How to Help After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left a staggering path of destruction. Throughout Texas and Florida and neighboring states, people will start rebuilding their homes and their lives, and they will need all our support to recover from the storms.

Here are some ways that you and people with disabilities in your life can work together to help our neighbors in Texas and Florida begin the slow process of recovery.

Volunteer

Many websites list volunteer opportunities to serve the community, including the chance to serve people impacted by the hurricanes. While some of these may be in Florida and Texas specifically, other opportunities to help may be in your hometown!

Check out these searchable databases for your chance to serve those in need: All for Good, Create the Good, Do Something, Eventbrite, HandsOn Network, Idealist, MeetUp, and Volunteer Match.

Give

One way to support people affected by the hurricanes is through giving.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities served by chapters of The Arc, the chapters themselves, their employees, board members and volunteers have been impacted and are starting the long process of recovery. If you want to give, consider making a donation to The Arc of the United States Disaster Relief Fund. The Arc Texas also has a page available to donate specifically to disaster relief from Hurricane Harvey. You may also want to consider donating directly to state and local chapters in Florida and Texas to support their relief efforts.

To give more broadly, both The American Red Cross and Salvation Army have pages available for you to donate to people in need.

Keep Focused

The effects of these hurricanes will be felt over the next days, months, and years. As you seek to help, look for opportunities to stay engaged and to give to meet not only the need today, but future needs as well.

House Committee Advances Bill to Cut Off Basic Income for Adults with Disabilities and Seniors

Yesterday, by a vote of 23 to 14 the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means advanced legislation to cut off Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for potentially hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities and seniors.

As amended by the Committee, H.R. 2792 would revive a failed former policy by targeting SSI recipients with outstanding arrest warrants for alleged felonies or alleged violations of probation or parole. This former policy ended following the resolution of class action litigation.

Federal law already prohibits payment of SSI benefits to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment, and the Social Security Administration has a process in place to notify law enforcement of the whereabouts of such individuals.

Based on experience with the former policy, H.R. 2792 would not help law enforcement to secure arrests, but instead would target people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. Most of the warrants in question are decades old and include warrants routinely issued when a person was unable to pay a fine or court fee, or a probation supervision fee. Many people are not even aware that a warrant was issued for them, as warrants are often not served on the individual. Some people will be swept up because of mistaken identity, or paperwork errors, which can take months or even years to resolve. Many people will face barriers to clearing their records based on the nature of their disabilities or their current circumstances, for example, an individual with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.

Resolving an old arrest warrant can often involve significant time and expense, such as when a person has moved and lives far from the jurisdiction that issued, but never pursued, a decades-old warrant. Anecdotally, a very high percentage of people affected by the former policy were people with mental impairments, including people with intellectual disability.

“SSI benefits average $18 per day and are the only personal income for over one in three beneficiaries. Cutting off these modest SSI benefits will cause significant hardship and will only make it more difficult for people to resolve old, outstanding arrest warrants. Congress should reject this extreme and unconscionable proposal,” said T.J. Sutcliffe, Director, Income and Housing Policy.

As discussed at the Committee markup, the House is expected to propose to use savings from cuts to SSI under H.R. 2792 to pay for legislation to reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, also marked up by the Committee yesterday.

“Home visiting helps to improve maternal and child health and increases access to screening and early intervention for children with disabilities. Reauthorization of this valuable program should not be paid for by cutting off SSI for people with disabilities, seniors, and their families,” said Sutcliffe.

As highlighted in a fact sheet by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, here are two stories of people harmed by Social Security’s former failed policy: Rosa Martinez, the lead plaintiff in one of several class action law suits brought against the policy, and a juvenile survivor of childhood abuse:

  • Mistaken Identity: Rosa Martinez, the lead plaintiff in Martinez v. Astrue was, in 2008, a 52-year old woman who received notice from SSA that she was losing her disability benefits because of a 1980 arrest warrant for a drug offense in Miami, FL. Ms. Martinez had never been to Miami, never been arrested, never used illegal drugs, and is eight inches shorter than the person identified in the warrant. Despite an obvious case of mistaken identity, Ms. Martinez was left without her sole source of income while she cleared up the error on her own, without any help from SSA. It was only after filing a lawsuit that Ms. Martinez was able to receive her benefits.
  • Juvenile Survivor of Childhood Abuse: A young man in California with intellectual disability and other mental impairments had his SSI benefits stopped because of an Ohio warrant issued when he was 12 years old and running away to escape an abusive stepfather. The 4’7” tall, 85-pound boy was charged with assault for kicking a staff member at the detention center where he was being held until his mother could pick him up. Many years later, he had no recollection of the incident.

More stories of people harmed by SSA’s former failed policy are available from Justice in Aging.

The Arc Responds to Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Health Care Proposal

Architects of this bill are still ignoring the pleas of their constituents with disabilities

Today, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and former US Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) unveiled the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Arc released the following statement in response:

“While this piece of legislation has a new title and makes new promises, it is more of the same threats to Medicaid and those who rely on it for a life in the community. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal cuts and caps the Medicaid program. The loss of federal funding is a serious threat to people with disabilities and their families who rely on Medicaid for community based supports.

“Many of the provisions in this legislation are the same or worse than what we encountered earlier this year, which shows that the architects of this bill are still ignoring the pleas of their constituents with disabilities. The talking points sugar coat it, but the reality is simple – under this proposal less money would be available despite the fact the needs of people who rely on Medicaid have not decreased.  The Arc remains staunchly opposed to legislation that includes per capita caps or block granting of Medicaid. We need Members of Congress to find a solution that actually takes into consideration the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of the The Arc.

Choosing Between a Paycheck and Health: New Report on Paid Family Leave and the Disability Angle

Washington, DC –Today, The Arc and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality are releasing a first of its kind paper outlining why paid family and medical leave is a necessity for the economic security and stability of people with disabilities and their families.

The need for paid family and medical leave is universal. Nearly all of us will need paid leave at some point – to care for a family member’s or our own serious medical condition, or to welcome a new child into a family. Missing from the national conversation is the disability angle. One in five Americans live with a disability. Yet the reality is, in the U.S. workforce, only 1 in 7 workers has access to paid family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Roughly 2 in 5 workers report they lack access to any paid leave.

“Millions of workers in our economy either have a disability, or have a family member with a disability. Yet largely under the radar has been the disability community – too many people are being forced to choose between a paycheck and their own health or a family member’s health. This paper aims to elevate the disability angle on paid leave, a national issue with growing momentum,” said co-author TJ Sutcliffe, Director, Income and Housing Policy, The Arc.

“If policymakers are serious about improving employment outcomes of people with disabilities, they should work to establish a comprehensive and inclusive paid family and medical leave program,” said co-author Kali Grant of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. “We know paid leave has wide-reaching benefits, and that’s particularly true for people with disabilities and their families.”

Many people in the U.S. struggle to get by and pay for basics. That’s particularly true for people with disabilities and their families, who are more likely to live in poverty, have limited savings to fall back on, and face added disability-related expenses and barriers to work.

The paper found that households with one or more members with a disability have an average household income that is only about two-thirds that of households where no one has a disability. As highlighted in the paper, according to the National Disability Institute, 31% of people with disabilities say it is “very difficult” to cover their monthly expenses, compared to 15% of people without disabilities. And 4 in 5 people with disabilities lack any sort of rainy day fund.

Workers with disabilities are particularly likely to be in part-time, low-wage jobs that often don’t offer even basic benefits – much less paid family and medical leave. Over 2 in 3 part-time workers don’t have even one sick day. Workers with disabilities are twice as likely as workers without disabilities to be part-time.

“By offering job-protection, continuing health coverage, and temporary replacement income, comprehensive paid leave has the potential to ensure financial stability for the millions of working families with a member with a disability,” said Grant.

To fully address the needs of all Americans, including people with disabilities and their families, the paper recommends that a national paid leave approach should, among other things, be accessible to all working people and reflect a modern definition of family, cover all the major reasons that people need to take leave (one’s own health, a family member’s health, a new child), replace sufficient wages so that people can make ends meet, be for long enough to promote positive outcomes, ensure that people can keep their jobs and health insurance, and include education and outreach that is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

“Knowing that your job will be there for you if you take paid leave is a must for nearly all of us. And disability knows no geographical, socio-economic, or political boundaries. Other countries have done better, and American workers, including people with disabilities and their families, desperately need better,” said Sutcliffe.

Hear one family’s story about paid leave, and meet others who have personal experience with paid leave.
The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) works with policymakers, researchers, practitioners, and advocates to develop effective policies and practices that alleviate poverty and inequality in the United States. Further information about GCPI and their Economic Security and Opportunity Initiative (ESOI) is available at www.georgetownpoverty.org.

The Arc on the DACA Announcement: “Ending DACA is an assault on community inclusion”

Washington, DC – Today, The Arc released the following statement on the news that President Trump will wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program:

“The Arc’s public policy goals include protecting against forms of discrimination including that based on disability, ethnicity, race, religion, language, national origin, or any other protected status. The goals also call for providing a fair opportunity for people with disabilities to reside legally in the U.S. and to become citizens. We also urge appropriate waivers of immigration law to allow for active recruitment of direct support workers.

“For hundreds of thousands of young people with the DACA protected status, their nightmare came true with the news that the program will end and they are at risk of deportation for a decision years ago made by others when they were children. Many would be sent to countries they have no real knowledge of or contacts in. In some cases, deportation could be dangerous.

“Amongst those at risk are people with disabilities, their parents, siblings, friends, and allies. The natural support system for a person with a disability tends to be their family, and over the last several decades, American society has moved toward inclusion in the community instead of isolation for people with disabilities. And so when the family is ripped apart – siblings sent thousands of miles away, a person with a disability separated from their parents – life is turned upside down. When communities lose people of different abilities and backgrounds, we all lose. Ending DACA is an assault on community inclusion and would move our country backwards.

“This is a cruel outcome that Congress must fix before it’s too late – before people are shown the door and their lives, families, and communities are impacted forever,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

Are you #ABLEtoSave?

Are you or your family member with a disability #ABLEtoSave? Now is the time to find out if an ABLE account should be a part of your plan for the future.

What is an ABLE account?

This new type of account enables some individuals with disabilities to save money for disability related expenses, without losing important federal benefits. ABLE accounts are similar to college savings plan accounts but are not the same as those accounts with different rules and restrictions.

Less than three years after the ABLE Act was signed into law, twenty-eight states have launched ABLE programs. According to the ABLE National Resource Center, over 10,000 accounts have been opened across the country and there are over $25 million in assets under management by ABLE programs.

Can I open an ABLE account and how do they work?

The Arc’s National Policy Matters on ABLE Accounts answers your questions about who is eligible to open an account, how the accounts work, what the contribution limits are, what types of expenses the funds can be used for, how the accounts impact federal, means-tested benefits, what happens to money remaining in the account, and more.

Eligible individuals can open only one ABLE account in their home state or another state program. Some, but not all, states allow nonresidents to open accounts in their programs. Visit the ABLE National Resource Center to learn about the different state programs.

An ABLE account can be an important part of a future plan. To learn more about creating a financial plan for the future, visit The Arc’s Center for Future Planning.

The Arc Responds to the Violence in Charlottesville

Washington DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia:

“Our collective hearts break after witnessing the hatred, violence, and innocent death that rocked Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend. This hatred does not represent our America; it is a shocking betrayal of the values of our nation. We are sickened by the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who brought hate and violence into the streets, and appalled that President Trump chose to place blame not only on them, but on those who were protesting against this resurgence of evil in our society.  The counter protesters who stood up for the inclusion that America was founded upon are not responsible for what happened – it was those resorting to violence while spewing racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and islamophobic vitriol who were at fault.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have faced decades of abuse, discrimination, and institutionalization.   We must not forget that the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis in Germany included among its targets those with disabilities, and that eugenic sterilization was practiced here in the United States.  The occurrences of this weekend remind us of dark times in our history, and of the hate and ignorance that fueled these deplorable actions. That hate was alive this weekend.

“Disability does not discriminate and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are represented in all minority groups: people of color, immigrants, refugees, members of every religious group, and members of the LGBTQ community. We remain on the side of inclusion, on the side of our brothers and sisters in civil rights who were brutally attacked in Charlottesville,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

Grant from Walmart Foundation Will Allow The Arc to Support People with Disabilities in Building Fulfilling Careers

Washington, DC – The Arc is thrilled to announce it has received an additional $240,000 from the Walmart Foundation to encourage and support workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to enter the workforce. Current research indicates that only 15% of people with I/DD are currently employed. However, with the right supports, many people with I/DD can build a career alongside their peers without disabilities.

“With the Walmart Foundation’s generous support in 2016, The Arc@Work was able to significantly increase the number of individuals with I/DD working in the community. Now, with this additional funding, The Arc and its chapters are excited to further narrow the workforce gap between people with I/DD and their colleagues without disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc’s employment initiative, The Arc@Work, connects organizations with people and services that increase the diversity, productivity, and quality of their overall workforce. In 2016, the program partnered with 16 chapters of The Arc to connect employers with talented employees with I/DD. With the Walmart Foundation’s support, these chapters were able to reach and even surpass many of their objectives. By June 2017, nearly 400 individuals with I/DD had secured employment, while 15 states and over 1,700 employers were engaged in outreach. The year also produced many success stories, such as this one from The Arc of Monroe County in Rochester, New York.

When Danielle first began receiving employment services, she exhibited low self-confidence and struggled with social interactions ranging from phone calls to interviews. As she began to take part in her first career fair, job interviews, and informal meetings with potential employers, her confidence started to grow. Through practice and dedication to the process, she was able to overcome the stress and anxiety associated with interacting with potential employers.

Eventually Danielle received a call for an interview at a local senior facility that would result in a pivotal change in her life’s course. The day before she was scheduled to interview, Danielle and her employment specialist practiced answering hypothetical interview questions and how to talk about her qualifications. The following day, Danielle performed flawlessly. Danielle engaged the interviewer in a funny story and her demeanor and the content of her answers to the interview questions were on point.

The following week Danielle was offered a job, and she has been working at the senior facility now for 7 months. Danielle is excellent at her job and has an impressive work pace. She is organized and efficient and her coworkers love to be scheduled to work with her because of her amazing work ethic. In late June, Danielle’s astounding professional and personal growth was recognized at an awards ceremony sponsored by The Arc of Monroe County. When asked how the job has changed her life, Danielle simply replied, “It feels rewarding to be working!”

The Arc of Monroe County’s Tammy Reynolds couldn’t agree more: “The Arc@Work is a valued partner promoting workforce diversity for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

The Arc on Defeat of Senate Health Care Bill: “Never underestimate the power of the disability community, who took on this civil rights fight for themselves and future generations”

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement following the defeat of the Health Care Freedom Act in the United States Senate:

“Never underestimate the power of the disability community, who took on this civil rights fight for themselves and future generations.

“The defeat of this disastrous health care bill is a huge win for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The Arc thanks all Senators who voted against this bill. Medicaid and the home and community based services and supports program funds are safe, for now.

“Make no mistake – we still have work to do. This year, Congress and the Administration have put on the table over a trillion dollars in cuts to the program, and so the threats remain, whether they resurface in another health care bill, a tax bill, or at any time. Last night, 49 Senators voted for more than $200 billion in Medicaid cuts, and to strip 16 million individuals of their health insurance. Just a few months ago, the House passed legislation that included over $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid, and to take health insurance away from 22 million people. Each vote in favor of these cuts devalued the lives and rights of people with disabilities in our nation. States would have been forced to cut people from the Medicaid rolls or to substantially reduce services; home and community based services were at greatest risk. This harmful bill was crafted behind closed doors, in a disgraceful process that showed a callous disregard for the lives at stake.

“So the work of our movement continues. Advocates across the country will reach out to their Senators and Representatives to thank those who opposed this approach, voice their concerns about threats to Medicaid, and continue to educate elected officials about why Medicaid matters to them,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

This Week is the 52nd Anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare: The Irony of Celebration During Times of Attack

By: Nicole Jorwic, Director of Rights Policy

This week in July is always a big one, this year the disability community came together to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 52nd anniversary of the Medicaid and Medicare programs. But a large looming shadow hung over these celebrations, the current healthcare proposals in the House and Senate.

Nicole speaking at the Medicaid CelebrationDuring the past six months, most of my professional life has been consumed by the fight to save Medicaid. Today I was honored to speak as a sibling and professional at a Capitol Hill event celebrating the 52nd anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare, to highlight why we must continue our fight to SAVE MEDICAID.

My Remarks:

My name is Nicole Jorwic, I am the Director of Rights Policy at The Arc of the United States. The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

I am here today though, as a sister. My brother Chris will be 28 years old tomorrow and has autism, he is the reason that I do the work that I do, and as a Medicaid recipient, he is one of the millions of individuals at risk if the proposals in the House and Senate healthcare reform bills become law.

Chris and Nicole We know the numbers – between 22-32 million will lose coverage, millions will lose Medicaid and anywhere from $202 billion (in the “skinny repeal”) to $836 billion (in the House bill) in cuts to federal Medicaid spending. But those numbers represent people, they represent Chris, they represent the 43 heroes from National ADAPT that were arrested last month after staging a die in at Senator McConnell’s office.

That’s right, a die in because Medicaid is literally life and death for people with disabilities. I was lucky enough to be there in solidarity with National ADAPT last month and as I watched people who I respect and admire being pulled from the wheelchairs they use, literally putting their bodies on the line for people like Chris, I wept.

The current proposals quite simply devalue groups of human beings, gutting the Medicaid program, a program that over 10 million people with disabilities and families like mine rely on, and they show that the drafters of this legislation don’t see the value in investing in the lives of the poor, the aging population, pregnant women, people with disabilities, including my Chrissy.

Medicaid is so much more than a health program, it funds long term supports and services that allow people with disabilities to live their full life in the community. Medicaid funded the communication device that gave my nonverbal brother a voice, so that he can advocate for himself. Medicaid funds the day support services that allow my mom, a college professor, and my dad, a small business owner, to remain in their jobs.

SiblingsFamilies like mine started The Arc over 65 years ago to get people OUT of Institutions and included in their communities, and now those antiquated and segregating services may be the only thing left. This is because institutions and nursing homes remain mandatory services, while home and community based services are optional, and will therefore be the first cut when the devastating federal cuts to Medicaid come to the states. We cannot let that happen, we must SAVE MEDICAID. People’s lives literally depend on it. Chris’ does.

The proposals to decimate the Medicaid program to provide tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy is morally reprehensible. As an advocate and Chris’ sister I will do everything I can to stop the current healthcare bills and protect the integrity of the Medicaid program that we are here celebrating today.