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Advocates say next stimulus package must support people with disabilities

Pictured: The Center for Disability Rights logo
Center for Disability Rights
Pictured: The Center for Disability Rights logo

Many people with disabilities have been left behind during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester. 

Some senators have some ideas on how to change that. 

Gregg Beratan, the center's director of development, said that an institutional bias in funding for home- and community-based services has forced more people with disabilities into nursing facilities because certain services are only available to them there. 

He said this has put them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, which is thought to be largely contracted by person-to-person contact and has swept through nursing homes. 

Beratan said this doesn't have to be the case.

“There’s this myth out there that some people are too disabled to be served in the community,” Beratan said. “Well, at CDR we’ve shown that to be wrong time and time again.”

He added that it’s up to the state and federal governments to prioritize community care, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. 

That’s what some senators have also proposed. In a letter to Congress, 20 senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand, said the public health emergency has exposed a “pre-existing scarcity” of available resources for those with disabilities.

The senators propose at least $50 billion in additional funding for Medicaid and Medicaid’s Home- and Community-Based Services, along with expanding paid leave protections for family members in caregiver positions. 

Their proposal includes delivering 90-day supplies of food and medicine, and providing other critical services for people with disabilities, something Beratan said is very much needed. 

Many people the center serves, he said, have also been struggling to access food and medicine since New York state went into lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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