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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Federal Legislation and COVID-19

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all.    The Autism Society sums up federal policy related to COVID-19:
The Autism Society has been advocating for the inclusion of the needs of people with autism in federal legislation related to COVID-19. As of April 15, three bills have been signed into law to help states respond to the crisis. The Autism Society along with its partners were successful in getting some provisions included in the three laws. These include:
  • Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act – $8.3 billion in new funding for a robust response to the coronavirus, including support for state and local health agencies, vaccine and treatment development, and loans for affected small businesses to lessen the economic blow of this public health emergency.
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act – $3.4 billion to provide for coronavirus testing (free for those uninsured), increased paid leave, enhanced Unemployment Insurance to those unable to work, and increased funding for food security programs (SNAP).
  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) – a $2 trillion emergency relief bill to address the economic and public health emergency. This law includes provisions specific to the autism community such as home and community-based services supports, family supports, educational supports. During consideration of the bill, the Autism Society signed onto a community letter opposing the exclusion of non-profits from receiving emergency loans. This exclusion was ultimately struck and non-profits are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help them get through the pandemic. The Autism Society provided a detailed Summary of the bill with a disability focus.
  • A bill (HR266) to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program and to provide additional funds to states to assist hospitals and ramp up national testing for the Coronavirus was passed in the Senate on April 21 by unanimous consent. The bill is expected to pass in the House on April 23. The House members will vote in groups to observe physical distancing.