Increased COVID-19 Vaccine Access for People with Disabilities
On March 29, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced $100 million in state and local grants to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines for people with disabilities. This funding will be used to deal with the significant barriers to vaccination that people with disabilities are facing and will be used to provide assistance with scheduling vaccination appointments, direct support services to attend these appointments, education about the importance of receiving the vaccine, transportation to vaccination sites, and connecting people with disabilities to in-home vaccination options, and a national hotline. For vaccine resources relating to people with disabilities, see ACL’s COVID webpages as well as the Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities.
Mission Moment with Executive Director David Tolleson
This month marks a year since we entered lockdown. While it’s too early to declare victory over the virus, as safe, effective vaccines are distributed, brighter days are in sight. Looking back, I’m proud of our work over the last year. NDSC’s Programs and Convention staff produced high-quality virtual educational and social programming in English and Spanish. We have hosted three Town Hall meetings on race relations in our community, most recently to discuss how both NDSC and our local and regional affiliates can do a better job of engaging families who haven’t traditionally felt welcome in our organizations.
Great news! Congress passed, and President Biden has signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that finally addresses the major priorities of the disability community. Thank you for your calls, tweets, and emails; for responding to our Action Alerts, sharing your personal stories, and all other actions taken over the past year to educate lawmakers about the devastating effect that the pandemic has had on people with disabilities. Your work was imperative for the inclusion of our concerns in COVID-19 relief funding and supports. Advocacy works!
Congress is currently negotiating a new COVID-19 relief package through the budget reconciliation process, allowing lawmakers to pass a relief package with only a simple majority. This process does not allow for policy changes but does allow increases to existing funding lines. We were pleased to see a 7.35% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) bump for Medicaid to support HCBS included in the House Energy & Commerce Committee mark-up of the COVID-19 relief budget reconciliation bill; the House Budget Committee is completing their own markup now, and then the entire budget package will be brought to the House floor for a vote.
Change is in the air as we begin a new year! The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines are finally being distributed – albeit not as fast as we’d like – offering the hope of future hugs, joyful reunions, and a world getting back to work. Along with our valued national partners, NDSC is working on comprehensive, updated COVID-19 information for you and your family. In the meantime, because so many of you are calling with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, we have prioritized the development of a COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ sheet. Look for it to release early next week.
On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be inaugurated, marking the official beginning of the Biden Administration. The Biden Transition Team has been preparing for months, putting forth a comprehensive list of nominees for key cabinet and appointee posts, some of whom now need to be confirmed by the Senate in order to officially begin working. NDSC has been engaged with some of the Biden transition teams to help set policy priorities and plan for the Administration change.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations for immediate, emergency use. Vaccines are now being shipped across the country and given to essential health care workers, with other high-risk individuals such as those in nursing homes to follow.
NDSC has been advocating for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), their caregivers, and support personnel to be given priority in vaccine allocation and ensure that vaccine allocation is done in an equitable, accessible way.
Mission Moment with Executive Director David Tolleson
I’ve never been so glad to see a year end! 2020 has been challenging for all of us, but now a new year is just a couple of weeks away, bringing hope and promise. At the NDSC, we continue to develop and execute programs and resources that meet the changing needs of families like yours. Early in the new year, we will launch our Ages & Stages learning programs with both free and premium options to serve everyone, wherever they are. Soon after, we will host the third discussion on race relations centering on how NDSC and our affiliates can work together to better engage all families in our community.
Administration Transition The presidential election results will not be confirmed until the Electoral College votes in December, and any lawsuits are settled. However, as is traditional, President-elect Joe Biden is quickly naming individuals, to start on January 20, 2021, to serve as senior White House officials, and is moving forward with transition efforts regarding other political appointments and policy priorities.
What a great time we had at our inaugural Soiree of Stars gala! It was a wonderful evening, made all the more impactful by the self-advocates who participated. I’m glad that we had the chance to share stories about our work and am especially grateful for those of you who chose to support NDSC’s work with a generous gift. You are appreciated, and you and your family are the reason we do what we do…and are able to do what we do. Thank you for giving! If you missed our virtual gala, you can watch a recording of the event by clicking below.