Comcast logo

Comcast NBCUniversal and The Arc Collaborate to Make Life-Changing Impact With Digital Skills Efforts for People With Disabilities

For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), digital access and skills are a critical component of gaining independence. In 2021, The Arc and Comcast NBCUniversal once again teamed up to open digital doors for and with people with IDD.

The Arc and Comcast NBCUniversal have a long-standing partnership to do this work – in 2020, the corporation renewed its support with $400,000 for our Tech Coaching Centers and to buoy chapters that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arc’s national network of nearly 600 chapters provides vital resources and services to individuals with IDD and their families to promote greater independence and opportunity in the community. Through this partnership, since 2017, more than 2,160 clients have received basic digital skills training at 19 sites around the country.

This year, the needs were dire, and the impacts of this tech expertise spanned many aspects of life, including vital health support, access to education and employment opportunities, and a remedy for ongoing isolation in the pandemic.

“For years, our partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal has laser-focused on how technology can improve the lives of people with disabilities. What stands out this year is the stark, life-changing impact of this work. We have all experienced challenges since the start of the pandemic, but for many people with disabilities, the disruption to their lives could have been catastrophic. Our chapters supported people to withstand this storm, and gain new skills and grow,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

Here is a sample of how this program impacted the lives of people with disabilities across the country.

Improving Health

Candy, The Noble Arc of Greater Indianapolis (Indiana)

Recently, Candy has begun experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. When Candy becomes frustrated with lapses in memory, her tech coach reminds her to visit the computer lab. There, they work together on pulling up websites where she can listen to her favorite country songs. With Candy taking the lead as much as possible and a tech coach providing support, Candy logs onto YouTube and chooses her music. Music activates a different part of the brain than the areas impacted by memory loss, so Candy can remember the lyrics and sing along with all her favorite artists. Sometimes all she needs is 20 minutes of relaxing to her favorite songs to reset her day.

Cesar, The Arc of Weld County (Colorado)

In a previous job as Office Assistant years ago, Cesar demonstrated his aptitude and interest in computer work. In fact, many of his electronic forms are still used at the organization today. This year, Cesar received a Chromebook from the chapter and his tech abilities improved even more, allowing him to participate in many virtual engagement opportunities. In particular, Cesar has benefitted from telehealth. At times, Cesar experiences significant anxiety when preparing to travel via bus to medical appointments. In a tech coaching session, he learned how telehealth could ease his apprehension and maximize his self-care and health management. A bonus from this session was Cesar met a new friend who shared that she would be delighted to support Cesar when he needed to travel to an appointment. Cesar’s connections are growing online and offline, leading to overall improved health and outlook.

Remedying Isolation in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Joseph, The Arc of Lane County (Oregon)

Joseph is very social. Before the pandemic, he would spend his days visiting with friends and volunteering at a local food pantry. With no social media, technology, or even internet, he was extremely sad when in-person programming shut down. With tech coaching, Joseph was able to acquire a tablet, create a Facebook account and send messages to people he has missed over the last year and a half. He quickly reconnected with about 50 friends! Joseph has also learned how to use a transportation app to find bus routes to places he wants to visit. He is now able to communicate with some of his favorite people and cherishes this newfound social outlet.

Wesley, New Star Services (Illinois)

Wesley wanted to learn how to use an iPad, specifically to learn how to use Zoom to have meet ups where he could see his friends. Through four in-person sessions, he learned how to access Zoom on the iPad, begin and end the session, and adjust the volume as needed. Gaining the ability to connect with friends and family, especially during this time, is important to help combat feelings of isolation and support mental health. Wesley is able to virtually connect with the people who are an important part of his life.

Accessing Education and Employment Opportunities

Mari, The Arc of Lane County (Oregon)

Mari wants to get her GED and go to cosmetology school. She had tried taking the GED prep classes at community college but was often unable to attend due to a lack of transportation. Although her home has Wi-Fi, she had nothing more than a gaming console. Now, she has purchased a laptop and works on educational modules at her convenience from home. With the support of a tech coach, she has learned to utilize Google Docs to write essays, Grammarly to help her with spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and Khan Academy to work through academic education modules. She is also using other websites to practice her reading and writing skills. Mari is now enjoying the learning process and is feeling more independent and confident as she works at her own pace toward her educational goal.

Samantha, The Arc of Southern Maryland

At the beginning of 2021, a clerical position at the chapter opened, and Samantha saw the opportunity to learn more skills and take on more hours and responsibilities. She trained diligently until she was comfortable with the computer program necessary to do this job. Samantha knows she is making an impact, sharing “I like being able to help employees.” Her boss says, “She is a great resource to the department.”

“When we provide access to digital skills training, we create opportunities and pathways to independence that can be life-changing, especially for those living with disabilities,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation. “Partnerships like the one we’re proud to share with The Arc – and as a result, the many lives we’re able to help impact – are at the heart of what drives us each and every day at Comcast. We’re so very honored to continue to grow our work together and help enrich even more lives.”

Comcast NBCUniversal’s partnership with The Arc is part of Project UP, the company’s comprehensive effort to address digital inequities and help build a future of unlimited possibilities. Backed by a $1 billion commitment to reach 50 million people, Project UP is focused on connecting people to the Internet, advancing economic mobility, and opening doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and creators.

Comcast logo featuring rainbow icon above the text

A mom, dad and young man stand around another young man who is in wheelchair. They are standing in their living room.

Families Like Debbi, Josh, and Victor Need Your Support.

The Arc has been advocating for decades to help family caregivers—advocating for health insurance, for paid family and medical leave, and respite services and other family supports. And this advocacy has taken on even more urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Families like Debbi, her husband Victor, and their son Josh need our support more than ever.

“Josh was born about eight weeks early with a grade four brain hemorrhage, so he was one of the sickest babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. It started our roller coaster of a journey of having a child with complex medical needs and disabilities.”

Debbi and Victor struggled to hold onto their jobs while managing Josh’s complex medical needs and raising their two other children. Victor was often called away for active duty with the military. Debbi often worked during the night to meet her deadlines and hold onto the health insurance they depended on to pay for Josh’s medical care.

“And that insurance, it was always in the back of my mind, was what was keeping Josh alive.”

The challenges of balancing work and family caregiving responsibilities began to mount. Debbi struggled to get approved for unpaid leave and as Josh’s care needs increased, Debbi had to reduce her working hours substantially. This was a financial burden for the entire family and increased her worry about losing her job altogether.

Reflecting on that time, Debbi explains:

“It was a very difficult time emotionally, physically, and also financially. If I had been able to get paid leave, our struggles would have been so much less critical.”

Like Debbi, most Americans cannot take extended unpaid time away from work to care for a family member. Nor are they able to wait on years-long waiting lists for supports and services that may never come.

That’s why The Arc is working to make a national paid family leave program a reality for ALL who need it.

That’s why we’re advocating for home and community-based services to be available when they’re needed most.

Family caregivers, and their loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities, experience challenges in their daily lives that you and I never even have to think about. The Arc must be there alongside them. But we can’t do it without you.

You can help overwhelmed families navigate the complex developmental disabilities services systems for infants, children, and adults with IDD by giving to The Arc.

Can we count on you to stand with family caregivers by supporting The Arc today?

Join us and make a difference. Donate to support our critical advocacy today and sign up for updates to advocate with us when it matters most.

Your gift will be matched!



Child Tax Credit Helps Working Moms Like Molly Stay Afloat and in the Workforce

A woman sits on the ground with mulch and a fallen tree around her. On her lap is her young son. She is wearing a mask and holding him affectionately. For moms like Molly, the past four months have meant long-overdue help in making ends meet. Molly works full time and manages the care for her 15-year-old son, Reid, who has a condition called Angelman’s Syndrome. Reid requires specialized caregiving for feeding, diaper changes, and constant monitoring for safety due to seizures and mobility issues.

What has been the difference in the last four months? The Child Tax Credit (CTC), a monthly cash benefit for children for which low and middle-income families can qualify. It has helped families like Molly’s pay for rent, food, child care, health care co-pays, school supplies, and other expenses across the country. For caregiver parents, it’s an especially needed benefit. As Molly says, “I am using this to pay for help, food, and transportation so I can stay afloat when forced to leave work to be a caregiver when no one else can and give Reid’s elderly grandma a break once in a while so she can continue to help with his care going forward.”

But Congress is currently debating if they should continue these crucial payments. Some legislators want to reduce this credit, limit the families who can receive it, and take it away from some of the lowest-income families by instituting a work requirement. This change would disproportionately impact parents who took time away from work to care for their child with a disability or complex medical needs. As Molly says:

“We have always had a hard time getting caregivers to help in the home and rely heavily on Reid’s 73-year-old grandma to fill in the scheduling gaps.  A few years ago I gave up working in the clinic as a prosthetist and as an instructor at the University of Washington and took on a work-from-home role with the corporate office of my company.  This was necessary in order to have enough schedule flexibility to ensure Reid is cared for in the summer and enabled to attend school the rest of the year.  Reid qualifies for Medicaid and has a Basic Plus Waiver for in home caregivers and other assistance. Over the past two years, I have had to take unpaid time off work, accept furlough from my job, and rent out half my house in order to make up for Reid not being in school and the lack of available Medicaid-paid caregivers.” The CTC is making a critical difference for Molly, Reid, and many more families, so penalizing caregiver parents is unacceptable.

As we learned when a work or earnings requirement was proposed in Medicaid a few years ago, these unnecessary rules only create costly, bureaucratic processes that restrict access. They often penalize people who are working, but who need to leave the workforce for a period of time for their own health reasons or to take care of a loved one. As Molly says: “Every time I’ve had to take time away from my paid job to be a caregiver for Reid, I am scared to death that I will lose my job and jeopardize my career prospects.  I have worked for years to be a good prosthetist and excellent corporate employee.  The small amount of assistance the tax credits give for caregiving is not in any way an incentive to leave my paid job. They are only enablement to continue working at BOTH of the jobs in which I am fulfilled as a productive member of society.”

A work requirement would disproportionality harm parents with disabilities and families with children with disabilities. It is past time for Congress to recognize that caregiving is work and provide essential supports to families through the Child Tax Credit.

The Arc logo

Members of Congress Join Parents, Caregiving Advocates to Demand Urgent Care Infrastructure Investments in Build Back Better Budget Reconciliation

WASHINGTON, DC — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Robert Casey (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) joined parents, caregivers, care workers, and advocates Thursday to express support for care infrastructure investments in the Build Back Better budget reconciliation package.

Specifically, members of Congress voiced their support and explained why workers, families, businesses and our economy need care infrastructure investments immediately, including paid family and medical leave, in-home-and community-based services for elders and people with disabilities, a fully refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC), living wages and a path to citizenship for all care workers.

“All over the country people with disabilities, and their families are going without the support that they need due to decades of lack of investment in Home and Community-Based Services, resulting in stagnant pay for direct care worker wages, for a workforce doing life-giving work,” said Nicole Jorwic, Senior Director of Public Policy, The Arc of the United States. “The dedicated funding for HCBS will raise wages for these workers, create more and better direct care jobs, provide more services for those going without, and support family caregivers who are currently filling the gaps that the service system leaves behind. Now is the time to build back better to support people where they want to live, in their homes and communities.”

“The time to build a care infrastructure that lifts our economy, our families and our country is now. America’s moms, dads, and caregivers are rising across the nation to let Congress know that care can’t wait, and neither can our economy,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO of MomsRising. “We must end the days when moms, dads, and caregivers lose their jobs when a baby comes or critical illness strikes, when families can’t afford quality child care, when care workers don’t earn living wages, when people with disabilities and the aging can’t access or afford in-home care, and when tens of millions of America’s children are raised in poverty. A care infrastructure will lift families, enable moms and parents to work, support businesses, boost our economy, and create millions more good jobs. It will allow for a just recovery from the pandemic and make our country more successful.”

“Small businesses are demanding programs like paid leave and child care that will help ease the burden of high costs on working families and support entrepreneurs. It’s past time to level this playing field,” said Main Street Alliance Co-Executive director Chanda Causer. “An investment in our overall care economy is an investment in small businesses, and our local community. It is important to move both pieces of infrastructure legislation together. One without the other will limit an equitable or sustainable recovery. Small businesses are watching closely to make sure any investments in our economy are truly investments in an equitable recovery and future.”

“Home and community based services literally keeps myself and millions of Americans alive and at home with our families. Fully funding home and community-based services, would allow seniors and people with disabilities to receive the care they need at home to live with dignity and respect with their families and loved ones,” said Ady Barkan, Co-Founder of Be A Hero. “Not only will fully funding home and community based services allow for seniors and people with disabilities to live at home with dignity and respect, but it will finally give caregivers the respect they deserve through a living wage.  The historic investments in HCBS will have an outsized impact on the nation’s overall employment, and the employment of women and women of color. Millions of Americans are counting on Members of Congress to seize this moment, be heroes, and fully fund home and community based services.”

“Home care workers no matter where we work or live need the right to form a union,” said Latonya Jones-Costa, a home care worker from Atlanta. “I’m an expert in my field with specialized skills and advanced certifications. I have just as much training and qualifications as other healthcare workers; however, I don’t earn a family-sustaining wage, have healthcare. I have to work two jobs just to keep the lights on. It’s hard to fight for those basic benefits when I don’t have an opportunity to join a union, and unfortunately in our industry that was done by design. Now we have a better chance to undo these injustices and fight for our basic benefits so we can better provide essential care to our clients.”

“The pandemic has exacerbated the care crisis most women — especially Black and Brown women — in this country have been facing for decades. Millions of women have been forced out of the labor market as women-dominated industries were hit the hardest by the pandemic and caregiving needs at home increased,” said Monifa Bandele, Interim President and CEO at TIME’S UP Now. “The system is broken and women and families are suffering, and so is the economy. Women’s labor force participation has reached its lowest point in 30 years. We can’t achieve family economic security or safe, healthy, thriving communities if women can’t productively engage in the workforce because they don’t have access to quality child care or care for their elderly relatives or family members with disabilities. We are the only wealthy nation that doesn’t guarantee paid family leave, which undermines our workers’ productivity. Care can’t wait and the time to care is now.”

“Here’s the bottom line: Babies’ growing brains can’t choose between the things they need. Neither should Congress,” shared Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, ZERO TO THREE’s Chief Policy Officer. “Millions of parents in this country are forced to make impossible decisions every single day about caring for and supporting their babies. Today, we are on the cusp of shoring up our crumbling care infrastructure and supporting families and parents in providing for their children. The Build Back Better Act answers the call for a baby agenda that provides elements essential for healthy development with paid family and medical leave; a comprehensive child care system that addresses both the high costs and limited supply of quality care that plagues parents with young children; and an enhanced Child Tax Credit that could cut child poverty in half. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to respond to families’ needs today and to build a strong foundation for generations to come. Babies and families need a care infrastructure that paves the way for healthy development and strengthens families, communities, and our country.”

“We have the opportunity to do something meaningful—and truly transformational—to help every working family in this country but particularly the women of color hit hardest in an ongoing crisis,” said Dawn Huckelbridge, Director of Paid Leave for All. “We have the opportunity to pass policies that would yield millions of jobs, billions in wages, and trillions in GDP and to leave a powerful, profound legacy—to finally make history by passing paid leave in the United States. Care must be the cornerstone of our recovery, our rebuilding, and this package.”

“Families can’t thrive, and the economy can’t recover, until we have the policy solutions that support all of us in caring for the people we love,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “That’s why we urge Congress to ensure the Build Back Better Act includes provisions to address our nation’s long-standing failure to support care for children, seniors, and people with disabilities—problems, which the pandemic has magnified, that disproportionately affect women, children, and communities of color. Significant investments in child care, pre-K, paid family and medical leave, continuation of the expanded child tax credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, and a pathway to citizenship are essential for our economic recovery.”

“People across the country are waiting for the Build Back Better agenda to pass, including robust investments in the care work that allows all other work to happen,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations. “We all deserve an economy that gets women back to work, and we’ll get there when our leaders invest in home and community-based services, expand care services for our elderly and our loved ones with disabilities, lower care costs for families, and raise wages for the essential workers who do the work that make it all possible. It’s time for Congress to deliver and ensure that all of us, especially care workers themselves, can access the care we deserve.”

“Comprehensive, universal paid family and medical leave is essential for workers now more than ever,” said Lelaine Bigelow, Vice President for Social Impact and Congressional Relations at the National Partnership for Women & Families. We are grateful to our Congressional leaders who understand this, and who continue to fight for legislation that truly builds back better and provides support for women and families at this time when they need it most. Without robust care policies, our economy will only continue to suffer. At a time when many Americans are worried about their health and their economic stability, care simply cannot wait.”

The event was organized by MomsRising and Care Can’t Wait in partnership with Better Balance, Advocates for Children of NJ, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Federation of Teachers, Be a Hero, Building Back Together, Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, CAP Action, Caring Across Generations, Center for American Progress, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Child Care Services Association, Coalition of Labor Union Women, AFL-CIO, Community Change Action, DC Action, Equal Rights Advocates, Family Values @ Work, Family Voices NJ, First Focus on Children, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition, Low Income Investment Fund, Main Street Alliance, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Association for Family Child Care, National Council of Jewish Women, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, NCBCP/Black Women’s Roundtable, Oxfam America, Paid Leave for All, PL+US: Paid Leave for the U.S., SEIU, Stand for Children, Supermajority, The Arc of the United States, TIME’S UP Now, UltraViolet, United for Respect, United State of Women, We Demand More Coalition, Women’s March, and ZERO TO THREE.

A photo of two woman in their police officer uniforms sitting on either side of a young girl with Down syndrome in front of a police station.

September 11 Day of Service Grantees Give Back and Help Prepare Their Communities

This past September marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. To honor all who were lost, The Arc joined forces with local chapters of The Arc and other community organizations to develop inclusive volunteer projects centered around the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance (9/11 Day).

These projects aimed to strengthen and prepare communities for all types of emergencies. Their goal was also to challenge the perception that individuals with disabilities are only service recipients by demonstrating that volunteers with and without disabilities can and do serve their communities side-by-side.

The Arc’s 2021 9/11 Day grantees spent much of the past year preparing for their keynote September 11 weekend events. This year’s grantees included Egyptian Area Agency on Aging, Ridge Area Arc, The Arc of Hanover, The Arc Central Chesapeake Region, Athletes for Hope, Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, The Arc of Palm Beach County, The Arc Nature Coast, and The Arc Tennessee.

These dedicated organizations served their communities in a variety of ways, including:

  • Hosting community-wide artistic events, which provided a space for community members to create collaborative art that honors those lost on 9/11 and promotes collective strength, resiliency, and remembrance
  • Designing handmade cards of appreciation for local first responders
  • Assembling and distributing emergency kits to local families
  • Distributing emergency preparedness information and templates to community members
  • Installing fire alarms for homeowners living in high-risk neighborhoods

Together, our grantees recruited over 1,000 volunteers, who spent close to 5,000 hours leading a variety of emergency planning activities that benefited over 4,100 individuals.

We would love for your organization to join us next year by building an emergency preparedness volunteer program in your community. We are currently accepting grant applications for the 2022 September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance – and the deadline to apply is November 4. Learn more and apply here!

Photo of desks in a classroom with dim, moody lighting

Federal Court Blocks Iowa’s Law Banning Masking Requirements in Schools

DES MOINES, Iowa — A federal district court today blocked Iowa’s law prohibiting schools from requiring masks. The court ruled that the law violates the civil rights of children with disabilities, including children with underlying conditions, who are more vulnerable to severe illness or death as a result of COVID-19.

The decision makes clear that children have a right under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to equal access to their educations, which for some children with underlying conditions and disabilities, requires that schools implement universal masking requirements.

The district court recognized that “forcing children to bear the brunt of societal discord is ‘illogical and unjust’” and cited data showing that “the current level of the delta variant in Iowa has increased the infection rate and severity of infection. Some public schools in Iowa are experiencing COVID-19 infection rates at upwards of 60 percent that of last year’s total for the entire school year.” The court also cited data showing that the number of children hospitalized due to COVID-19 is also on the rise.

The decision comes in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Iowa, Disability Rights Iowa, The Arc of the United States, and law firms Arnold & Porter and Duff Law Firm, P.L.C. on behalf of The Arc of Iowa and 11 parents of children with disabilities.

The following statements are from:

Shira Wakschlag, Senior Director of Legal Advocacy and General Counsel, The Arc of the United States:

“The court is making it clear that students with disabilities have the right to go to school safely during this pandemic. The Arc will continue fighting to ensure that students with disabilities are able to attend their neighborhood schools alongside their peers without disabilities without putting their health and their lives at risk.”

Rita Bettis Austen, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa:

“We are grateful to the district court for blocking this dangerous law, which put vulnerable kids in harm’s way and violated their civil rights in education. We are relieved that schools across the state will now be able to protect those kids as required by federal law. No parent should be asked to choose between the safety and health of their child and their child’s ability to go to school, but that’s exactly the position that this law put parents across Iowa in.”

Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program:

“This is a huge victory for our plaintiffs and all parents of children with disabilities who have been forced to choose between protecting the health of their children and ensuring they receive an education alongside their peers. This decision opens the door for schools across Iowa to take basic public health measures to protect their students. It also should send a message to other states that they cannot put politics above the rights and safety of students with disabilities. Disability rights laws were passed precisely for this situation – in which children with disabilities health and education would be sacrificed for the convenience of the majority. Banning the possibility that schools may require masks — in the middle of a pandemic — discriminates against school children with disabilities. All students with disabilities should be able to attend school safely, as federal disability rights laws guarantee.”

Catherine E. Johnson, executive director, Disability Rights Iowa:

“The order entered today restores our students’ with disabilities long-held civil rights of equal access to their education and full inclusion with their general education peers in the school curriculum and all other activities and programs offered by their school. Today is a monumental day for all plaintiffs, as well as all Iowans forced to choose between sacrificing their child’s health or education opportunities. Effective today, parents no longer have to make this impossible choice, their children are entitled to both.”

Photos and videos of some clients, attorneys, and organizational logos available here:

More details about this case are here:

The decision is here:

This statement is here:


a young boy in a hospital bed with medical equipment on his face. He is smiling.

Surviving on a GoFundMe Campaign: How a Hospital Stay Without Paid Leave Forced One Family Into a Crisis No One Should Face

A selfie of a young boy with his father. They are laying in a hospital bed together and the son has a hospital gown on and medical equipment on his face and neck.

For Kerri, Ken, and their family, Father’s Day weekend 2019 started out as planned—peaceful and filled with quality family time. But early Saturday morning, Kerri and Ken awoke to their 17-year-old son, Yosh, screaming in pain. His stomach had swollen so badly overnight that it looked like a beach ball.

They were terrified for their son. Yosh, who has Down syndrome and autism, is not able to express himself well with verbal language and struggles to understand what is going on around him. However, even without words to explain what he was experiencing, it was clear his pain was severe.

Over the next several days, Yosh was placed in an induced coma as the hospital staff performed tests—and unfortunately found blockages throughout his intestines. For Kerri and Ken, the news was devastating. Yosh had never had any stomach issues. They grappled with trying to understand what was happening—all the while, never leaving Yosh’s side. They barely left the hospital as Yosh received treatment, taking turns watching him while the other rested.

They ended up at their local hospital, where Yosh is considered a VIP because of his frequent visitor status and is well-known to the hospital staff. But even as familiar with Yosh as the hospital staff are, Kerri and Ken know him best. To diagnose Yosh, Kerri says “you have to look for flying hippos with pink and purple spots” and she and Ken knew they needed to be there to help.

However, as the days turned to weeks, Kerri and Ken had to deal with something no parent should have to imagine: choosing between being with your seriously ill child and working.

Kerri and Ken are self-employed. While New Jersey has paid leave, it only covers workers who receive W2s, so both Kerri and Ken were left without help.

Kerri and Ken lived with a fear no parent should have to experience: that not only could each day be their son’s last, but that they would also lose their home in the process.

While they knew that Yosh’s Medicaid would pay for his hospital bills, without income coming in, they were terrified they would have no place to return to when the hospital stay ended. It was the scariest time of their lives. Both still experience post-traumatic stress from the situation, and Kerri shakes every time she passes the hospital.

A selfie image of a mom and her teenage son. She is wearing a white t shirt, green lanyard, glasses, and a bandana. He is wearing a yellow shirt and has medical tape and equipment on his face and neck.

While they were in the hospital, a GoFundMe campaign was set up for Yosh and his parents. Family, friends, friends of friends, and strangers donated to Kerri, Ken, and their family that summer.

And, through their help, they were able to pay for their mortgage, utilities, and other essentials.

Kerri and Ken are so grateful for the generosity of others—but also angry that when they were at their lowest point, there were no resources for their family. In addition to advocating for their son, Kerri advocates for and with other families in her work.

“There are so many families that are out there that don’t even know there are resources for them… When a family is in crisis, there needs to be some place for them to go and call in someone who has the knowledge and resources to help them.”

Kerri and Ken don’t want anyone else to ever go through what they did. Paid leave shouldn’t depend on the kind of tax form you get from your job. And no one should have to choose between being there for loved ones and their homes and livelihood.

Learn more and act now to help families like Kerri and Ken’s nationwide.

Visit to learn more.

The Arc logo

The Arc Celebrates Senate Passage of the $3.5 Trillion Budget Resolution to Invest in Crumbling Care Infrastructure

Washington, D.C. – The Arc is encouraged that the U.S. Senate took an important step in favor of respecting the human dignity of people with disabilities and aging adults. Wednesday, the Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution triggering the start of the reconciliation process.

The vote paves the way for Congress to pass a comprehensive spending package that would provide generational investments in our nation’s crumbling care infrastructure and groundbreaking benefits that could reshape the future for millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, American families and their children.

“The historic investment in Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) included in the budget resolution will be transformative for a system that currently leaves almost one million people waiting for services all over this country,” said Peter Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc of the United States. “People with disabilities and aging adults, have struggled, well before the pandemic, with a system that does not include the resources to support them in their homes and communities. The infrastructure of care for these groups currently includes the labor of unpaid family caregivers who fill in the gaps in the service system, and a paid workforce that is not paid a family sustaining wage. The $400 billion included to both expand access to HCBS and raise wages for the direct care workforce will shore up the care infrastructure so that people with disabilities can live independently, aging adults can age in place, and family caregivers can return to the workforce.”

The Arc also strongly supports the inclusion of a national paid leave program and hope to see other priorities such as long-overdue improvements to the Supplemental Security Income program included in the final package.

Close up of a person holding a small leather wallet in their left hand and pulling out a folded dollar bill

Stuck in Time: SSI Desperately Needs Updating

By: Bethany Lilly

My parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last year. Fifty years is a long time, and so much has changed—the internet, cell phones, self-driving cars, and we’ve seen so many disability rights victories. Next year, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program will also turn 50. But this milestone for SSI is almost disappointing because in those 50 years, the rules of SSI have barely changed. Passed in 1972, SSI was designed to keep the lowest income adults and children with disabilities and older adults from living in poverty. But Congress has ignored this crucial lifeline and failed to update it, instead leaving people with disabilities and older adults trapped in deep poverty, for fear of going over the limits and losing benefits. Rules that haven’t been updated in a half century govern how much money people who rely on SSI can earn, how married couples who receive the benefit are treated by the federal government, the amount of income the program provides, and how much help family and friends are allowed to give to loved ones on SSI. Rules about how much people can save haven’t been updated for almost 40 years!

SSI is supposed to fill in the gaps of other government support programs, paying for housing and other expenses that aren’t covered by Medicaid. But the current rules make that almost impossible. If someone is relying on SSI, the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment almost anywhere in this country will consume more than the maximum monthly SSI payment of $794, leaving practically nothing for other expenses like groceries and other necessities. And limiting savings to only $2,000 means that many people cannot save enough to even move into an apartment or house. People can end up trapped in institutional settings, with no ability to afford an alternative. Like so many other parts of the disability service system, SSI is crucial infrastructure that is crumbling due to decades of neglect.

Nothing has made that clearer than the pandemic. With a maximum monthly SSI benefit of $794, people with disabilities are struggling to afford the necessities of pandemic life like masks, grocery delivery, and increased prices for so many basic goods. Restricted from saving more than $2,000, no SSI recipient could rely on their savings to get them through the past 17 months and the uncertainty that is ahead during this ongoing pandemic. Accepting help from family, friends, or mutual aid means a benefit cut. And because of marriage penalties, couples face an even harsher financial reality. Even the government’s COVID relief efforts created problems–stimulus checks and unemployment insurance expansions created eligibility issues because the systems used to implement these rules are equally archaic, unable to adjust to new benefits. For the millions of people with disabilities who are eligible for Medicaid because they are eligible for SSI, this was not only an issue with income security, but also put their access to health care and home and community-based services (HCBS) at risk.

Just as the pandemic highlights the need to expand HCBS and finally address the workforce crisis for direct care workers, it also shows us that the program that is supposed to pay for everything else is trapping people with disabilities in poverty. Enough is enough. We must fix these archaic SSI rules.

President Biden acknowledge the need for change during the presidential campaign, calling for five major reforms to the SSI system:

1) increasing benefits to at least the federal poverty line

2) increasing income limits to encourage work

3) eliminating harmful rules penalizing help from family and friends

4) eliminating marriage penalties

5) increasing asset limits

Any one of these changes would dramatically improve the lives of the 8 million people who rely on SSI, including almost 1 million children with disabilities. It would help ensure that people with disabilities can live with their families and friends in their own communities, with the supports they need.

We have a rare opportunity – right now – to fix the crumbling disability service system by fixing SSI, expanding HCBS, and passing a national paid leave program. We must act on this opportunity!


50 years is a long time. Just ask my parents.

MLK Day logo that says "MLK Day of Service - Corporation for National and Community Service"

Individual Food Drives Help Feed Hungry Tulsans

As The Arc of Oklahoma watched COVID-19 infections rise in their state in the second half of 2020, they hoped restrictions would decrease in time for their MLK Day of Service event in January 2021. But as the year progressed and COVID cases continued their upward trend, the organization began laying the groundwork to transition their in-person event into a virtual one. Regardless of the format, the goal remained the same: make a notable dent in Tulsa’s 15.8% food insecure population.

MLK Day of Service volunteers

Interested in hosting your own MLK Day of Service event? Apply for a grant from The Arc and AmeriCorps to help organize your 2022 service project, give back to your community, and promote the inclusion of people with disabilities!

The Arc of Oklahoma’s Board of Directors, members of their Self-Advocacy Program, and community partners ultimately decided that individual food drives would maintain the integrity of the event while preserving the health and safety of all involved. So, “Individual Food Drive Hosts” set to work, collecting food items from families, neighbors, church members, and co-workers. Hosts then donated the items to their chosen pantry. By the end of March, 60 volunteers had administered individual food drives, serving nearly 430 of their fellow Tulsans.

The recipients of the individual food drives were not the only beneficiaries of the program. Volunteers from The Arc of Oklahoma’s Self-Advocacy Program also reaped benefits, growing professionally and personally. The majority of the volunteers have an intellectual and/or developmental disability (IDD) and experience difficulty communicating verbally and in social situations. Service projects such as these allow people with IDD to play a vital role in their communities though volunteering. As an added bonus, these individuals gain access to a welcoming and safe environment to practice social interactions and build the confidence needed to speak up for themselves and others.

Although the format of The Arc of Oklahoma’s 2021 MLK Day of Service event changed from their original proposal, it was a wonderful kick-off to a year of service, just as Dr. King had envisioned. Subsequent activities, such as the organization’s recent drive-through food distribution, have furthered the goal of alleviating hunger in Tulsa.

As The Arc of Oklahoma’s service events continue into the summer and fall, the organization’s true impact on food insecurity has yet to be seen. But if the following statement from a family who benefited from the food drive is any indication, the organization’s impact promises to be significant!

“I want to thank you with all my heart for how much you have helped us! You are wonderful people. Thank you for being so generous. Thank you to everyone who has helped us through you. You are angels to our family, and we are fortunate to know you!”