The Partnership Statement on the HEALS Act
TAKE ACTION! THE HEALS ACT DOESN’T INCLUDE US!
On July 27th, the Senate Republicans released the HEALS Act, a COVID relief package of several bills that fundamentally harm disabled people. This is especially concerning because the $1 trillion stimulus package is supposed to be “last major legislative response to the coronavirus pandemic.” It is unacceptable for a COVID relief bill to neglect disability needs, and thus put people with disabilities even more at-risk than we already are.
The HEALS Act provides sweeping immunity to businesses, hospitals, and employers during the pandemic. It will shield hospitals, nursing facilities, and employers from prevailing in legal action for any harm. This will take away the right of people with disabilities to prevail in legal action for discrimination and preventable deaths in nursing facilities.
Furthermore, the HEALS Act jeopardizes the independence of many
people with disabilities by not increasing funding for Medicaid and Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). Not increasing funding to Medicaid and HCBS will put people with disabilities at increased risk for COVID-19. Medicaid and HCBS are both vital to providing support to people with disabilities and enabling them to stay in their communities. Without additional funding for Medicaid and HCBS, people with disabilities will be at a higher risk of going to congregate settings, which are “hot zones” for COVID-19. Nursing facilities account for at least 42% of COVID deaths. Not increasing funds for Medicaid and HCBS places people with disabilities at risk of losing independence and contracting and dying from COVID-19.
The HEALS Act does not include Hazard Pay for direct care workers. During the pandemic, people with disabilities have reported increased difficulty in employing direct care workers. This means that their care services are interrupted and many become at-risk of going to a facility. It is critical that a relief bill remove barriers to direct care workers by ensuring they receive hazard pay.
We join the Center for Public Representation in advocating for a relief package that:
- Provides a 14% point increase in federal funding to Medicaid and a 10% point increase in funding for HCBS.
- Makes permanent Money Follows the Person (MFP), which will expire on November 30th. MFP provides targeted funding to help get people out of institutions.
- Includes the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion in Disasters Act (REAADI) and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act, (DRMA). REAADI and DRMA prioritize the needs of disaster-impacted people with disabilities.
For more information, please see the Center for Public Representation (CPR) analysis of the Senate HEALS Act and comparison of the House HEROS Act vs. Senate HEALS Act. There is also a script and tools to find your Senators.