National Coronavirus Commission Act Introduced

On September 23, Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) introduced the National Coronavirus Commission Act (S.4666 / H.R.8358). This bill creates a non-partisan commission to assess the nation’s preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to make recommendations to improve readiness in the future. The commission has a specific charge to review the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. The Arc supports this legislation. See The Arc’s statement.

Education Department Gives Up on Effort to Divert COVID Relief Funds to Private Schools

On September 25, the Education Department announced that it will not appeal a U.S. district court judge’s decision that found that it illegally directed states to divert COVID-19 relief money from public schools to private schools. The CARES Act provided $13.5 billion for public and private schools, of which 90% was to be awarded based on federal Title I funding for low-income schools. However, the Education Department released guidance instructing school districts to share pandemic aid with private schools based on the total number of students they enroll, not just low-income students. This interpretation of the CARES Act would have resulted in $1.35 billion being diverted from public schools (which are obligated to serve students with disabilities) to private ones (which are not).

Senate Rejects “Skinny” COVID Relief Bill

On September 10, Senate Republicans failed to get enough votes to advance their pared-down version of the COVID-19 relief bill they introduced last month. This bill included a $300 unemployment benefit bonus; additional Paycheck Protection Program loans for businesses experiencing substantial revenue drops; additional education funding (including for private school scholarships); additional funding for development and distribution of vaccines, drugs, and other medical supplies; liability protections; and an expanded charitable tax deduction. This $650 billion bill did not include any of The Arc’s top priorities, which are:

  • Increased federal funding for home and community-based services (HCBS) under Medicaid
  • Increased access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct support professionals
  • 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

We urge you to continue contacting your Senators here.

Speaker, White House Reach Agreement on Continuing Resolution

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have reached a broad outline to fund the federal government after appropriations expire on September 30. There will be no stimulus or other COVID-19 relief provisions. With limited exceptions, it will provide the same funding levels as the current fiscal year. Congressional leadership will continue to negotiate details, including consideration of disaster relief funding for areas affected by hurricanes or wildfires.

CDC Issues Eviction Moratorium Order

On September 1, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an eviction moratorium order that is in effect from September 4, 2020 to December 31, 2020. The temporary moratorium on evictions extends vital protections to tens of millions of renters at risk of eviction for nonpayment of rent during the global pandemic. The order applies to eligible renters in all jurisdictions, except where local state, local, or tribal areas have an eviction moratorium that provides greater protection. To be protected, a renter must submit a signed declaration to their landlord. The CDC has provided a model declaration form.

Since back rent will be due after the moratorium expires, The Arc will continue to advocate for needed rental assistance to protect renters and landlords who rely on rental income to maintain and operate their properties. For more information, go here and here.

Federal Court Strikes Down Education Department Rule Increasing Funding for Private Schools

On September 8, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision striking down the Department of Education rule requiring school districts to distribute funding to private schools based on the total number of children attending private schools rather than the number of low income children who attend private schools. The Arc applauds this decision, which would ensure that approximately $1.3 billion from COVID-19 relief funding is not diverted from public schools. For more information click here.

Congressional Negotiations Stall on Next COVID Package; Trump Issues Proposals

With stimulus talks stalled, President Trump issued executive actions over the weekend to provide relief to Americans affected by the pandemic. The President proposed the following relief measures:

  • Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Up to $400 additional weekly federal UI benefit. States would be required to pay for 25% of the benefit.
  • Eviction moratorium. The order includes no new resources to assist renters and only directs federal agencies to “review all existing authorities and resources” and consider measures that are “reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.” It does not extend the limited federal eviction moratorium that expired on July 24.
  • Payroll tax. The measure proposes to defer the portion of payroll taxes paid by employees for some low-wage workers from September 1 to the end of the year. There is no provision made to reimbursing the Social Security and Medicare trust funds for these losses and the taxes would need to be paid back after 2020. This measure would not help the unemployed and will hurt the finances of Social Security and Medicare, which are already under fiscal strain.
  • Student loans. The President’s memorandum directs the Education Department to extend by three months the student loan relief granted in previous COVID relief legislation until the end of the year. Student loan payments are presently paused and interest is suspended on federally-held student loans until the end of September.

Numerous questions have been raised about the President’s authority to undertake such actions without Congressional approval.

COVID Relief: Senate Releases Framework for Next Package; Advocacy Needed

Last week, the Senate released a framework for its fourth COVID-19 response bill. The package of bills, called the Healthcare, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools (HEALS) Act, fails to include all but one of the disability community’s priorities. The HEALS Act provides a lower extended federal unemployment benefit; funding for schools, child care, and COVID testing; another round of funding for the paycheck protection program; expanded tax credits; and waivers of liability for hospitals, schools, state governments, and businesses. While it would provide a $500 tax rebate for all adult dependents, unfortunately, it does not include The Arc’s other critical priorities: additional home and community based services (HCBS) funding, increased access to personal protective equipment for direct support professionals, or any expansion of paid leave. This framework is a starting point that will be subject to negotiation in the coming weeks.

See a blog post from Nicole Jorwic, The Arc’s Senior Director for Public Policy. We urge you to contact your Senators here.

Bill Protecting Social Security and SSI Recipients From Overpayment Penalties Introduced

On July 29, Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL), John Larson (D-CT), and Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced the Fairness for Seniors and People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Act (H.R. 7830). This bill protects Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients from having to repay overpayments accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.

Eviction Moratorium Expires

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act eviction moratorium expired on July 24, allowing landlords to issue 30 days’ notice for tenants to vacate properties. Landlords who had been covered by the 120-day moratorium are no longer prohibited by federal law from serving eviction notices. Without immediate action, millions of people in America are at possible risk of eviction from their homes during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the Senate HEALS Act does not include an eviction moratorium for nonpayment of rent for the duration of the public health emergency, as proposed in the House-passed HEROES Act (H.R.6800) and Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act (H.R.7301). It also does not include the needed resources so that people can remain or achieve housing stability and have a better chance to stay safe and healthy.