Have We Been Abandoned?

May 22, 2020
Posted By: Kerrie Mason

Post by Mike Hyland, Venture President &CEO

Today marks 72 days since the COVID-19 virus was officially declared a pandemic.  We have seen stories of great compassion and great tragedy as well as a glimpse at what some call the emerging new normal.  What we have not seen is our leaders in Washington D.C. providing a single dime for people with disabilities and the skilled professionals who support them.  Trillions of dollars have been appropriated and not one red cent of it has been designated for Medicaid-funded providers of community-based disability services.  Unfathomable?  No, it is disgraceful.

The risk that the virus poses to people with developmental disabilities is enormous, even more so than the risk posed to the general public given the high incidence of medical conditions that people with disabilities often have.  Yet, inexplicably, the federal government has designated $0 of the Public Health & Social Services Emergency Fund to Medicaid-funded providers of group homes and community supports. To date, only about $87 billion of the $175 billion appropriated to this fund has been committed or distributed and the vast majority of those commitments have been made to Medicare programs.  It is crucial that Congress direct the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately address Medicaid-funded providers’ critical financial needs by allocating these funds to agencies that comprise the safety net that supports people with developmental disabilities.  It has already been far too long a wait for this relief.

There is a glimmer of hope, however. Last Friday, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act. The legislation includes, for the first time, critical resources for disability service providers.  These provisions have a long way to go before becoming law of course, and must survive Senate negotiations ahead of a final vote.  This vote is unlikely to happen before mid-June but it is essential that the Senate also include meaningful financial relief for provider agencies so that we can all continue to ensure that the people we support have the staff and resources needed to remain safe.  It is well beyond time that people with developmental disabilities and the agencies that support them are prioritized in the same way as the many other sectors that have been given billions of dollars in financial relief.  To do anything less would amount to complete abandonment by the leaders in our nation’s capital and a sad dismissal of a population that has been inappropriately marginalized for many, many decades.

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