The Senate must act to pass legislation that includes the critical needs of people with disabilities, their families, and the direct support professional workforce in a new Coronavirus package. In May, the House passed its fourth coronavirus package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R.6800) with a vote of 208-199.
This package includes:
- Increased federal funding for home and community based services (HCBS) under Medicaid
- Expanded eligibility for economic impact payments to adult dependents and another round of payments
- Paid leave eligibility for family caregivers of adults with disabilities, including siblings and grandparents
See The Arc’s statement. We urge you to contact your Senators now.
On July 1, the House passed H.R.2, the Moving Forward Act, addressing transit, highways, motor carrier, research, rail, and other programs. The bill includes some priority asks from the disability community, including best practices for quality paratransit, such as one-stop service pilots; improvements to Federal Transit Administration Office of Civil Rights complaint reporting process; assessing and funding accessible infrastructure (e.g., sidewalks, audible pedestrian signals, cross walks, bus stops, and on demand pick-up/drop-off zones); and funding and support for Amtrak ADA compliance. However, the bill does not include some important, additional priorities, including a requirement to increase the availability of fully-accessible, integrated transit and on-demand mobility services and address continued discrimination in transit.
The bill contains important housing provisions to help address the lack of decent, accessible, and affordable housing in the U.S., including $100 billion to construct and preserve 1.8 million affordable homes through $70 billion for public housing capital repairs, $5 billion for the national Housing Trust, and other provisions; and an expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. The bill also expands affordable high-speed internet to underserved rural and urban communities.
Last week, the House passed the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020 (H.R.7301). This bill includes the housing and homelessness resources approved by the House in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, including $100 billion in emergency rental assistance; a national, uniform moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; $200 million for Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities; and additional needed resources to ensure housing stability. The Arc supports this bill.
On June 30, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Montana’s tax credit scholarship program allows a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations to an organization that provides private school scholarships. The state’s supreme court invalidated the program because of a provision of the state constitution prohibiting the use of government funds for religious schools. The United States Supreme Court reserved that decision on the grounds that the state constitutional provision in question violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. While the ruling does not require states to operate private school voucher programs, it does require that all states that do operate such programs make them available to religious as well as secular schools. The Arc is disappointed in this ruling because it is likely to lead to an increase in public funding for schools that are not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. See The Arc’s statement.
On June 30, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (S.4112). This bill provides $430 billion in funding for childcare and education, including an additional $12 billion in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding. Additionally, it requires states to assure that students with disabilities are afforded full rights under their Individualized Education Plans, Individualized Family Services Plans, or Section 504 plans. Among many other provisions, the measure also provides for increased funding for the E-rate program for schools to purchase discounted computers, tablets, hotspots, and at-home internet service for students and educators. See summary here. The Arc supports this bill.
On June 29, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), introduced the Helping Children with Disabilities Act (S.4100). This bill would provide increased funding for IDEA in line with the amounts in the more comprehensive Senate bill, the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act, S.4112. Specifically, S.4100 would appropriate $11 billion for state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), $1.2 billion for early childhood education programs, and $55 million under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998; and it requires recipients of funds to report to Congress how this money is spent. The Arc supports this legislation.
On June 30, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing titled “2020 Filing Season and IRS COVID-19 Recovery.” The sole witness was Charles P. Rettig, Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Commissioner Rettig stated at the hearing that the IRS would send corrective payments to all non-filers who used the IRS non-filer portal before May 17 but did not receive their economic impact payments. However, non-filers who didn’t use the form will not receive payments. Visit the Committee website for more information or to view archived video of the hearing.
Last week, the Department of Education published state plans for Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding under the CARES Act. ESSER funds are awarded to states based on Title I allocations and can be spent for a variety of purposes including special education, remote education, mental health support, and other purposes. GEER funds can be spent to assist K-12 and higher education institutions in dealing with the effects of the pandemic.
On June 24, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020 (H.R.7301). This bill includes the housing and homelessness resources approved by the House in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, including $100 billion in emergency rental assistance; a national, uniform moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; $200 million for Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities; and additional needed resources to ensure housing stability.
Last week, the Department of Education released three questions and answers (Q&A documents) related to the use of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first two documents relate to permissible uses of funds under Part B and Part C. The third document relates to part B fiscal requirements that generally prohibit a state or school district from decreasing how much it spends on special education services.