COVID-19 is taking a toll on all of us. We’re afraid of contracting the virus, worried about unemployment and the loss of financial security, grieving for those who have died and are sick and uncertain about when and if life will ever return to normal. For individuals with disabilities and their families, worries may be even greater. According to the CDC, most hospitalized COVID-19 patients — 90% — of hospitalized patients have one or more underlying conditions.
At Enabling Devices, we’re all about making life easier for our customers and community. To that end, we’ve compiled some information about new legislation and resources that may help individuals and families during this unprecedented time.
COVID-19 Legislation to Help Families and Schools
It’s been about two months since President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law. The law provides more than $2 trillion in direct aid for workers, families, hospitals, small businesses and local governments fighting the coronavirus.
If your adjusted gross income is less than $75,000 a year as an individual or $150,000 for a couple, you may have already received a no-strings-attached payment of $1200 to offset losses of income due to the pandemic. If not, it should arrive any day. Families in that income bracket with dependents will also receive $500 per child. If your income is higher, but still less than $99,000 per individual or $198,000 per couple, you are entitled to some portion of $1,200.
For more specific information, check out this May 6 article in Business Insider. Another good source for details especially pertinent to individuals with disabilities and their families is howtogeton.wordpress. We don’t know yet whether stimulus checks will be a one-time thing. Currently, some lawmakers are pushing the federal government to issue another round of stimulus checks. Fingers crossed!
Enabling Devices’ school customers may be particularly interested in the CARES Act’s funding of the $30 billion Education Stabilization Fund. The Fund is distributed between the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund; The Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund (ESSER Fund); and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER Fund), which has the most flexible guidelines of the three. GEER, which was announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on April 14, is an emergency block grant of $3 billion that provides funding for students, schools and other educational institutions. GEER gives governors the power to distribute funds at their own discretion. Funds can be used to cover expenses including COVID-19 response efforts, afterschool and summer learning programs, nutrition and mental health services, internet and remote learning and technology-related purchases.
While $30 billion may sound like a great deal of money, given the length of the pandemic, education groups are clamoring for more. According to Education Week, several education groups including two teachers unions told congress in early April, that they needed “upwards of $200 billion in new aid.” Now, writes Education Week, House Democrats have proposed The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes Act).The Heroes Act would create a $90 billion “state fiscal stabilization fund” for the U.S. Department of Education to distribute to K-12 as well as higher education. If approved by the U.S. Senate, schools would see approximately $60 billion dollars in funding for education including $12 billion for special education.
COVID-19 Resources for People with Disabilities or Chronic Conditions
The National Homework Hotline for Blind/Visually Impaired Students (NHH-BVI) is offering free homework help and tutoring for students from kindergarten through college affected by school closures due to the coronavirus.
The GHLF is providing free support program for individuals with chronic health conditions and their families during the pandemic. Users will be able to find the latest information about COVID-19 as well as free support services.
6. Vocational Rehab Services
On May 14, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Rehabilitation Services and Special Education released guidelines for vocational rehabilitation services during the pandemic. As reported by Disability Scoop, “Vocational rehabilitation agencies can continue to serve individuals with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, though some adjustments may be needed…” Essentially, services including job coaching, career counseling, pre-employment transition services. You can get more details here.
The Child Mind Institute, an independent national nonprofit for children and families with mental health and learning challenges is offering a range of services and resources during the pandemic. Offerings include Facebook Live chats with experts; remote evaluations, telehealth and flat-fee phone consultations for parenting questions and videos concerning COVID-19 issues.
You can count on Sesame Street to provide help for children and families. The nonprofit’s campaign #CaringForEachOther, includes ideas for stay-at-home activities; parenting videos; and advice for all sorts of COVID-19-related situations you are likely to confront with your children.
RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that works to fight stigma and provide opportunities to individuals with disabilities are offering Zoom gatherings facilitated by expert advocates to encourage community connection, resource sharing, and COVID-19-related information and problem-solving.
The Arc, a national, community-based nonprofit that serves individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families, is a great source for up-to-the-minute information about COVID-19 that’s specifically relevant to the disabilities community. On thearc.org, you can read about legislative advocacy efforts, and find fact sheets about unemployment benefits; the small business bill; recovery rebates and more.
Enabling Devices will continue to update resources as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. Meanwhile, we wish all our customers safety and wellness.