For Immediate Release: March 11, 2021
Contact: Rachita Singh, email@example.com
Washington, D.C. – While COVID-19 has impacted the lives of every American, the pandemic has amplified and exacerbated existing disparities faced by people with disabilities, communities of color, women, communities lacking adequate internet and more, often with dire consequences. With support from the New America Foundation and Blue Meridian Partners, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) conducted interviews with disability advocates and captured stories of people with disabilities impacted by COVID. We compiled these interviews and stories in a storybook, Disability in the Time of COVID-19.
Our interviews with disability advocates revealed many gaps in systems and policies that have left people with disabilities behind and put them at risk during the pandemic and will continue to do so during future disasters unless addressed. Below are the key recommendations that emerged:
- Increase funding for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). HCBS funding is desperately needed to ensure that people with disabilities can access needed care from Direct Support Professionals at home, rather than in nursing homes in which hundreds of thousands have died from COVID-19. While the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan by the House and Senate provides critical and overdue funding to support HCBS, this funding is time-limited. We need long-term systemic solutions that end the institutional bias and elevate the status of the homecare workforce in the United States.
- Sustain and expand the Emergency Broadband Benefit established under the CARES Act to build towards inclusive digital infrastructure. When the world moved online at the start of the pandemic, too many people with disabilities were left behind by inaccessible digital infrastructure and a lack of access to broadband internet and assistive technology. The Emergency Broadband Benefit must cover devices and supports that enable many people with disabilities to engage online.
- Reform public benefits to promote financial security and resilience not poverty. The restrictive structure of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) limits recipients to having $2,000 or less in assets and provides no more than $794 per month, which only worsened poverty for people with disabilities during the pandemic.
- Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and secure higher wages for Direct Support Professionals. Direct Support Professionals provide critical services and support to people with disabilities but many receive low wages and were not prioritized for Personal Protective Equipment and other protections during the pandemic, which made it even harder to employ Direct Support Professionals since last March.
“The main stories that we have had about people with disabilities during the pandemic have been obituaries,” said President and CEO of AAPD, Maria Town. “These deaths were preventable. The personal stories of survival that so many people shared with us during the creation of the storybook are critical for showing the real life impacts of the pandemic. It should not have taken hundreds of thousands of deaths of people with disabilities for our political leaders and lawmakers to act on the need for more funding for Home and Community Based Services.”
“These stories show the real life, tangible ways in which the pandemic has impacted the disability community,” said AAPD Board Chair Ted Kennedy, Jr. “In order to continue advancing an equitable COVID recovery, our legislators need to know the names and faces of the people who bear the cost of failing to address inaccessible digital infrastructure, unlivable wages, inadequate public benefits, and a lack of access to necessary support and services during the pandemic and beyond.”
Read the stories and insights from the storybook Disability in the Time of COVID-19 through our interactive webpage or as a pdf document. You can watch a discussion about these stories and key policy issues via this webinar.
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AAPD is a convener, connecter, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As one of the leading national cross-disability civil rights organizations, AAPD advocates for the full recognition of rights for the over 60 million Americans with disabilities. AAPD’s programs and initiatives have been effective in mobilizing the disability community through communications advocacy; cultivating and training new and emerging leaders with disabilities through leadership development programs; increasing the political participation of Americans with disabilities and elevating the power of the disability vote through the REV UP (Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) Campaign; and advancing disability inclusion in the workplace through the Disability Equality Index (DEI) — the nation’s leading corporate benchmarking tool for disability equality and inclusion. To learn more about AAPD, visit www.aapd.com.