President Trump and Congress: “Thank You for Protecting the Nation’s Most Vulnerable Populations”
By: Angela Williams, President and CEO, Easterseals
On March 27, after being passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law. When deployed, the result of the largest stimulus package in American history will authorize $2 trillion in aid to support businesses, hospitals, schools and other critical nonprofit organizations including Easterseals, which provides life-changing home- and community-based services and supports to the one in four Americans who live with disability in America today.
Congress deserves an emphatic applause for their bipartisan compassion to protect those in need and for their continued support during this national public health crisis, addressing immediate needs and the support that will be required throughout recovery from this pandemic. The entire nonprofit universe has been upended, and the recognition and resources provided through the CARES Act will help our great nation see its way through COVID-19. The legislation provides measures that allow nonprofit organizations to continue providing life-saving services and programs to our nation’s most vulnerable populations.
Further legislative strategies and interventions were enacted to support our nation’s nonprofits for the duration of the national public health crisis including:
Emergency Small Business Loans. The legislation provides $562 billion to ensure that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has the resources to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) that will help businesses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia remain open. The bill allows nonprofits and other applicants (with 500 or fewer employees) expedited access to capital through an Emergency Grant — an advance of $10,000 within three days to maintain payroll, provide paid sick leave and to service other debt obligations. To qualify, a business must have recorded a 50 percent loss in gross receipts in the current calendar quarter compared to the same three-month period in 2019.
Charitable Giving Incentive. Before the CARES Act, only those who itemize their taxes could claim charitable donations. Its enactment creates a universal deduction of up to $300 in cash donations for those who don’t itemize their taxes. For those who do itemize, the bill lifts the cap on annual giving from 60 percent of adjusted gross income to 100 percent, and for corporate charitable giving, from 10 percent to 25 percent of taxable income. Deductibility on food donations from corporations increase from a 15 percent to 25 percent cap of taxable income. The provision applies for tax year 2020.
Employee Retention Payroll Tax Credit. This creates a refundable payroll tax credit of up to $5,000 for each employee on the payroll when certain conditions are met, such as the entity had to be an ongoing concern at the beginning of 2020 and has seen a drop in revenue of at least 50 percent in the first quarter in 2020 compared to the first quarter in 2019. The credit is available each quarter until the company’s revenue exceeds 80 percent of the same quarter in 2019. Also, nonprofits that keep their employees on the payroll from February 15 to June 30 are eligible to have their loans forgiven, turning the loan into a grant.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The CARES Act provides more than $30 billion in emergency education funding for colleges, universities, states and local school districts. $13.5 billion in formula grants will help schools dealing with closures to meet the needs of students and teachers by purchasing technology for online learning. $14.25 billion is allocated to higher education to cover lost revenue, technology costs for distance learning and grants to students for food, housing and other expenses.
Nonprofit organizations are an essential element of America’s vibrant healthcare landscape. Although nonprofits and similar groups are seeking more federal assistance, there is widespread approval in hopes that more legislation and incentives will be created to ensure all Americans – including those whose lives depend on daily support from our nation’s nonprofits – are able to have their needs met for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Recognizing the devastation the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those in Congress and at the White House who have worked overtime to ensure that the needs of nonprofits like Easterseals are addressed and our future viability is protected.
As a leading provider of services for people with disabilities, veterans and seniors, Easterseals’ National Network of 68 Affiliates also partners with caregivers in communities nationwide to assure quality care for the more than 1.5 million consumers and families it serves annually.
Behind the Screen: Conversations with a Disability Advocate and Filmmaker
Wednesday, May 24, 2023, 12:17 PM
As a teenager, Alexander Freeman was weary about listening to his mom’s suggestion of taking a…
As a teenager, Alexander Freeman was weary about listening to his mom’s suggestion of taking a film class in high school, but he eventually gave in. Years later, he admits his mom was right – taking that class inspired a new passion with the medium and launched his career. “I took the class and absolutely fell in love…I think, on a really basic level as humans, we are drawn to [it] and we can’t help but listen to what’s happening on the screen,” Alexander explained.
Now an award-winning filmmaker and disability-rights activist, Alexander was recently featured in LA Weekly Magazine for his documentary, The Last Taboo. The documentary explores the topic of sexuality and intimacy from the eyes of disabled adults. Alexander has Cerebral Palsy and uses his own experiences and the true experiences of others to inspire his work. His other documentary,The Wounds We Cannot See, which shares one woman’s real battle with addiction, PTSD, and mental illness, is available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video.
Alexander described how filmmaking took the utmost priority in his life at an early age: “I didn’t really have a ton of friends in high school or a lot of room to socialize, so I was just like, ‘I don’t need people’ – I am just going to focus on what I am good at. So, all through high school, I made films.”
That focus paid off. “At the end of school, I got very lucky because I caught the attention of a production company,” he said. That company saw Alexander’s work and immediately offered to finance his next project. From there, his career began.
When asked about his connection to Easterseals, Alexander laughed, “I really think Easterseals is in my blood!”
It was Alexander’s parents who got him involved with Easterseals Massachusetts. He recalled, “My parents were like, okay, we have a child with disabilities, what do we do? What kind of services are out there? And Easterseals was there for [them].”
Alexander on location filming The Wounds We Cannot See.
Alexander shared, “A lot of the technology that I used was directly from Easterseals, so I started working with an Easterseals technology specialist when I was really little, and then that continued as I got older and grew up.”
Alexander has one thing he wants everyone to take away from his story: “I am only where I am today because of a lot of people who helped me along the way, and I think that is a very important lesson, not just for me or people with disabilities, but a lesson to people in general…No one gets where they are on their own. Everyone must have moments where they have to look back and say thank you for all your help.”
Alexander’s disability advocacy continues the spirit of helping others along the way. His latest project, a YouTube series titled Life with Cerebral Palsy | Q & A, is described on his film production company OUTCAST Productions’ YouTube channel as “Everything you wanted to know about living with a disability, especially cerebral palsy, but didn’t know how to ask.”
A Trip to DC: Press Briefings, Panel Discussions and Sharing the Room with the President
Friday, May 19, 2023, 12:13 PM
It’s not every day you share the stage with a rising star in the television world, but it happ…
It’s not every day you share the stage with a rising star in the television world, but it happened for me!
Ben speaking at the Capitol Visitors Center
In Washington, D.C., I had the distinct honor of participating in the release of Easterseals’ brand-spanking new “State of Disability Equity and Access,” a special report showcasing the improvements made for the disability community since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act 33 years ago. More importantly, the report serves as a call-to-action for the necessary improvements to ensure full inclusion for future generations – a compelling reason to travel 12 hours by car to D.C., I’d say.
On stage at the historic National Press Club, I joined the transportation panel, moderated by MSNBC’s Symone Sanders. She’s incredible, and if I’m being honest, I felt right at home on stage interacting with one of television’s most popular hosts. I’ve never met an unfriendly microphone! Our panel discussed developments that have eased travel for people with disabilities, but I focused on the importance of improving the airlines to be more accessible for wheelchair users.
This isn’t a new story. A decade ago, I traveled to Washington, D.C., with a plan and a petition, advocating for more accessible airlines, desiring a system where I could fly without having to get out of my own wheelchair. The reality is, as I told The Advocate, I haven’t flown since my injury – it’s too dangerous. The current system risks major harm to my chair, and even possibly long-term health concerns. It’s not right, and I’m elated that Easterseals has joined this fight for flight!
Enjoying the Lincoln Memorial at night
Prior to my on-stage, under-the-lights discussion with Symone Sanders, we officially unveiled the report during a press briefing at the Capitol Visitors Center – a fairly new addition to the Capitol Building. Tucked inside a room that has been used for major press briefings, I spoke alongside Easterseals CEO, Kendra Davenport; Jessica Tuman, VP, VOYA Cares; Ehrhardt Preitauer, president and CEO, Caresource; and outstanding disability advocate Emily Ladau, and Kathleen Perez of the Coelho Center, who helped produce the report. Boy, was I in good company, with a group of passionate inclusion activists assembled in DC with a vision for the future. Every time I travel to D.C., something special happens – this time was no different.
Speaking of special, for the first time, our group visited the Lincoln Memorial and laid our eyes on D.C., at night, where you can actually see the reflection of the Washington Memorial in the reflecting pool. We saw and snapped a photo with Cory Booker as he was leaving the Capitol. I was even in the same hotel, the Washington Hilton, as the President of the United States!
Meeting Senator Cory Booker
Yep, when we arrived at our hotel, the woman behind the desk asked us, “will you be leaving the hotel in your car tomorrow? If so, it will be difficult if not impossible, as this place will be crawling with Secret Service.” I had to ask, “why is that?” The woman replies, “the president will be here.” My mother retorts in a very serious tone, “the president of WHAT?” The woman replies, “the President of the United States, ma’am.” Only in DC! And you better believe I worked my way into the room with President Biden!
What a trip. Sharing the same room, albeit a large conference, as the president, sharing the stage with a television star, observing the reflection pool at night, talking with Cory Booker (who, I might add, was a very kind gentleman, chatting with kids from Indianapolis before snapping a photo with me), being with my Easterseals friends, and hanging with my Change for Balance colleagues as we worked the Easterseals forum. It was absolutely another successful trip to our nation’s capitol.
Overall, my hope, and the hopes of every single one of the panelists, advocates, and champions as a part of this experience, are for the next generation of people with disabilities. Our hope is that children with disabilities will see the airlines not as a barrier, but an opportunity to explore the world. Our hope is for teenagers with disabilities to dream endlessly about their future careers, not seeing corporate America as unattainable. We have hope.
I’m a dreamer, but I believe, together, we can create a more inclusive world for all of us.
But then again, maybe I’m just starstruck from my time on stage with Symone.
Hats off to TED Talks! They highlight people with disabilities pretty regularly there, and with this…
Hats off to TED Talks! They highlight people with disabilities pretty regularly there, and with this being Autism Acceptance Month, they’re featuring an expert: a 20-year-old college student who was diagnosed as autistic in her teens.
Now a sophomore at Austin College, Kate Kahle is an advocate for autism acceptance. From her TED Talk’s bio:
She hopes to promote autistic self-love as well as help neurotypical individuals see autism not as a tragedy or a disease, but rather for what it is, a lifelong, genetic developmental disability that is just another way of thinking and being in the world.
In her TED Talk, Kate tells her audience that she’d always had autistic traits, but it wasn’t until she developed severe anxiety during her freshman year in high school that her parents took her in for an evaluation. “I just thought I was weird,” she says with a shrug.
It was then that she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). “We were all shocked,” she says, going on to explain that symptoms common in women and girls with autism can differ greatly from symptoms boys and men experience.
“For every four boys diagnosed with autism, only one girl is diagnosed,” she says, adding that studies following children since birth show that the natural ratio of males to females with autism is closer to three to one.