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March 16, 2021Advocacy Matters

Passage of the American Rescue Plan

Disability Matters with Joyce Bender

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

 

#AdvocacyMatters Segment

Passage of the American Rescue Plan

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President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan on March 12th.  This law marks his first major legislative initiative to pass congress and includes important provisions that will have a positive impact on people with disabilities.  The complete text of the law can be found on our website at www.disabilityrightspa.org.  The link is included in our #AdvocacyMatters segment for today.

The law provides $12.667 billion dollars to the states for an expansion of Medicaid home and community-based services.  The law allows states flexibility in how the funds are spent.  For example, states may use the home and community-based funds for wage increases, reduce waiting lists, purchase PPE, and recruit and train workers.

Direct stimulus payments of $1,400 is headed to more people with disabilities.  The law made roughly 15 million adult dependents eligible to receive a $1,400 payment.  No previous COVID relief payment included adult dependents.

State and local aid was included in the American Rescue Plan.  State and local aid was important because so many economies were hurt by high unemployment rates, the suspension or closure of businesses, and the high cost of responding to COVID.  Pennsylvania expects to receive $13 billion in state and local funding. States also have flexibility how these funds can be spent.  State and local aid can be used to offset budget gaps, invest in broadband, pay a premium wage to essential workers, and pay for infrastructure projects.

We certainly had hoped that the American Rescue Plan would extend jobless benefits through the end of September, which would have better protected unemployed workers from a potential lapse at the end of summer and the federal fiscal year.  As it stands now, unemployment benefits were extended to September 6th with the enhanced benefit of $300 per week.

There is now an expansion of nutrition assistance.  The American Rescue Plan extends the increase in SNAP benefits through September 15th.

The new law also helps individuals struggling to pay rent and avoid eviction.  The housing provisions include an additional $25 billion in rental assistance and extends the Centers for Disease Control’s order prohibiting most evictions through the end of March.

#AdvocacyMattered.

So many of your listeners acted and contacted their members of Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan. Now implementation of the law is underway.

It is still important to stay engaged in the implementation of the American Rescue Plan.  As we mentioned, states have flexibility to allocate funds, like state and local aid and home and community-based services.  Advocacy now should be targeted to Governors and state legislatures to release those funds as soon as they are available and to allocate those monies according to the priority of the disability community.  After all of this work, our biggest fear is that states will allocate money to fill budget gaps and not spend it for the benefit of the disability community.

 

Links in this segment:

Text of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan