REAADI for Disasters Act: A Summary
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The Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act provides solutions for persons with disabilities and older adults during the ever-increasing number of disasters in the United States. The REAADI Act will enable persons to maintain their health, safety, and independence before, during, and after disasters.
The Act includes seven specific provisions: (1) funding research; (2) developing and delivering training and technical assistance; (3) creating a national commission that includes persons with disabilities; (4) Recognizes the role for centers for independent living throughout local disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. (5) establish in statute the Crisis Standards of Care issued by HHS/OCR during the pandemic and to apply those standards to all public health emergencies and disasters. (6) establishing a Department of Justice review of the Americans with Disabilities Act noncompliance settlement agreements; and (7) creating a government accountability review process for federal funds utilized for disasters to ensure compliance with federal law.
“SHORT TITLE” This section simply sets the title of the Bill as: “Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion for Disasters Act” or the “REAADI for Disasters Act”.
This section sets forth “FINDINGS AND SENSE OF CONGRESS,” the need for this Bill, citing sobering statistics:
- more than 61,000,000 adults who are individuals with disabilities
- more than 47,800,000 adults are age 65 or older
- there have been more than 145 hurricanes, resulting in over 2,000 deaths, in the United States since 2005
- weather- and climate-related disasters in 2022 cost the United States over $165 billion; more than 54,000,000 people were affected; more than 16,000,000 of them were adults with disabilities
With these statistics in mind, this section goes on to cite problems with our current systems of emergency management, and their toll on Disabled lives, including:
- Failure to provide communications regarding emergencies in accessible formats; and failure to provide assistance accessible to Disabled people during the evacuation process; and people with disabilities often are unable or do not evacuate because of this. This is a violation of civil rights.
- Less than a third of Disabled people who need personal attendant services do not have a plan in place for their continued services in a disaster.
- Shelter personnel need to be prepared to fully integrate people with disabilities into general population shelters; giving Disabled people better access to information and resources than when in medical/special needs shelters. No one should not be segregated or separated from their families.
- During disasters and emergencies, individuals with disabilities and older adults are more at risk for loss of life, loss of independence, or violation of civil rights than the general population.
Then the “Sense of Congress” is stated; what Congress feels needs to happen in emergencies and disasters:
- People with disabilities and older adults must have access to services and supports; we must be allowed to return to our communities after disasters in the same timely manner as the general population.
- Recovery and reconstruction should be designed with universal design principles.
- Disabled people and older adults should receive disaster-related information in accessible formats, including in American Sign Language, Braille, and plain language, as well as captioned video messages.
- People with disabilities and older adults must be included as key participants and decision-makers in all phases of emergency management.
Section 3 outlines “PURPOSES” for this act. Purposes in emergencies and disasters, relating to Disabled people and older adults include:
- Improving inclusion in every aspect of disaster preparedness and recovery
- Protection from discrimination
- Ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA) and the Rehab Act during every phase
- Improve coordination between government entities and disability-led organizations, including multiply marginalized BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities
- Improving outcomes after the disaster
- To make FEDERAL LAW: standards of care and standards for protection of civil rights, for older adults and people with disabilities, during disasters and public health emergencies.
This section, “DEFINITIONS,” contains definitions of the following terms:
ACCESS AND FUNCTIONAL NEEDS; ALL HAZARDS APPROACH; CIVIL RIGHTS; COVERED INDIVIDUAL; DISABILITY INCLUSIVE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE; DISASTER; DISASTER SERVICES; DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED; INDIAN TRIBAL GOVERNMENT; INDIVIDUAL WITH A DISABILITY; OLDER ADULT; PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY; RESIDENT; SECRETARY; STATE; VISITABILITY STANDARDS; VOAD.
This section contains extensive information on “USE OF DISASTER RESPONSE FUNDS.”
It outlines modifications needed to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, including clarification of Disability-specific language; use of funds; inclusion of people with disabilities on advisory committees; and clarification of the role of Centers for Independent Living as emergency management service providers.
This section, titled “TRAINING, TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, AND RESEARCH DISABILITY AND DISASTER CENTERS,” outlines funds to be allocated for these purposes, to address the needs of people with disabilities and older adults during the disaster and recovery process.
Details are provided for funds needed to:
- provide training and technical assistance to State, local, Tribal, and territorial disaster relief, public health, and social service agencies
- ensure systems include covered individuals in the development of all State, local, Tribal, and territorial disaster preparation plans
- assist Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial disaster relief agencies in providing services and programs in the least restrictive environment
- conduct research and expand knowledge about covered individuals and their experiences during disasters; protecting their civil rights; reducing death, injury and loss from disasters; reducing displacement and disproportionate effects of relocation after a disaster; and ensuring covered individuals are participants in the research, development, and distribution of evidence-based information regarding disasters.
Guidelines are put in place regarding AUTHORITY FOR GRANTS.
- Grant amounts are outlined, stipulating that the Secretary may award a grant to an eligible entity in an amount that is not less than $2,500,000 and not more than $10,000,000.
- The Secretary shall award not fewer than 2 of the grants in each of the 10 Federal regions of the Department of Health and Human Services, for periods of 5 years.
- The grant application process is further detailed, in terms of necessary qualifications for those applying, and willingness to work with State, local, Tribal, and territorial disaster relief, public health, and social service agencies to determine the best means for delivery of services to address the needs of covered individuals; and willingness to communicate information on the programs and systems developed under the grant, in accessible formats and languages, including American Sign Language, of the communities being served.
Grant funds, approved by the Secretary, can be used for the following disaster-related preparation, response, recovery and mitigation activities for people with disabilities:
- Activities dedicated to inclusion of people with disabilities
- Research activities regarding inclusion
- Comprehensive training in protection of civil rights during disasters; technical assistance, development of funding sources, and support to State, local, Tribal, and territorial disaster relief, public health, and social service agencies and stakeholder groups
- Training by experts (people with disabilities and older people)
- Creating organizational partnerships
- Creating plans for continuum of services
- Creating standards for funding and rebuilding disaster-damaged housing, where the new construction will be accessible, affordable, and disaster-resilient
- Creation of standards for homeowner and flood insurance regarding re-builds that are accessible, affordable, and disaster-resilient
- Establishing universal design, visitability, and accessibility standards
- Innovations in accessible notification systems in disasters
- Research which contributes to knowledge and strategies to decrease injuries, death and harm to people with disabilities and older adults; or which preserves community living options; or which collects data
Titled “PROJECTS OF NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE,” this section authorizes the Secretary to award at least four grants, contracts or cooperative agreements with, eligible entities to:
- create opportunities for individuals with disabilities and older adults to directly contribute to improving preparation for, recovery from, response to, and mitigation of disasters;
- support the development of State, local, Tribal, and territorial policies that reinforce and promote the inclusion of Disabled people and older adults in Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial community preparation for disasters;
- support research and data collection
- protect of the civil rights of covered individuals with disabilities and older adults to be free from discrimination
- enhance collaboration among governmental entities, centers for independent living, VOADs, and other nongovernmental organizations
The section outlines AMOUNT, QUANTITY, AND DURATION of grants.
This part is titled “CRISIS STANDARDS OF CARE AND CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS,” and its goal is to establish the Crisis Standards of Care set forth by the Department of Health Human Services Office of Civil Rights during the pandemic as the new standard for all public health emergencies and disasters.
This Crisis Standard of Care would comply with Section 504 of the Rehab Act; Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and the HHS “Bulletin: Civil Rights, HIPAA, and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)”
States and local governments may not develop “new” policies that are discriminatory during disasters and public health emergencies.
- During disasters and public health emergencies, civil rights may not be suspended or waived.
- Fundamental human rights and the value of dignity, equity and worth will be honored for all in the provision of health care services.
- Crisis standards of care shall be sufficiently clear to allow practitioners to apply the standards, especially when stewarding of scarce resources means withholding or withdrawing critical care services.
- The values, wishes, and interest of all patients, especially covered individuals and children, will be honored.
- States and local governments will establish meaningful partnerships; will achieve equitable distribution of resources to all; will ensure response measures meet the needs of all; and will eliminate the use of class, race, ethnicity, neighborhood, disability, and age in decisions relating to access of care.
Titled, “NATIONAL COMMISSION ON DISABILITY RIGHTS AND DISASTERS,” section 9 outlines recommended amendments to Section 2811C of the Public Health Service Act, and clarification of definitions.
Importantly, Section 2811C established and advises on membership in the National Advisory Committee on Individuals with Disabilities and Disasters. The changes within REAADI will keep the committee at an odd number of members, as is the standard, but will increase the number of members from 17 to 45. These additional members will be a mix of individuals from federal and non-federal agencies, disability organizations, and members of diverse marginalized populations.
Section 10 is a “REVIEW OF SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS RELATED TO DISASTERS AND INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES AND OLDER ADULTS.”
This section provides information about the settlement agreement entered into by the United States during the period beginning on January 1, 2005, and ending on the first December 31 after the date of enactment of this Act; and that relates to a potential violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 in connection with the preparation for, response to, recovery from, or mitigation of a disaster.
It contains specifics about establishment of an advisory committee, to be known as the “Disability and Disaster Preparedness Advisory Committee” to review covered settlement agreements.
Members of this committee will include employees of the Department of Justice; and not less than three disability rights advocates who are not employees of the Federal Government, are individuals with disabilities, and who have disability inclusive emergency management experience.
This committee will
- Hold hearings
- Procure information from federal agencies
- Submit reports on the oversight of covered settlement agreements
- Publish an annual report on the oversight of settlement agreements relating to disaster preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation activities
- Terminate 90 days after the date on which the Committee submits the report required
- Committee members who are not Federal employees will be compensated for committee work and travel expenses
This section also outlines specific duties of the Chairperson of the Committee, and committee members.
Titled “GAO REPORT ON PAST USE OF DISASTER FUNDS,” this section requires an investigation and a report to be issued no later than 1-year after enactment on whether, on or after January 1, 2005, Federal agencies have complied with the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in expending Federal funds in disaster preparedness, response and recovery.