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Stimulus Package Becomes Law – Here’s What It Means for People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., March 27 – President Trump signed into law today the $2 trillion-dollar emergency stimulus aimed at propping up the economy during the current crisis. This law is unprecedented in its scope and is meant to help our nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even now, government agencies are going to work to implement the new law.

Millions of Americans living with disabilities are wondering what this new law means for them and whether they will see any benefit. The short answer is yes, but how far the law will go to help people with disabilities who are uniquely at-risk to the impact of the virus remains an open question.

Checks for Individuals With and Without Disabilities

Individuals with and without disabilities who are struggling right now will be receiving a Recovery Rebate. This rebate will be a one-time cash payment sent from the government to all U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 if you are married), with a phaseout for incomes between $75,000 and $99,000 ($150,000-$198,000 if you are married), who are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a Social Security Number.

The amount of that check will be $1,200 for eligible individuals and $2,400 for people who are married, plus $500 per dependent child. This is being characterized as a rebate, which means it will NOT be counted against the asset limits faced by people with disabilities if spent within 12 months of receipt.

However, people with disabilities who are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will have to file their taxes. This could create a major burden for many of the poorest people with disabilities and other low-income communities, many of whom may find access to filling out the forms a challenge.

Unemployment Support for More Workers

This bill includes major changes and supports for the unemployment insurance (UI) system under the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Unemployed workers with and without disabilities will receive $600 increase in their weekly checks. The bill also creates a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that expands UI coverage. Critically that coverage has been expanded to include self-employed workers, gig workers, and independent contractors.

This is great news for many people with disabilities who engage in the gig economy, drive for ride-share services or run their own small businesses.

Support for Teachers and Students With Disabilities

Teachers and special educators are facing significant challenges around how to provide a free, appropriate public education to students with disabilities when you can only connect through a computer screen. The bill will give states more than $30 billion dollars to provide Emergency Education Relief grants to help teachers and students with and without disabilities to make the switch to online learning and virtual classrooms.

These grants will specifically help teachers meet the needs of students with disabilities in these trying times. Likewise, some of those funds can be used to provide summer learning, supplemental after-school programs and online learning for students with disabilities.

Disability advocates had been very concerned that the original bill included several provisions waivers from the explicit requirements of laws such as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new version of the bill requires the Secretary of Education to report to Congress within 30 days about where, how and why waivers are being used and students with disabilities are accessing online learning.

The Stimulus Package Helps Organizations Serving the Disabilities Community

The bill will distribute $955 million for Aging and Disability Services Programs under the mandate of the Administrative on Community Living (ACL). That money will support nutrition programs providing people with disabilities and older Americans with food deliveries as well as direct support for family caregivers.

That amount also includes $50 million dollars for aging and disability resource centers across the country as well as $85 million dollars for Centers for Independent Living (CILs). Further, the bill invests $15 million dollars to support housing specifically for people with disabilities.

Addressing the critical issue of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who help people with disabilities, the CARES Act will now allow state Medicaid programs to pay for DSPs to help people with disabilities who end up in the hospital. This should provide some reassurance for people with disabilities who need support for activities of daily living, but many other needs regarding DSPs and maintenance of the DSP workforce through this crisis remain undressed.

What Is Missing From The Bill?

The CARES Act does not address the life or death issue of medical rationing facing the disability community in this moment of crisis. As the crisis intensified in Italy, the government rationed healthcare away from people with disabilities. This approach already is illegal under American law, but it still happens, nonetheless. In this time of crisis, the state and local leaders making on the ground decisions need to hear a clear message about treating people with disabilities equally.

The Stimulus Package Leaves Out Paid Sick Leave

Unfortunately, this bill does not include any additional provisions to help workers who do not already receive paid sick leave or who are now receiving sick leave through the earlier Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

People with disabilities must know they are secure in this time of crisis. Thus, further advocacy is needed to cover these gaps in coverage and ensure that family members who need to take leave in order to meet the critical needs of their loved ones are covered.

The Stimulus Package Does Nothing for Immigrants and People in the Justice System

Lastly, the bill does nothing to support some of the most vulnerable people with disabilities in America today. The bill contains no mention whatsoever about immigrants (with or without disabilities) or people who are incarcerated. Census Bureau data shows that there are more than 44 million immigrants living in the United States and out of that number, up to 6 million are probably living with a disability. How are they going to be helped or harmed by this bill? There are no clear answers yet. Likewise, there is no relief or support for the estimated 750,000 people with disabilities who are currently imprisoned.

If you would like to know more about how COVID-19 is impacting the disability community, we encourage you to review and make use of the following resources and materials:

Meet the Author

Philip Pauli
Philip Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He works with state leaders to develop solutions for youth with disabilities, support job seekers with disabilities and open pathways into the workforce. To reach him, email philipp@respectability.org.

11 comments… add one
  • Avatar Janis Clark Mar 28, 2020, 12:46 pm

    Oh well, guess my stimulus check is a big day $0. 🙄 Although an avid worker all my life, the last 4 years I’ve been out of the loop…..on DISABILITY…..due to a 2-hr long epileptic seizure that fried my short term memory. Would much rather be working than sitting in public housing 😜 on ~$730/month. 🤦 No booze, no cigarettes. No TV. Not my style. Will keep praying to get out of here. 🙏🙌👑✝️🇺🇸

  • Avatar Melissa johnson Mar 28, 2020, 7:32 pm

    So then the massive Unemployment expansion that gives an extra 600 a week to unemployment WILL count against SSI income correct? Because that amount alone puts you over.

  • Avatar Michael M Rose Mar 29, 2020, 12:00 am

    My wife has multiple chronic illnesses and receives SSI disability and MediCal.
    I was Laid off in December 2019 and am collect unemployment benefits and also now have MediCal and SNAP.
    The unemployment pays around $1100 per month, enough to pay rent and still allow her to receive SSI.
    I see in the article that the $2400 check from the stimulus package will not count against her SSI. That’s great news.
    The article does not mention how the unemployment increase would or would not affect us.
    My question is what about the extra $600 a week I will receive on top of my current Unemployment check? That’s a sizable payment each month.
    Will that count against her SSI asset limit and cause her to lose her disability and Medical? Will it cause me to lose my Medical and SNAP?

  • Avatar Jaime Huckle Mar 29, 2020, 1:52 pm

    I am confused to help people with disabilities in SSI have to file their taxes if we’re not working what taxes is there to file question

  • Avatar alphaecho Mar 31, 2020, 2:01 am

    I would like to know if there will be a check sent to me at my residence address, or if it is going to be direct deposited, like my monthly disability checks, to the account of my representative payee. I presume it will go to my payee, but it sure would be nice to get my own money for a change.

  • Avatar Diane Dodge Mar 31, 2020, 2:14 pm

    Hello. I have a question. I am on SSDI, am a Stage IV Cancer individual, but have been able to work part time in food prep here in Maine (20 hrs/week) until I was laid off due to Covid-19. I have applied, and have been granted, a small unemployment compensation from Maine. Will the $600/week additional money from the Covid CARES act count as income to me (I read the bill and there is no language precluding this) and render me ineligible for my SSDI check, and more importantly, the Medicare I have (I’m age 62) under the SSDI umbrella? Should I cancel my unemployment–I cannot risk my Medicare and I do not want to get caught up in some hellish loop with the SSA terminating my benefits, having to hire a lawyer to get them back–it was hard enough to get them initially, even with Stage IV cancer. Thank you–hope you can help. I have scoured the internet, and as of this morning can find nowhere that this is addressed, including the SSA.

  • Avatar Alexia Clarke Mar 31, 2020, 4:10 pm

    Is it too late for me? Living below the poverty line with brain cancer and a host of other medical problems, I need that money badly. Never earning enough on disability to file taxes is bad enough, but to base it on my worthiness for receiving help is like rubbing rock salt in my wounds.

  • Avatar Ari Kadosh Apr 3, 2020, 11:49 am

    Can I apply for PUA if I get ssi

  • Avatar Sherrie A Barron Apr 6, 2020, 4:24 pm

    Will nursing home facility, take away the stimulus check from the elderly

  • Avatar Sue a cullen Apr 16, 2020, 2:40 am

    yes im on ssi and i have a payee i was hoping i would get the stimulate check sent to my address instead of my payee so would the check be sent to my home address

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