All Autism Society of NC offices and programs are closed to comply with state directives regarding COVID-19. See our COVID-19 page for updates and resources. To reach staff, who are working remotely, please email or call 800-442-2762.

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Public Policy Update

Below is information about recent activity at the state and federal levels, including COVID-19 updates.

Schools to Reopen
On Tuesday, July 14, the Governor announced that schools would be allowed to open under “Plan B” which allows students to return to classrooms, while maintaining social distancing and other measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Read more here. Plan B is the baseline that schools’ reopening plans need to meet, but individual districts may choose to go all online, which is Plan C.

Plan B Highlights:

  • Allows students to attend school in person.
  • Symptom screenings will take place daily.
  • Students, teachers, and staff must wear face coverings.
  • The state will provide 5 re-useable masks for each staff member, teacher, and student.
  • Fewer students in the classroom.
  • Local school districts will provide remote learning if requested by a student/family.
  • Limits the total number of people in a school building to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. Flexibility will be given to achieve this standard by allowing for staggered schedules.
  • Schools must create a place to isolate students.
  • Schedules must allow time for frequent hand washing and regular cleaning.
  • Nonessential visitors and activities involving outside organizations will be limited.
  • Suspending activities that bring large groups together for example assemblies.

 

Plan C is all remote learning. While districts are allowed to open under Plan B, some school districts may choose this plan.

Each school district’s plans will incorporate these and additional measures: we encourage you to review your local schools’ plans for reopening. You can check the Governor’s website and the Department of Public Instruction web page  for updates until our next blog.

 

Congressional Update – Congress gets back to work

Congress will return from a two-week recess on July 20. The US Senate is in the process of negotiating a new package of COVID-19 and economic relief. The negotiations provide an opportunity to share your concerns with Senators Richard Burr, and Thom Tills. It is critical that you contact them and ask them to support the needs of people with autism and their families in North Carolina 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
  • Supporting direct care professionals as an essential part of our health and disability infrastructure: designate them as “essential workers” under any legislation that supports increased wages such as outlined in 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
  • Ensuring access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for direct care workers, who are on the front lines of this crisis
  • Providing recovery rebates to all people with disabilities, including adults who may be claimed as dependents, without jeopardizing access to benefits programs.

 

North Carolina Legislative News

The North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) was back briefly the week of July 6 to consider veto overrides for bills vetoed by the Governor. No overrides of the Governor’s vetoes passed. The Governor is weighing the possibility of calling the NCGA into special session before their planned return in September IF Congress passes another COVID-19 economic relief package.

The Governor continued to review, sign, and veto bills over the last two weeks. Updates to bills awaiting a decision are below.

Medicaid, Health Care, and other Human Services Changes

  • VETOED, S168 – Governor Cooper vetoed this regulatory change and block grant authorization bill because of an amendment added in during the conference committee process that public records experts believe would limit public information on death records.
    • The block grant authorization in the bill was moved to another piece of legislation and passed last week, however, an estimated $25 million in block grant funding *increases* authorized by Congress were not included and will need to be authorized when legislators return in September.
    • Language correcting the state’s developmental disability definition so that NC is back in alignment with the federal definition was NOT included in any bills passed last week. Advocates continue to work to find a way to include this in future legislation.
    • Language clarifying the NC DHHS Secretary’s authority to issue rules for MHDDSA services co-payments was also NOT included in any bills authorized last week
  • PASSED/SIGNED, S808, Medicaid Funding Act This bill funds Medicaid Transformation which has been on hold since the budget impasse last year; funds the Medicaid rebase; adds $50 million to support the expected budget hole/increase in service needs for LME MCO services and gives DHHS oversight for use of “savings” generated by the LME MCOs; and directs funding to move DHHS offices from the Dix Campus to an as yet to be determined site in Wake County, removing the requirement that they move to Granville County.
    • Medicaid Transformation, integrating physical and behavioral health care under a managed care system, which has been on hold for the last 9 months, will move forward. “Standard Plans” which will serve the vast majority of those on Medicaid are slated to begin July 1, 2021. Managed care companies will be given 4-year instead of 3-year contracts under the terms of the new legislation.
    • “Tailored Plans” which are designed to serve those getting services under Innovations and TBI waivers, and those with significant mental health or substance use or other behavioral needs, are slated to begin one year after the Standard plans are implemented, possibly as soon as July 1, 2022.

 

General Budget

  • PASSED/SIGNED, H1023, Coronavirus Relief Funds/Additions & Revisions
    • Subdivision (53) allocates $2.6M for the NC HealthConnex health information exchange network for certain COVID-19 related improvements and operations.
    • Subdivision (64) allocates $5M to DPI for grants to applicant public school units for services for exceptional children who lost critical services due to COVID-19 related school closures.
    • Subdivision (67) allocates $5M to DHHS, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services, for 122C group homes that serve minors or adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, to support the implementation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for preventive measures to control the spread of COVID-19 in these facilities.

 

To follow the work of the North Carolina General Assembly visit www.ncleg.gov. You can also read the Governor’s press releases regarding bills here.

 

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS)
NC DHHS continues its COVID-19 prevention, education, contact tracing, and testing outreach across North Carolina. They have recently issued this helpful video about “How to Properly Use a Cloth Face Covering.” Visit their website for additional information, including screening locations and COVID-19 related services.

 

Note from ASNC

Please continue to 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 jmahan@autismsociety-nc.org.

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