This is the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) weekly update on policy changes and legislation related to local, state, and federal COVID-19 emergency orders. This post covers May 19-25. For daily updates, information, and help during the emergency, we recommend 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
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.
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. ASNC urges you to contact Senator Burr and Senator Tillis via 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 (HCBS), the largest program supporting people with I/DD, to help people with disabilities and 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.
General Assembly Update
Budget shortfall projected – State lawmakers heard from budget forecasters on Tuesday May 26th regarding the drop in tax revenue (read the report here) as a result of COVID-19 economic shutdowns and the potential for a $4-6 billion dollar shortfall in North Carolina’s state budget. North Carolina has $1.2 billion in its rainy-day fund and $1.7 billion in unspent federal CARES Act COVID-19 relief funds, as well as more than a billion in funds that went unspent in last year’s budget that never passed. What’s unknown is if the federal government will allow states flexibility in spending CARES Act COVID relief for other state services and to fill budget holes (and avoid services cuts), if they will pass new legislation that includes additional state relief funding, and to what extent the state may need to make cuts to state agency budgets and services based on lower revenues.
Given this uncertainty, legislators have undefined timelines for state budget bill(s) passage and the length of the legislative session. Last week the NC House and Senate filed more than a dozen appropriations bills, some only placeholders for specific committee’s spending plans. ASNC has joined with our coalition partners in calling on the NCGA to uphold its commitment to moving people off the Innovations waiver waiting list and invest in other needed services and supports. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees meet jointly (see schedule here) as well as separately, including subcommittees, several times per week during the short session until the budget process is completed. To see the full calendar of Legislative Events including committee meetings visit www.ncleg.gov
NC DHHS Update
- Interactive COVID-19 Dashboard Launch – The interactive dashboard provides an overview on the metrics and capacities that the state is following to inform decisions to responsibly ease measures that slow the spread of the virus. It also includes the ability to filter cases and deaths by demographic information (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender and age). For example, if a user selects a race, data will display for the ethnicity, gender and age breakdown for that racial group for cases or deaths.
- Preventing and Responding to COVID-19 in Long-term Care Facilities – NC DHHS is taking further action to prevent and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities (read their release here). All long-term care facilities in the state will receive personal protective equipment (PPE) packs of needed supplies, training and information on preventing the spread, and facilities will receive a limited increased rate for some Medicaid services to support infection prevention and management. Efforts are going on to match nursing staff with vacancies in facilities. New regulations have been issued to require the wearing of masks, daily screening for staff and residents, and the closing of communal areas.
“Safer at Home” – Executive Order 142 moved the state into Phase 2, or “Safer at Home,” restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some restrictions are eased; some retail, food, child care and recreation settings are now open. Indoor gatherings are still restricted to 10 people, however outdoor gatherings have been increased to a limit of 25 To read all Phase 2 Easing of Restrictions info click here. The Phase 2 order will be in place until June 26th unless changed or cancelled. Click here to read a FAQ. Because positive cases and hospitalizations due to of COVID-19 are still on increase in NC, people are urged to continue to practice “the three Ws”; wear a mask when in public, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands frequently.
Federal Stimulus Payments Issued Include Individuals with Disabilities As we noted in previous updates, federal stimulus payments are being issued and this includes payment to individuals with disabilities. Be aware that providers/licensees that also serve as Representative Payees for Social Security Administration (SSA) beneficiaries with disabilities should ensure payees understand that federal stimulus checks, known also as “Economic Impact Payments (EIP),” belong solely for the use of and by the beneficiary –not the payee. NC DHHS has posted guidance under the Individuals Guidance page.
The State Board of Education approved a policy on May 21 outlining the requirements for LEA remote learning plans for the 2020-2021 school year. This plan development follows legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier in May. Education leaders in the state have stated and that remote learning will form some portion of education as schools figure out operations for the coming school year. Plans must cover 15 areas, including “Ensuring that students with disabilities have equal access to the remote instruction provided by their public school units and that remote instruction is provided in a manner consistent with each student’s individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan.”Tags: #StayAtHome, ASNC, autism advocacy, autism health care, autism medicaid, autism society north carolina, autism society of NC, autism special education, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder, coronavirus, COVID-19, Executive Order, medicaid, ncga, North Carolina General Assembly, public policy