The Arc and its advocates are welcoming the U.S. Congress’ decision to pass COVID-19-related economic stimulus legislation, which will extend access to Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, passed Tuesday and signed into law by President Joseph Biden Thursday, includes a yearlong 10% increase in federal spending for the Medicaid program. According to The Arc, this addresses the challenges faced by people with disabilities, a community particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After almost a full year of leaving the most urgent needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities out of relief legislation, Members of Congress are finally providing the resources necessary for people with disabilities to live safely, in the community, with the support they need,” Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, said in a news story. “This funding is desperately needed by the systems, providers and workforce that support people with disabilities.”
Medicaid HCBS funding is the almost exclusive support for people with IDD — which can include Rett syndrome— to continue to live and work in their communities. It helps them manage their finances, medications, and leading independent lives.
In the past year, according to The Arc, a lack of federal aid for people with IDD meant that families have had little support in being able to keep their loved ones with disabilities out of institutions and nursing homes, which proved to be particularly vulnerable to the spreading of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislation includes additional financial stimulus for all people with disabilities, including those defined by the IRS as “adult dependents.” Earlier during the pandemic, The Arc led efforts to make sure the stimulus payments were granted automatically to people with disabilities on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits.
Specifically, the new legislation includes these additional provisions:
- Extension of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit through September to aid people’s access to food;
- A temporary increase in premium tax credits that, under the Affordable Care Act, will ease access to health insurance;
- Extension of tax credits for people under COVID leave, a way to support family members taking care of their loved ones while care is interrupted;
- Expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit for adults with no children;
- Expansion and refundability for the Child Tax Credit to low-income families.
“This significant boost for home and community-based services will make an immediate impact for people with disabilities across the country. Robust HCBS funding is critical to keeping people with disabilities healthy, safe, and out of nursing homes and other institutional settings where the virus runs rampant,” said Berns.
“We have more work to do because the reality is, the system needed reform and investment before COVID-19 arrived on our doorstep. The new relief legislation reassures us that our work with and for people with IDD matters, and we will carry that energy forward in our ongoing advocacy,” he added.
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