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Federal COVID Package: What It Includes (and Doesn't)

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(March 27, 2020)   Yesterday the Senate uanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S. 3548). Read the updated bill (PDF). This morning the House passed the same bill on a voice vote (so we don't know how people voted).

The CARES Act, which is now headed to the President’s desk for signature, includes: 

  • $1.25 billion to cover additional expenses due to COVID-19.
  • $350 billion to help small businesses keep their employees paid, support employee benefits insurance premiums, and cover mortgage payments and other debt obligations.
  • $100 billion for grants to hospitals and other health entities to cover unreimbursed expenses or lost revenues attributable to coronavirus.
  • $30 billion for education funding to help schools cover expenses, support distance learning, and make up for the lost days of classroom time.
  • $14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation to support farmers and producers, and $9.5 billion to assist specialty crop and livestock producers.
  • An additional $600 per week of unemployment benefits for up to 4 months and expanded unemployment coverage to cover gig workers and independent contractors.
  • An employee retention credit that offers employers tax credits equal to 50% of the wages paid to employees for those employers who are fully or partially shut down or who have lost most of their revenue.
  • Direct payments of up to $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child.
  • Foreclosure moratorium for all homes that were financed through federal loan programs.  

Some of the priorities that advocates for individuals with disabilities asked for are included in the package, but many are not. We are continuing to review the bill, and we will provide additional information to ensure our community’s priorities are included in future relief packages.

The bill DID NOT

  • Provide more funding for Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS).
  • Provide more funding or support for personal care attendants (PCAs) and direct support professionals (DSPs). 
  • Make changes to include coverage of family members of adults with disabilities who step in when other supports become unavailable because of the crisis.
  • Adequately protect the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). While the CARES Act does not allow States to waive IDEA, it requires the Secretary of Education to submit a report to Congress with recommendations for waivers, including to IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Ensure access to medications. Congress did not adequately address barriers to accessing medication; they only addressed some barriers under Medicare.
  • Permanently reauthorize Money Follows the Person (MFP). However, the bill did extend the program, along the HCBS Spousal Impoverishment protections, through November 30, 2020.

The bill DID

  • Ensure all people, including people on means-tested and other disability programs, like Social Security Disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid, are eligible for rebates and emergency income relief provided in the CARES Act. There may, however, be additional barriers, since they are primarily tied to tax returns.
  • Provide more funding for Centers for Independent Living (CILs): Congress did provide an extra $85 million for CILs! However, we asked for funding for Part B and Part C, but all $85 million in the bill is Part C funding.

If you are concerned with what the bill didn't do, or happy with what it did do, you have the opportunity to let your members of Congress know; they can fix things left out in future bills.  Click here to be heard in Washington DC (and don't worry if you don't know who represents you in the US House of Representatives; if you know your street address, the system will find it for you and automatically send it for you).