May 15, 2020: The Capitol Connector View in browser

May 15, 2020


In This Issue:

  • Legislative Update: End-of-Session Countdown
  • Updates from Washington D.C.
  • Empowered to Vote: Absentee Ballots Now Available
  • Noteworthy News & Resources 
Legislative Update: End-of-Session Countdown

We’re just a few days away from the May 18th deadline for the state legislature to finish their work. The House and Senate need to pass all of their bills before 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, so this will be a hectic weekend rushing toward the finish line!

A few big bills of importance to the disability community have passed already, though, and are waiting for a signature from Governor Walz, including:

  • Elections bill that appropriates needed Help America Vote Act funds, enhances absentee ballot provisions, allows more time for absentee ballots to be counted, and adds polling place flexibility to make sure the spaces are large enough for voters to practice social distancing
  • Our guardianship reform bill that promotes supported decision-making and other less-restrictive alternatives to guardianship, allows guardians to create (but not oversee) ABLE accounts, strengthens the Bill of Rights for people who are subject to guardianship, and much more.

Here are some of the high priorities that legislators still need to act on over the weekend:

  • Emergency PCA funding
  • Health & human services bills
  • Education bills
  • A bonding bill with funding for building and infrastructure needs

Our friends at Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP) once again need help to make sure legislators prioritize funding for housing needs across the state. The bonding bill includes $248 million in bonds for housing and $14 million in bonds for shelter, and it’s so important that these funds are approved this session. MHP says that “in Minnesota, more than 580,000 families pay too much for housing and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased financial and housing vulnerability. State bonding is a vital tool that supports housing of all types and supports thousands of jobs.”

Please reach out to these key decision-makers TODAY, and tell them that we need bonds for housing before the legislative session ends:

Majority Leader Paul Gazelka

651-296-4875

Mail form

Speaker Melissa Hortman

651-296-4280

E-mail: rep.melissa.hortman@house.mn

Here is a script for calls and emails:

My name is __ and I live in __________.

I am (emailing/calling) in support of a bonding bill that includes funding for housing infrastructure. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased financial and housing vulnerability. State bonding is a vital, common-sense tool that supports housing of all types and supports thousands of jobs. Shovel-ready housing projects are waiting to begin. Businesses are ready to hire. Homes are waiting to be built. Please support Housing Infrastructure Bonds in HF 4677.

You can also use MHP's Action Center to send a message to your state legislators in one click

This action alert is so critical right now, because legislators are facing very difficult decisions about how to spend state funds. As you may have seen, Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) released an updated economic projection last Tuesday that showed the impacts of COVID-19 on our state’s finances.

The projections are very “unstable” because of the many unknowns that remain with the outbreak, federal response/possibility of additional funding, extension of the tax filing deadline, and general economic recovery, but offer an important “snapshot” of the fiscal health of the state which will inform policymakers’ decision-making during this final weekend of session.

MMB’s projection estimated:

- $2.426 billion deficit for the 2020-2021 biennium

- $3.6 billion less revenue than projected in February

- $391 million more in state spending than projected in February (much in response to the COVID-19 outbreak)

Addressing the state deficit will continue to be a priority for our state legislators, who will meet consistently over the summer, too. A special session is tentatively scheduled for June 12th, but until then, stay tuned for updates from the end of our regular session.

With questions or for more information, you can contact me at aliciamunson@arcminnesota.org. I hope you’re all staying healthy and well!

Updates from Washington D.C.


ACTION ALERT from our friends at the Center for Public Representation: Tell CMS not to weaken nursing facility rules that keep people with disabilities in their homes and communities and out of nursing facilities


“The Preadmission Screening and Resident Review (PASRR) is a federal rule to help keep people with disabilities from being unnecessarily placed in nursing facilities and to help nursing facility residents transition back to the community. PASRR has been an important tool to further the civil rights of people with disabilities and help states comply with the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision.

But right now, in the middle of this pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing a rule that would weaken PASRR, making it easier for people to be admitted to nursing facilities and harder for them to transition from these facilities back to the community. The rule would also only require that nursing facility residents receive some undefined “information about community options;” it doesn’t ensure that people have enough information to adequately understand their options and make an informed choice about remaining in the facility or returning to the community.

The proposed rule would allow states to avoid any responsibility for community integration if there is not a “currently available community option” -- even if everyone agrees the person could be best served in the community. PASRR was intended to promote the transition from institutional care to community alternatives whenever appropriate; weakening that commitment now is not only contrary to federal law, but also endangers people’s health and safety.

Keeping people out of nursing facilities is especially important now, with COVID-19 ravaging nursing facilities around the country. Unnecessary admissions will lead to needless exposure to COVID-19, at a minimum traumatizing those individuals and their families and, for many, leading to avoidable deaths.

We've made it easy for you to comment, using template comments. Comments from individuals can be submitted through the online portal put together by our friends at the National Disability Rights Network, which you can find here.

We need you to oppose the Administration's efforts to weaken PASRR and let CMS know that while these proposed changes would always be harmful, it would be especially dangerous to implement them in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.”


The Arc Joins Supreme Court Amicus Brief Urging Court to Uphold Affordable Care Act, Congressional Protections for People with Disabilities


The Arc, with a coalition of disability and civil rights organizations, has joined an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in the case California v. Texas.

The ACA has been essential to overcoming the disproportionate impact that America’s healthcare crisis, even before COVID-19, has had on people with disabilities, and how it is uniquely difficult for people with disabilities to obtain affordable and adequate health insurance coverage despite relying on health care services more than those without disabilities.The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated healthcare disparities and underscored the critical importance of the ACA given the millions of newly unemployed Americans who would not be able to afford health insurance without the ACA, the increase in disabilities and long-term healthcare needs resulting from COVID-19, and the possibility of discriminatory medical rationing prohibited by the ACA.

“The Arc has fought vigorously to protect the ACA. In enacting the law, Congress intentionally extended protections to people with disabilities, and would not want to see these protections undermined, especially now, given all we have at stake in this pandemic,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc U.S.

You can review The Arc’s full statement here: https://bit.ly/3bCaVsC


From our friends at the American Association of People with Disabilities:


Congressional Action

Congressional leaders are using various strategies to respond to the needs of people during COVID-19. This includes introducing new legislation and issuing letters to federal agencies and Congressional leadership requesting clarification, guidance, and public statements for the record that the needs of people with disabilities are included in Package 4. These include:

  • Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García (D-IL) introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2020 (H.R.6637). These legislation reforms policies and expands federal health care resources for racial and ethnic minorities, as well as other underserved populations who face discrimination and barriers to care due to their immigration status, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and English language skills.
  • Senate Democrats (Warren, Casey, Gillibrand, Hassan, Brown, Duckworth, Markey and Baldwin) sent a letter to House and Senate leadership about priorities for the next COVID19 relief package. It includes a focus on HCBS funding, protecting civil rights of people with disabilities, and access to PPE.
  • On May 8, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Denny Heck (D-WA) announced the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020. The bill provides $100 billion in emergency rental assistance to help keep the lowest-income renters stably housed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Empowered to Vote: Absentee Ballots Now Available

2020 is an important election year, as Minnesotans will vote for President, members of Congress who work in Washington, D.C., all members of our state legislature who work in St. Paul, and more. That’s why we’re adding a new section to The Capitol Connector, called “Empowered to Vote”! In each issue, we will share important information and updates about the 2020 election to help make sure you feel empowered to vote.

Today, we wanted to make sure you know that you can now request an absentee ballot for both the Primary Election on August 11 and the General Election on November 3. Absentee ballots are an option for people to vote from their home and send a ballot back in the mail. The COVID-19 pandemic may result in more people choosing to vote from the convenience and safety of their own home rather than going to a polling station on Election Day. To apply for an absentee ballot, click here: https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/ABRegistration/ABRegistrationStep1.aspx

It is important that people with disabilities, their family members, and support professionals to plan ahead and know all of their options for voting early or on Election Day. For more information about your voting options in the upcoming elections, check out this page on the Secretary of State’s website: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/other-ways-to-vote

Noteworthy News & Resources

From the Minnesota Department of Human Services:

“DSD updates COVID-19 FAQ with answers about positive supports, person-centered practices and service terminations and suspensions”

“Online job board helps workers and people with disabilities find each other”

From the Minnesota Department of Health

“Interim Guidance on the Prevention of COVID-19 for Employees & Residents of Licensed Group Homes

From Minnesota Public Radio:

“Deficit leaves lawmakers with painful math problem”

“Legislature agrees on measures to make voting safer”

From the Star Tribune:

“Gov. Tim Walz considers 'next steps' to increase mail-in voting”

Discrimination against people with disabilities must end

From MinnPost:

Thirty years after ADA’s passage, the disabled still face medical discrimination

From Twin Cities Public Television:

Almanac explores challenges in the disability community during COVID-19

From Disability Scoop:

“UN Calls For Better Protections For Those With Disabilities During Pandemic”

“Stimulus Payments May Be Extended To Dependents With Disabilities”

“Coronavirus Prompts Justice Department Warning About Discrimination”

“Senator Introduces Bill To End Ventilator Discrimination During Pandemic”

“Hospital No-Visitor Policies Endanger People With Disabilities, Advocates Say”

Feds Offer Guidance On Voc Rehab Services Amid Coronavirus

From the Educating All Learners Alliance:

Special ed groups share free resources for online learning

Thank you to our sponsor Mains'l for their support of our public policy work

www.mainsl.com



Join The Arc’s Disability Policy Networking Group to stay engaged on policy issues by requesting membership here. 


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The Arc Minnesota

2446 University Ave. W. Suite 110, St. Paul
Minnesota 55114-1740 United States

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