Below is the Autism Society of North Carolina’s weekly update on policy changes and legislation related to local, state, and federal COVID-19 emergency orders. This post covers May 25 – June 1. For ongoing updates, information, and help during the emergency, please visit one of the following sources:
- NC COVID-19 page
- CDC COVID-19 page
- News &Observer Coronavirus coverage
- NC Council on Developmental Disabilities COVID-19 resource page
- Hope4NC Hotline for mental health resources 24/7: 1-855-587-3463
- Hope4Healers Helpline for care professionals 24/7: 919-226-2002
Congressional Update – No movement
The Senate has yet to respond to the passing of the HEROES Act, the fourth bill for COVID–19 related recovery and support by the US House. We urge you to contact Senator Burr and Senator Tillis to ask that the next stimulus and economic support bill passed by Congress address the needs of people with autism and their families by:
- Including funding for home and community–based services, the largest program supporting people with I/DD, to help people with disabilities and enable them to remain in their communities
- Identifying direct support professionals as essential workers, thereby making them eligible for increased wages capitalized by the “Heroes Fund“
- Increasing funding for the housing programs that help people with disabilities obtain accessible, affordable, integrated housing, and avoid unnecessary placement in congregate settings, including the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, as well as protection against evictions and foreclosures throughout the crisis.
- Allocating additional funding for the Public Health & Social Services Emergency Fund. To date, Congress has appropriated $175 billion to this fund, but the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has failed to allocate any of this relief to community disability providers.
- Access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct care workers, who are on the front lines of this crisis.
- Provision of recovery rebates to all people with disabilities, including adults who may be claimed as dependents, without jeopardizing access to benefits programs.
North Carolina General Assembly
The NCGA spent last week introducing new bills and continued to look at the impact of COVID–19, NC’s budget shortfall, and reports from state agencies that may affect upcoming legislation.
No autism-specific bills are expected to be introduced in this session, however, ASNC monitors and provides feedback on numerous pieces of legislation in every session. Issues we are monitoring now are:
Elections and Voting: HB 1169, the Bipartisan Elections Act of 2020, is intended to make it easier to vote by absentee ballot by requiring only one witness signature and allowing for an online ballot request process. This is to address concerns about the spread of COVID–19 as crowds gather to vote in elections from June -November; SB 828 would also make it easier to submit absentee ballots in NC by removing the requirements for witnesses or a notary.
Schools and Education:
- H1206/S844 would increase school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists serving schools;
- Senate bill S476 would require schools to address suicide prevention, though without added funding;
- H1203/S850 would add school nurses to every school;
- H1228 and S859 would work to expand access to internet broadband, critical for remote learning for students in K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities;
- H1181 and H1182 appropriate additional COVID relief funds for education. H1181 includes $25 million in grants for schools to address the needs of exceptions children during COVID–19.
Medicaid and Health Care:
- S808 funds Medicaid Transformation which has been on hold since the budget impasse last year;
- S834 comes up with a more scaled-back approach than H1040 to fill the health insurance coverage gap in North Carolina by only covering single adults up to 133% of poverty, instead of all those in the gap, but does so without the work requirements in H1040; and
- H1196 would support additional testing and protective equipment for congregate living facilities.
All of these bills will likely change several times as they are heard in committee and may or may not move forward at all during this session. You can follow the work of the North Carolina General Assembly at www.ncleg.gov
Governor’s Executive Orders
Executive Order 142 extends the prohibition on evictions and utility cutoffs related to COVID–19.
How You Can Help
Please share your stories of life with autism with your state and federal officials, especially as they relate to access to services, supports, and health care; access to education; health and disability services system in NC; and your rights. Find contact information for your representatives here so you can connect.
Questions? Please contact Jennifer Mahan, Director of Public Policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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