a family with two young girls poses in front of trees and smiles

The Arc Calls for Action on Paid Leave

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month in November, The Arc is raising awareness of the issue of paid family and medical leave and its importance from the perspective of sibling caregivers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The Arc is sharing a new and compelling family story to illustrate the urgent need for a national and comprehensive paid leave system that includes siblings.

One in five Americans has a disability. The caregiver crisis is hitting these families in a uniquely difficult way, while paid family leave proposals have stalled in Congress far too long. Without paid leave, families face a cruel choice: the health and well-being of a loved one with a disability – or working to make ends meet.

The Arc’s Family & Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) survey shows the need for family and medical leave policy reform and reveals that 80 percent of people with I/DD live with a caregiver who is a family member.

“We call on Congress to pass inclusive paid family and medical leave legislation that recognizes the important role of all family caregivers. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families often experience greater financial insecurity and are more likely to face barriers to employment, making the impact of unpaid time off particularly devastating,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc. “Siblings are increasingly taking on the role of primary caregiver, as parents and grandparents age and become unable to care for children and grandchildren who have disabilities and important care needs.”

Please find Michael’s story and other paid leave stories here.

DSP-Congressional-testimony

Congressional Testimony: The Direct Care Crisis

The Arc’s Senior Director of Public Policy, Nicole Jorwic, testified during a Congressional briefing on “The Hidden Crisis of Care in the U.S. – Addressing the Homecare Workforce Shortage” Friday, November 1. Jorwic explained the impact of the direct care crisis and how it hurts direct support professionals and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, including her own.

The Direct Care Crisis: In Congress, On the Road, and at Home

By Nicole Jorwic, Senior Director, Public Policy

In my role at The Arc, I am lucky to spend a fair amount of my time on the road speaking and meeting with our chapters, families and individuals with disabilities. Nearly everywhere I go, the number one issue that I hear about most is the workforce crisis when it comes to serving individuals with disabilities.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) often need some extra support to be a part of their community. The help can include supports in personal care, communication, household tasks, building relationships, and navigating the community. The work that direct support professionals, or DSPs, do is invaluable to the disability community and the service system that relies on their abilities to keep people out of more costly, restrictive, and often segregated institutional settings.

The word “crisis” doesn’t really do it justice – having a skilled, properly trained and fairly paid workforce is the linchpin for success for so many people with disabilities to live the independent life that they choose.

To illustrate the crisis, consider these statistics for direct support professionals:

  • $11.76 average hourly wage
  • 46% average state-wide turnover rate
  • 38% of DSPs left their position in fewer than 6 months (Hewitt et al., 2018)

How, in 2019, after decades of progress in disability rights, are we in this mess?

The lack of investment from the top creates the crisis.

There has been a lack of federal investment for decades and states have not picked up the slack. The rates service providers receive to ultimately pay DSPs do not take into account the wages of competing occupations, the need for benefits, and the actual costs of services. What has resulted are rates and therefore wages that have been flat for decades, without even cost of living increases.

I also know what this looks like from a personal perspective.

My brother Chris is 30 and has autism. He lives in the suburbs of Chicago with my Mom and Dad who both work full time jobs. Chris has a series of three to four DSPs who come throughout the week to get Chris out into the community. He spends time volunteering with the elderly, works out to stay healthy, and is working on finding community employment.

It sounds great, right? And it can be, but it all hangs on a thread. In my home state of Illinois where the average DSP wage is even lower at under $10 per hour, a very thin thread.

And I was at one of those events for a chapter over the summer, hearing about the workforce crisis when I got a text from my mom that Chris’ “main DSP”, meaning the one who was with him the most, had quit, not because she didn’t love Chris, or the work, but simply because she could make more doing something that didn’t have the same responsibilities.

That happened more than two months ago, and a new DSP still has not been hired, so now my Mom can’t work as much, or other family members help us cover. But not everyone can make those changes.

It also has a very real impact on the progress that my brother can make in his own life. I asked him to share his thoughts and he typed “I want more support, I am very frustrated and I feel that my progress is being hurt. I need more regular scheduled DSPs and they deserve to earn more because of the work they do and so they stay.  I have no patience anymore.” This breaks my heart as a sister and as a professional. The stress I hear in my mom’s voice every time I ask for an update is what I hear from every individual with disability, family member and provider group that I talk to.

An increase in federal funding to support DSP wage increases is the most direct way to make a significant impact on the workforce crisis. The Arc also supports the development and implementation of a national credentialing system for DSPs to professionalize the industry and programs that directs qualified people into the industry via pipeline programs.

These are all policy angles that we will continue to work on because we know the real-life impacts of the continuation and worsening of this crisis.

We must do better for Chris, families like mine across the country, the DSPs who want to work in this profession, their families, and society as a whole.*

*Story is shared with Chris’ permission

Public Charge Amicus Brief

The Arc Applauds Federal Injunctions Against Public Charge Rule

Washington, D.C. – The Arc applauds a slew of decisions from Federal Courts in New York, Washington State, and California that grant preliminary injunctions against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) implementation of its discriminatory public charge rule. The injunctions block the rule that would have a dire impact on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, that had been scheduled to take effect on Tuesday, October 15th. Two of the three decisions explicitly acknowledge the strength of the disability discrimination claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, noting that “there is a significant possibility that disabled applicants who currently reside in the Plaintiff States, or legal permanent residents who return to the U.S. after a 180-day period outside of the U.S., would be deemed inadmissible primarily on the basis of their disability.”

“These injunctions were necessary to recognize the rights of people with disabilities and their families. The courts recognize that the DHS regulations may violate federal and constitutional law and will cause irreversible harm to immigrant families in need of public benefits and services.

“The public charge rule blocked today would discourage immigrant families from utilizing critical public services out of fear of harming their immigration status. It discriminates against people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and others who use vital programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, housing assistance, and other important benefits. The policy would have allowed the federal government to deny admission into the U.S. based on disability and unfairly restructure immigration in a way that is detrimental to people based on their disability,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

In September, The Arc and seventeen national disability advocacy groups filed amicus briefs in support of three cases to block the Trump Administration from implementing the public charge rule. One of the decisions explicitly references our work, noting that “amici provide a compelling analysis of how the factors introduced by the Public Charge Rule disproportionately penalize disabled applicants…” We continue our efforts to ensure that non-citizens with any type of disability have a fair opportunity to enter and live legally in the U.S.

man in hospital bed comforted by friend as doctor looks on

The Arc Rejects Proclamation Barring Immigrants Without Approved Health Insurance

The Arc is distressed by the Trump Administration’s repeated attacks on immigrants and people with disabilities who are seeking admission to the U.S. We have major concerns about the latest threat, President Trump’s harmful Proclamation, issued October 4, mandating that immigrants applying for visas to the U.S. prove that they will have approved health insurance 30 days after they are in the country or show that they have the ability to pay medical expenses.

The Proclamation means that people who are not “covered by approved health insurance” can’t come in to the country legally, based on the burden they supposedly place on taxpayers, and the strain on publicly funded programs. Medicaid and publicly funded programs are essential for many people with disabilities, and private insurance may not include the services people with significant disabilities typically need. Medicaid is the only insurer that covers many home and community-based services, including personal care services, specialized therapies, and treatment. These are services that support people with disabilities to live, work, and participate in their communities. This new standard from the White House is the latest note in a larger chorus of policies that would exclude immigrants based on their disabilities.

The new policy also does not include coverage under subsidized plans offered in the individual Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance market as “approved” insurance. Under the ACA, many people with disabilities now have access to quality, appropriate, comprehensive, affordable, portable, and non-discriminatory coverage and benefits through the exchanges. At the same time, the Proclamation does count “catastrophic” coverage and short-term limited duration policies as approved coverage, neither of which provides the services that a person with significant disabilities may need. 

“Once again, we are called to stand up for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) as contributing, valued, and respected members of their communities. The President’s recent Proclamation is unreasonable for people with I/DD and their families who are seeking to immigrate to the U.S. Immigration and naturalization policies and rules must recognize the humanity of all persons who wish to enter the U.S. and provide for humane and fair opportunities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “In addition to creating more barriers for people with I/DD and their families, the Proclamation is yet another shameful action by the Administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Together, we must continue our work to protect the significant achievements of the ACA and its important provisions for people with disabilities and their families, and remain vigilant and active in protecting the human and civil rights of all people with I/DD.”

Marca Bristo

Marca Bristo, a Powerful Advocate for People With Disabilities, Dies at 66

The Arc mourns the loss of Marca Bristo, a remarkable champion in the fight for disability rights. Bristo died Sunday after a battle with cancer.

We are grateful for Bristo’s leadership in helping to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act, our nation’s major step forward in disability rights. Almost 30 years later, the historic progress made by the ADA remains critical in ongoing efforts to ensure that people with disabilities are included in society in ways that are accessible and fair. Bristo, who became paralyzed in an accident at the age of 23, also founded Access Living in Chicago and the National Council on Independent Living. The Arc has worked with Bristo and her organizations over the last several decades to advance our shared core values of independent living for people with disabilities, and their rights.

Sadly, we have lost a role model and leader in our community. Bristo’s vision and devotion to changing the perception of how this country sees disability continue to shape our society for the better. Her relentless advocacy at the local and national levels were instrumental in realizing many of the rights people with disabilities have today – and we celebrate her life and commitment. Bristo was 66. Please take the time to read these news pieces about her impactful life: The New York Times and Chicago Sun-Times.

The Arc logo

New Videos from The Arc Spotlight Need to Close Institutions, Support Community Living

In 2019, 37 states still have institutions where people with intellectual and developmental (I/DD) live away from their families and communities. Some may recall the horrible investigative reports over the last few decades that showed the terrible conditions in institutions, but many people fail to realize the facilities still exist and that state and federal dollars are still funding them. The Arc of the United States was founded by families trying to eliminate the need for those institutions and to get their family members with disabilities back home and included in their communities. While we have come a long way, there remains much to be done from state capitals to our nation’s capital.

The Arc developed this video to highlight the issue and to educate the general public about institutions, and to urge action to close the remaining institutions and support people with disabilities, no matter their level of need, back into the community.

At The Arc we also understand that it is more important than ever that we educate the general public about why inclusion and acceptance matters and that they join the fight to ensure that the progress that we have made as a disability community is not stalled.

We have to talk about the fact that institutions remain open, and how those dollars would be better spent in the community. We have to educate the general public about how Medicaid makes life in the community possible. We have to protect Medicaid from threats of cuts and caps that would drastically hurt people with I/DD.

To illustrate community living, check out our new video.

On the policy front, we have to talk to state and federal legislators about the fact that the federal Medicaid law that we fought so hard to save just a few years ago needs a face lift. Right now, services in institutions, nursing homes and other more segregated settings are mandatory while home and community-based services (HCBS) are optional under the law.

These are complex issues, but the basic fact remains everybody benefits when people with disabilities are part of the fabric of their communities. That doesn’t come by keeping people locked away in institutions – it comes through conversation, inclusion and acceptance that we are all better together.

Nancy Murray from The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh Selected to Serve on National Family Caregiver Council

The Arc is honored that Nancy Murray, the President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh at ACHIEVA, has been selected by the Administration on Community Living to serve on the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council. Nancy brings a deep personal and professional understanding of the caregiver crisis facing millions of families and people with intellectual and development disabilities (I/DD).

Nancy is the mother of two adult children with Down syndrome and has been a caregiver to both of her aging parents. Nancy has also been a powerful voice in the disability field for over 40 years in the areas of family support, advocacy, public policy, supports coordination, and health care. As a member of the Family Caregiving Advisory Council, Nancy will help develop recommendations to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on effective models of family caregiving and support to caregivers, as well as ways to improve coordination across federal programs.

The Council was established by the RAISE Family Caregivers Act enacted last year to help address the growing national caregiver crisis for family members and persons with I/DD, seniors, veterans, and others. This crisis for caregivers is reflected in the findings of The Arc’s Family & Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) 2017 Survey which shows that nearly two thirds of caregivers surveyed are employed and 45% of respondents provide more than 80 hours of care per week. Not surprisingly, nearly half of FINDS caregivers report feeling “very or extremely stressed.” The findings also underscore the need for accessible respite programs: 92% of caregivers say they have difficulty finding respite care.

We are confident Nancy will help leaders in the federal government find solutions for families. The RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council will hold its first meetings on August 28 and August 29, 2019 in Washington, D.C. and will be live streamed.

For more on Nancy’s contributions to the I/DD community, please click here.

A woman in a scooter and a dog play on a grassy field in front of houses.

The Arc Opposes HUD’s Proposed Change to Fair Housing Rule

The Arc has serious concerns about a new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed rule that could threaten important protections under the Fair Housing Act. The Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, and disability. The HUD proposal would make it significantly harder to prove discrimination in housing for policies that seem neutral, but in practice unfairly exclude certain groups of people or segregate particular communities. 

The Arc has fought long and hard for fair access to housing for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). We promote stronger enforcement of existing civil rights laws for people with disabilities, including the Fair Housing Act, and work to prevent discrimination based on disability, race, or any other protected status. We call on HUD to withdraw the “disparate impact” proposed rule, and we urge Congress to provide oversight of HUD to ensure it is delivering on the promise of fair and equitable housing.

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.

The Department of Health and Human Services Proposes Rule to Weaken the Nondiscrimination Protections of the Affordable Care Act

The Arc continues to work to protect the significant achievements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the nondiscrimination provisions in Section 1557. We are disappointed to see the proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which radically narrows application of the nondiscrimination protections and limits the remedies for people who are impacted.

Sec. 1557 of the ACA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex in healthcare. This section of the ACA is an important tool for achieving health care equity for people with disabilities and others. The proposed rule narrows important civil rights protections and undermines or eliminates key provisions covering individuals who have experienced discrimination in health care programs and settings.

The Arc promotes strong enforcement of existing civil rights laws in the face of attempted rollbacks, and opposes this proposal that puts people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care. We will continue to pursue civil rights protections against discrimination based on disability, health status, ethnicity, race, sex, pregnancy, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, familial status, age, language, national origin, and genetic information in the administration of and access to health care.

What can The Arc and disability rights advocates do? This rule is not yet final, and today is the beginning of a 60-day public comment period. The Arc will participate in the comment process and will share resources to help others engage. To stay informed, sign up for our Disability Advocacy Network email list.

The Arc Condemns Deteriorating Treatment of Unaccompanied Minors in US Custody

Recent reports indicate that the federal government will restrict or cancel educational, recreational and legal services for thousands of children held in government migrant shelters.

These practices are cruel and misguided. Research shows that trauma in childhood can have serious and lifelong consequences.  There is no evidence indicating that any time in detention is safe for children. As the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated, recreational and social enrichment activities, such as opportunities for physical activity and creative expression, may alleviate stress and build resilience and should be part of any program for detained children. Adequate recreational and educational activities for children being held in these shelters is both the necessary and compassionate course of action.  These services and activities are central to childhood development and wellbeing and their absence, particularly for an extended period, may cause long-term losses.

Reports also indicate that these children will no longer have access to legal services.  The Arc believes that children and families should have access to legal counsel throughout the immigration pathway, and unaccompanied minors should have free legal counsel with them for all appearances before an immigration judge. Adequate legal services must be restored immediately.

We call on the federal government to ensure that these children are treated with dignity and respect, with access to educational, recreational and legal services, and not subjected to conditions that may cause harm. At minimum, children deserve protection from additional traumatization in the United States. We remain deeply concerned about the impact this will have on children with and without disabilities.