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Protecting the Disability Community Through Advocacy

Kim Musheno

Vice President of Public Policy, Autism Society of America

Over the past few months, the Autism Society of America has advocated for the needs of people with autism in federal legislation related to COVID-19.

The global pandemic has had long-lasting effects on our society and economic well-being. The Autism Society has been advocating for the inclusion of the needs of people with autism in federal legislation related to COVID-19. As of July 15, three bills have been signed into law to help states respond to the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Autism Society, along with its partners, were successful in getting some provisions included in the three laws. 

The bills

The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act will provide $8.3 billion in new funding for a robust response to the coronavirus. This includes support for state and local health agencies, vaccine, and treatment development, and loans for affected small businesses to lessen the economic blow of this public health emergency.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will provide $3.4 billion to fund coronavirus testing (free for those uninsured), increased paid leave, enhanced unemployment insurance to those unable to work, and increased funding for food security programs (e.g., SNAP).

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is a $2 trillion emergency relief bill that addressed the economic and public health emergency. This law includes provisions specific to the autism community, such as home and community-based services, supports, family supports, and educational supports. 

During consideration of the CARES Act, the Autism Society signed onto a community letter opposing the exclusion of non-profits from receiving emergency loans. This exclusion was ultimately struck from the bill, making non-profits eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program to help them get through the pandemic. The Autism Society provided a detailed Summary of the bill with a disability focus.

Looking ahead

Recently passed through the house, the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act would include substantive provisions for Home and Community Based Services, food assistance, housing, and education, for which the Autism Society advocated.

Through collaboration and advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels, the autism community has come together to ensure our population is protected and included in protective legislation, especially as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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