As the COVID-19 pandemic sickens and kills thousands of Americans in every corner of our country, The Arc is alarmed that the needs of people with disabilities and the undervalued workforce supporting them are still not adequately addressed.
Today, Congress passed new emergency COVID-19 relief legislation that replenishes funding for federal loan programs for small businesses and provides additional funding for hospitals and federal agencies. The measure benefits the economy and helps support businesses and organizations that provide services to people with disabilities, including state and local chapters of The Arc. However, the bipartisan deal falls short of meeting the urgent needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), who are dying from COVID-19 and face grave danger.
In the next COVID-19 response package, it is crucial that Congress creates grants for states to expand home and community-based services (HCBS) to help keep people with I/DD in their homes and communities – and out of institutions and other dangerous congregate settings, where people are dying in greater numbers due to exposure to the virus. If Congress doesn’t provide this critical funding immediately, even more preventable deaths may occur. By investing in HCBS, we can also pay the workforce that supports people with I/DD to live as independently as possible in communities. Our workforce is risking its personal health and safety to provide supports to people with I/DD, often without adequate personal protective equipment.
“While the COVID-19 legislation passed by Congress this week provides short-term relief for our economy, it fails to address the looming, long-term crisis facing people with disabilities, direct support professionals, and families. The Arc and our persistent grassroots advocates urge Congress to remember the needs of all Americans –not just some – by including state grants to expand HCBS in the next coronavirus relief package. We fear this pandemic could undo years of progress for people with disabilities, and we can’t let that happen. Sustaining and strengthening access to supports for a life in the community is one of our best defenses against this relentless virus,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.