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Take Action on Legislative Issues Affecting People with Disabilities

Easter Seals assists members of Congress and their staff, White House and federal agency officials, and representatives of other national interests -- as well as citizens like you -- to understand and act in support of policies and programs that help people with disabilities to live with equality, dignity and independence.

Easter Seals' legislative efforts focus on health care, early intervention, child care, education, employment, housing, supports for older Americans, recreation, assistive technology, transportation, and nonprofit organization operations.

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What's Happening in Washington

      President Signs CARES Act Into Law

          The House of Representatives approved the Senate-passed CARES Act this afternoon, passing the package by voice vote after a single lawmaker threatened to hold up the package and force lawmakers to return to D.C. and vote. This third package concludes a month of historic bipartisan cooperation, and all parties involved deserve credit, bringing much needed relief to Americans at this critical time.

        Easterseals Submits Open Letter to Congress Regarding Coronavirus

        Excerpt: "Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy...As you consider further strategies and interventions through legislation to respond to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we as non-profit services providers to the one in four Americans living with disability today, including children, adults, veterans and seniors, request your consideration." 

        Easterseals Updates Regarding the Coronavirus: March 27, 2020

        The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is Signed into Law.
        What happens now is where things really matter. The Small Business Administration, the Treasury Department, the Department of Labor, and other agencies will quickly work to implement it by establishing the process for small businesses to seek relief and allowing money to begin to flow individuals eligible for the individual/family relief.

        The House and Senate will be on recess for the next month, if not more. While that should not prevent Leadership and staff from developing subsequent relief packages, it is important to keep in mind that programmatic changes that cannot be done administratively, such as through guidance or rule-making, will take more time as Congress takes a minor reprieve from the close quarters of Capitol Hill offices.

        While the legislation is historic in its cost and scale, there are still areas where it may fall short in reaching those impacted by the outbreak. As situations on the ground change, new issues will emerge that will need to be addressed.

        The CARES Act, which totals $2 trillion in support, is the largest stimulus package in American history. Below is an updated description of provisions in the bill that are important to Easterseals and its affiliates. We will be providing more in-depth analysis once the bill has been signed into law.

        We expect that Congress will address charitable donations to nonprofits/other businesses affected by COVID-19 in future relief packages.

        Easterseals National will continue to advocate that for individuals who make contributions to nonprofits due to COVID-19 should be able to deduct from their 2019 tax returns.

        Education: 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.

        Specifically, the legislation provides:

        • $13.5 billion in formula grants for states to help schools deal with closures, meet needs of students and teachers and purchase 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. *Note that more than 80 percent of the above funds are set to go directly to states and local governments.

        With regard to IDEA, the legislation does not address waiver authority at this time. However, it does require the Secretary of Education to submit recommendations regarding IDEA waivers, given the civil rights entitlements of the law.

        The US DOE have released information meant to guide school districts and teachers on availability of services and supports to students with disabilities. In addition to the Q&A document released last week, the Department released new information which clarifies that federal law should not be used to prevent schools from offering distance learning to all students, including those with disabilities.

        Veterans Affairs Update
        We want to also provide an update on COVID-19 and its effects on Veterans Affairs (VA) and other services provided to veterans and their families. The White House has announced that it will seek approximately $25 billion in new funding for the Pentagon and the VA in recent days. $16 of the $25 billion would go to the VA to boost funding for COVID-19 testing and protective equipment, and VA technology systems. The funding would also pay for an estimated three months of community care treatment costs outside of the VA. This funding request is on top of the funding included in H.R. 6201, which was signed into law yesterday evening.

        If you are serving any veterans who may be experiencing cold or flu symptoms, please direct them to CALL before visiting their local VA agency. The VA will then implement telehealth services through its own health care platform. Veterans are also invited to visit PATRIOTlink, which is an online resource database that provides information on free programs specifically tailored to the military/veteran community.

        On Medicare and Medicaid Services
        This morning, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) posted an update to their FAQ section related to state Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and how these agencies are responding to COVID-19.

        On Social Security
        The Social Security Administration is continuing to pay benefits to Americans. While their offices are closed, individuals with questions related to Social Security and COVID-19 can visit the SSA website. The website provides information on continuing services, how to contact SSA, and other information.

        Read and share these stories from Medicaid enrollees 

        One of every seven Medicaid enrollees is a person with a disability, and now Congress is considering health care proposals that restrict access to critical Medicaid services.

        Read more than 100 stories we've collected from parents of children with disabilities and from adults and seniors with disabilities in the Easterseals family who depend on Medicaid for their health, independence and well-being. Join more than 2,000 people who have already voiced their concern by signing our petition. 


        Funding History of Federal Disability Programs, June 2019 (PDF*)

        This chart, developed by Easterseals Office of Public Affairs, tracks the funding history of federal disability programs. The chart divides the information by agency, listing underneath each agency specific programs that matter to children and adults with disabilities.

        Legislative Landmarks

        Easterseals has been active in public policy advocacy since our founder, Edgar Allen, lobbied the Ohio Legislature to fund appropriate services for children with disabilities in the 1920s. We continue to actively support and promote federal legislation that helps people with disabilities achieve independence.

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