have value,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The complaint stresses that OCR has a very brief moment to intercede. “If OCR fails to act swiftly to clearly and firmly articulate the violation of civil rights implicated by the rationing plan about to be unveiled in Washington, there will be no way to undo the lethal outcome of the discriminatory plans that have been formulated without OCR’s guidance. We request that you enforce the obligations of the healthcare professionals in Washington to develop non-discriminatory approaches to the delivery of care before it is too late.”

“Even in the midst of the current crisis, Washington State must abide by its obligation to not discriminate against people with disabilities. The complainants are on the front lines of a vital civil rights struggle. Their lives are at stake. I urge the HHS Office for Civil Rights to take swift action to protect them,” said Ari Ne’eman, Visiting Scholar with the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University.

Complainants are represented by their counsel who are available for comment:

David Carlson, Disability Rights Washington

Shira Wakschlag, The Arc of the United States

Sam Crane, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)

Jennifer Mathis, The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Cathy Costanzo and Alison Barkoff, Center for Public Representations;

Samuel Bagenstos

Woman on escalator wearing a face mask; she's holding a cell phone in one hand and her suitcase handle in the other

COVID-19 Legislation First Step in Addressing Crisis for People With Disabilities, Families

Washington, D.C. – People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are facing threats to their health and wellbeing due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the legislation passed by Congress and on its way to President Trump’s desk is a start in addressing their needs in this crisis.

The legislation includes:

  • A 6.2% increase in federal reimbursement for state Medicaid programs (FMAP), which will help state governments in their efforts to combat the pandemic;
  • Emergency requirements for all health insurers to cover testing;
  • Expanded nutrition assistance and crucial waivers for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and school meals;
  • Expanded unemployment insurance; and
  • Limited paid sick day and paid leave provisions that do not explicitly include caregivers for people with disabilities.

“This crisis is going to have a major impact on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and caregivers, and this legislation is a good first step in meeting their needs. As this crisis evolves, more will have to be done at the federal level for all Americans, particularly those with disabilities, their families, and caregivers,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc is working hard with legislators to ensure that the next package more directly covers the unique needs of people with disabilities, their families and the direct support workforce:

  • An additional FMAP increase that creates a grant program to support access to home and community-based services and to support the direct support professional (DSP) workforce with better pay during the crisis, and greater flexibilities in hiring and service provision.
  • A permanent reauthorization of the Money Follows the Person program, or MFP, which gives funds to states to move people with disabilities out of segregated settings and into the community. There is a real threat to unnecessary institutionalization. The flexibilities and funds from permanent MFP will support states to continue transitions to the community and away from congregate settings.
  • Economic stimulus with increased asset limits. For people with IDD receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Medicaid, strict asset limits must be maintained to receive the benefits. We strongly support stimulus for low income individuals, but because of the asset limits, people with IDD may end up with too much money in the bank, jeopardizing their SSI and/or Medicaid. Asset limits should be increased or paused to ensure that people with disabilities are able to benefit from the stimulus without jeopardizing their benefits.

“Without addressing these issues, the lives of people with disabilities and their families could be altered with no turning back. People could be placed into institutions and other congregate settings in violation of their rights and posing risk to their health. Families could be more pressed to choose between a paycheck and health and well-being. And our current DSP workforce crisis could get even worse, impacting day to day life for millions of people with disabilities. We have an opportunity in the coming days to address these big issues, and we are urging Congress to act swiftly,” said Berns.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

Close up of a microscope

Coronavirus Relief Bill: The Arc Fights for Disability Community

The Arc is pleased that Congress is recognizing the unique and vital needs that people with disabilities have when facing the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency relief bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today includes important and specific measures that would help mitigate the potentially catastrophic impacts of the novel coronavirus on millions of people with disabilities.

As we grow increasingly concerned over the threat of COVID-19 to people with disabilities, their families, and the workforce that supports them, we are encouraged that the House bill includes increased federal reimbursement for state Medicaid programs, which will help the uninsured gain access to COVID-19 testing, emergency requirements for all health insurers to cover testing, expanded nutrition assistance, and paid sick days and paid leave.

We are glad to see that the paid sick time and paid leave provision could be used to care for loved ones who are “otherwise in need of care.” That would cover workers who take time off to care for a loved one with a disability who has lost their primary source of care due to the new coronavirus.

As the legislation moves through Congress, we are advocating for specific funding to support the direct support professional workforce that supports people with disabilities, whose wages largely come from Medicaid, and that they are covered by both paid sick days and paid leave policies put in place by this legislation. Further, people with disabilities must be able to have access to a 90-day supply of medication and medical supply re-fills.

“This bill addresses many of the needs of people with disabilities in this global crisis. As the coronavirus relief bill moves through Congress, the paid sick days and paid leave policy must include funding to cover our direct support workforce,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc. “We fear that without appropriate action by Congress and President Trump, the coronavirus pandemic could lead to further exacerbation of the workforce crisis and the unnecessary placement of people with disabilities and aging adults into institutions and other congregate settings in violation of their rights and posing risk to their health.”

Two green vending machines, one with food and one with drinks, next to each other

Getting Creative With Fundraising at The Arc of Iowa

The Arc of Iowa was struggling financially with local chapters closing, memberships declining, and a growing need for advocacy related to managed care moving into the state. They wanted to build a social entrepreneur program that would help augment current fundraising and membership dues. The program needed to increase the awareness of The Arc of Iowa, engage existing chapters, and be a program that could be grown in both rural and urban communities. In what felt like a do or die moment, the board and director took a leap and spent every dime on building 28 vending machines that were placed in four communities across the state. We chatted with the Executive Director of The Arc of Iowa, Doug Cunningham to learn how the program works.

What does the manpower behind the vending machines look like? How do you fund, place, stock, and maintain them?

We partnered with Goodwill to assist with staffing statewide. One individual can stock three to four machines a day. They sort products based on a checklist, package them, and take them to the location. They then put the items in the machines, count the items, clean the machine, and digitally fax the inventory back to the State Office each day. We placed machines in the Goodwill Service Centers and on their store floors, programs that serve individuals with disabilities, and local businesses. They recruit workers with varying abilities and we train them to stock and service the machines. They even donated space in their local service centers to warehouse products. The sales are GPS monitored and we can see when machines require service or stocking from a central location. The machines cost between $4,000 to $7,000 a piece and require about $1,500 in coins and stock to set up. The machines are expected to have a useful life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.

Where does profit from the machines go?

Annually the machines generate about $5000 to $7000 a piece. Merchandise costs about 35% of what we can sell it for and labor is an additional 20%. We give the local sites 10% of the revenue and we used the remaining proceeds to build a new interactive website, a new statewide fund raising tool that local chapters can use,  training for self-advocates, fund a liaison at the State Capital, pay affiliation dues, and to further grow the vending program.   

How the initiative resulted in new or amplified relationships with other organizations/companies throughout the state?

One of the biggest challenges that the vending machines helped us overcome is getting out of our state offices and forcing us to work in the local communities. There was a disconnect between the state office and the local chapters. The vending machines required us to know the staff in Goodwill, our local chapters, and other agencies that allowed us to place machines in their facilities. It also gave us a unique way to inspire donors to invest in The Arc of Iowa again. In fact, a donor ended up paying off $70,000 of our machines and challenged the community to assist which generated another $25,000 in gifts.   

What are your hopes for the long-term growth and sustainability of the program?

We currently have 28 machines across the state which generate $90,000 annually. We hope to have hundreds of machines that generate an endless and consistent stream of revenue that can promote advocacy for years to come. After three years, and the generosity of donors, the machines were profitable and now provide a steady stream of revenue every day.  

How can other chapters explore and implement similar revenue-creating ventures?

The company that builds these machines can ship and set them up internationally. This opportunity is still in its infancy, and we made mistakes—however, there is room in the profitability to make those mistakes and learn from them. To make the program successful you need to think big. Build lots of machines and the infrastructure around it. The more machines you have, the better the value and the more efficient you become. Be interdependent with your local chapters for the highest impact. To make The Arc relevant, the community needs to see us. These machines, staffed by people with disabilities and used as big marketing machines, can promote awareness and foster financial independence for your chapter. Please feel free to reach out to me at for further questions.

The Arc logo

The Arc, Allies, and Self-Advocates Finally ‘Stop the Shock’

WASHINGTON – After too long of a wait, The Arc celebrates a victory in our seemingly never-ending fight to underscore the value and human dignity of the lives of people with disabilities. After years in limbo, the Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday it will finally ban the use of the electric shock device that has inflicted painful abuse on residents of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts for decades. JRC is an institution for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health issues.

By the FDA’s own count, as many as 50 JRC residents wear the shock device. Staff members use remote controls to administer shocks for perceived misbehavior. JRC uses the barbaric and inhumane practice, despite substantial evidence that the shocks are painful and traumatizing to residents.

“The Arc and The Arc of Massachusetts, alongside several disability rights organizations and empowered self-advocates across the country, fought for decades to ‘stop the shock’ and to end abusive and cruel practices masquerading as ‘behavioral treatments.’ People with disabilities deserve to live free from fear and torture. The FDA’s decision, years in the making, to ban the use of the electric shock device is a hard-fought victory and a testament to what is possible when disability advocates fight their hardest for change and for the civil rights of people with disabilities. We hope the ban is a significant step in ending the use of all aversive procedures on people with disabilities, who deserve to be supported with dignity,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.