The United States Capitol Building

House Passes COVID-19 Relief Bill That Helps People With Disabilities, Families, and Support Staff; Now the Senate Must Act

Today, the House of Representatives passed a COVID-19 relief bill that finally includes many elements that will provide critical assistance to people with disabilities, their families and the direct support workforce during this pandemic.

“This is an acute crisis for people with disabilities, their families, and support staff across the country. And this response legislation finally addresses many of our critical problems and dangers due to the pandemic. Now, we need the Senate to act quickly. Until they do, the lives of people with disabilities, their families, and support staff will continue to be precariously on the edge of disaster,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The House-passed bill includes these provisions reflecting our highest priorities:

Critical new dedicated funds for Medicaid home and community-based services, personal protective equipment (PPE) and workforce. As we have seen in nursing homes and institutions for people with disabilities, COVID-19 is particularly dangerous in congregate settings. To address the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who need care at home and in their communities, the House has included funding to sustain and expand home and community-based services while also minimizing the risk of people with disabilities being forced into large dangerous settings. States need these additional, new and dedicated dollars to expand access to services for those on waiting lists, and for providers to use the resources to hire enough workers, purchase much-needed PPE, and provide wage increases and overtime pay to the workforce.

Paid time off for family caregivers, including grandparents and siblings, of people with disabilities.  As more people with disabilities lose their usual sources of care, family caregivers are scrambling and need access to paid leave and sick days to help their loved ones. Congress passed limited paid time off in March, but this bill ensures that all family members, including siblings and grandparents, can be there for their loved ones with disabilities.

Stability of benefits for low-income adults and kids with disabilities despite employment changes. The bill ensures that low-income adults and children with disabilities have the resources and support they need from programs such as SNAP for food assistance and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, regardless of changes to their or parental employment related to COVID-19.

Funds for essential personnel, including direct support professionals, to cover childcare expenses and care for adult loved ones with disabilities at home. This $850 million in funding is critical for this workforce, which is juggling supporting those with disabilities and caring for their own families while their usual childcare options aren’t available.

Expanded access to health care for the uninsured, by creating a new enrollment period for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act exchanges and subsidies for people who lose employer provided health care to be able to afford continuing coverage. The bill also eliminates cost sharing for Medicaid beneficiaries, Medicare Parts A and B, and group and individual health plans for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines during this public health emergency.

“This virus is upending life as we know it, and until we get additional resources into our service system, paid time off for all caregivers, and other relief from the pressure of this crisis, we won’t stop advocating until it’s all addressed. We encourage the Senate to move ahead with this COVID-19 relief package,” said Berns.

Please join us by taking action.
Tell Congress that people with disabilities, their families, and direct support professionals need to be included in the next COVID-19 relief bill.
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The Arc Joins Supreme Court Amicus Brief Urging Court to Uphold Affordable Care Act, Congressional Protections for People With Disabilities

WASHINGTON – The Arc is once again fighting to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from repeated attacks in the courts. This time, during a global pandemic that has underscored the importance of the ACA and the need to preserve all of its provisions for the many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who rely on the law for access to health care.

The Arc, with a coalition of disability and civil rights organizations, has joined an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court today in the case California v. Texas. We are urging the court to uphold the ACA in its entirety. However, if the court should decide to invalidate the ACA’s minimum-coverage provision, it is critical that the rest of the ACA’s protections remain in place. A declaration that the ACA as a whole is unconstitutional would have devastating impacts on people with disabilities generally and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, since they face higher risk of COVID-19 infection and disproportionately poorer long-term health outcomes from the disease.

“Removing the ACA’s Congressionally-enacted protections would reverse the progress that people with disabilities have realized since the ACA became law. We would return those with disabilities to a cruel reality in which affordable insurance lacks the breadth and depth of coverage for vital services or is denied out right. During this unprecedented pandemic, we simply cannot afford to go back to a time when people with disabilities and their families lived in fear of losing the coverage they had or went without access to the health care services that made life in the community possible,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated healthcare disparities and underscored the critical importance of the ACA given the millions of newly unemployed Americans who would not be able to afford health insurance without the ACA, the increase in disabilities and long-term healthcare needs resulting from COVID-19, and the possibility of discriminatory medical rationing prohibited by the ACA.

The amicus brief outlines the substantial benefits that Congress intentionally extended to people with disabilities in enacting the ACA and argues that the breadth of these benefits, and their critical importance to the lives of millions of people with disabilities should weigh heavily in the Court’s analysis. The ACA has been essential to overcoming the disproportionate impact that America’s health care crisis, even before COVID-19, has had on people with disabilities, and how it is uniquely difficult for people with disabilities to obtain affordable and adequate health insurance coverage despite relying on health care services more than those without disabilities.

The ACA has provided long-denied access to health insurance and health care and explicitly prohibits discrimination in access to care. It has allowed people with disabilities to obtain health care and supports that are critical to their health and independence. The ACA protects against coverage limitations based on preexisting conditions or lifetime limits and guarantees coverage of services for psychiatric and developmental disabilities. It also provides access to long-term home-based health care, allowing people with disabilities to live in the community, rather than institutions.

“The Arc has fought vigorously to protect the ACA. In enacting the law, Congress intentionally extended protections to people with disabilities, and would not want to see these protections undermined, especially now, given all we have at stake in this pandemic,” said Berns.

Nineteen national disability and civil rights organizations joined the amicus brief, represented by the law firms Dentons and Baker Hostetler and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Arc previously joined an amicus brief in this case before the Fifth Circuit and has fought against discrimination in medical care—prohibited by the ACA—since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), 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 I/DD 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.

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The Arc@Work Starter’s Guide to Creating an Inclusive Workplace

A young woman in an office setting wearing a head set and glasses

By Stephane Leblois, Senior Manager of Workforce Development, The Arc@Work

Are you ready to take your company’s performance to the next level?

Numerous studies have shown that businesses that prioritize diversity and inclusion within their workforce outperform their industry peers and are better positioned to respond to rapidly-changing consumer trends and business challenges. Companies such as Microsoft, SAP, and others have shown time and again that their disability workforce is among the most talented and valuable assets to their organizations.

Despite this recent groundswell of disability hiring, many businesses get stuck trying to figure out where to start in their disability inclusion efforts. Here are eight practical and achievable steps to getting YOUR business started on a path to a stronger and more inclusive diversity strategy.

Create a group of visible and cross-functional champions. As a first step, it is important to establish a core group of individuals within your business that are passionate about disability inclusion and are willing to dedicate time and resources toward advancing your initiative. This group should include people from a variety of different departments and leadership levels within the company so that there are as many diverse perspectives and skillsets represented as possible.

Cultivate buy-in at multiple levels of your organization. Creating a disability-inclusive workplace requires that changes be made to an organization’s culture, operations, recruiting and hiring practices, and many other facets. A change agenda of this magnitude requires buy-in from decisionmakers and implementers alike, meaning that your champions need to create an airtight pitch and messaging campaign to inform staff and leadership at multiple levels of the “how” and the “why” to have a disability-inclusive workplace.

Develop partnerships with local and national disability organizations. Once your internal support is secured, the next important step is to seek out the expertise from local and national disability agencies that specialize in disability-inclusive employment. It is also critical to engage with individuals in your local disability community and the agencies that provide vocational training and job placement services to potential job candidates. Establishing your business as a disability-inclusive employer to the surrounding disability community is an important step toward getting individuals with disabilities to join your team.

Start small to build a replicable and sustainable model. While it is important to keep an eye on the big picture and think about how to hire people with disabilities in multiple positions across multiple departments, it is even more important to start small to develop a sound strategy that can be scaled in the future. Creating a disability-inclusive workplace takes intentionality and time, and the last thing that a change leader should do is to rush to scale an unproven model. If your business has little to no experience in hiring people with disabilities, pick a specific office, department, or team as the first landing spot for new hires with disabilities.

Communicate clearly to all staff and leadership. Keep your colleagues informed and engaged in your initiative. This can be through staff-wide email updates, conference calls or presentations during all-staff meetings, or visuals such as posters or banners that are put up in the workplace as a reminder of what the initiative is and how staff can contribute even if they are not directly involved. In addition to disability bias and awareness training, it is important to provide training to HR staff on how to recruit, interview, and onboard people with different disabilities. It is also crucial to train any in-house trainers for new staff so that they may make their training and accompanying materials accessible to new hires with disabilities.

Hold everyone to the same standard of performance. It is important to make sure that no double standards are created in performance evaluations. It is easy for managers to want new hires with disabilities to succeed, and in doing so they may relax performance or production standards. Doing this initially may be part of an extended ramp-up to the job that is in place as a reasonable accommodation, but if it extends into a longer term, this creates a double standard that is harmful to the employee and for staff morale. Creating this double standard is another way of setting people apart in the workplace, which is something that your disability inclusion initiative should avoid.

Regularly evaluate success and ROI. Hiring people with disabilities isn’t just the “right” thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Inclusive workplaces are more productive, more creative in problem-solving, safer, and more profitable in the long run. Check in regularly with staff and leadership on the financial and cultural impacts of the initiative and how it has impacted their jobs. Be sure to also ask any current or new employees with disabilities on what their experience in your workplace is like.

The Arc@Work logo

The Arc@Work works with business leaders in the public and private sectors to create and execute comprehensive strategies to foster inclusion in the workplace and hire qualified jobseekers with disabilities. We understand the cultural, structural, and financial barriers that businesses may encounter on the road to creating a disability-inclusive workplace—and we are here to help you overcome them.

Learn more at thearc.org/employment and get started today.