April 27, 2020
WASHINGTON--The National Council on Disability (NCD) has recommended to congressional leaders that home- and community-based services (HCBS) provisions be included in the next COVID-19 legislative package.
In a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, NCD focused its advice on saving lives of people with disabilities and those who support them during the COVID-19 outbreak.
NCD drafted the letter after feedback from organizations representing front line direct support professionals (DSPs) and personal care attendants who provide people with disabilities assistance with activities of daily living. These jobs require close contact--within a six-foot distance--and create potential to endanger themselves and their clients with disabilities, due to insufficient protective equipment. Currently, direct care workers are not designated as essential workers.
"Because the current definition of 'essential workers' does not include these vital workers, they have no priority in acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE). I urge you to pursue this as a 'fix' in the next COVID-19 legislative package," wrote NCD Chairman Neil Romano.
Additionally, NCD recommends including HCBS grants, enabling states to train and shore up a DSP workforce and provide overtime wages during the influx of staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"With more direct care workers unable to deliver critical services owing to their own illness, their family members’ illness, or their lives and careers impacted and disrupted by COVID-19 in other ways everyone is currently experiencing, the pre-existing worker shortage, high turnover rates, and low wages are culminating into a desperate cause-and-effect situation for scores of Americans with disabilities," wrote Romano.
NCD, as an independent, nonpartisan federal agency that provides advice to the President and Congress on disability policy issues, has consistently addressed longstanding long-term services and supports issues across numerous administrations.
In 2005, a NCD report titled The State of 21st Century Long-Term Services and Supports: Financing and Systems Reform for Americans with Disabilities provided similar recommendations.
NCD reported that “America needs a coherent and comprehensive framework for its [long-term services and supports] policies, programs, and funding” based in part on the assumption that “formal and informal caregiving must be sustained, including examination of family needs and workforce recruitment and retention challenges.”
"NCD has a long history of researching trends and needs within the nation’s long-term services and supports system and incorporating the lived experiences of people with disabilities and those who support them in our advice to Congress and the Administration," wrote the Chairman. "Considering our longstanding findings in these areas, I strongly encourage the inclusion of HCBS investments in the next COVID-19 legislative package."
Read the letter at NCD.gov.