COVID-19: Leo’s Letter: COVID-19 Still Rules The Day

For The Arc, the last week was a time of negotiating and planning. Agencies continued a frantic pace to plan for re-opening, but still without financial flexibility.

As of July 22, day services funded by DDS had not received confirmation of any retainer payment to address fixed costs and virtual services for this month (the funding may be announced today). We are working with state leaders in DDS and MassHealth to reach some type of accommodation as we look ahead to the next few months, with August being only a few days ahead.

During July, there also has been no financial consideration for individuals not at day programs for seven (7) or more hours per day in group home or apartment settings. In-home adult care providers also continue 24 hours-7 day support without any additional stipend for their work.

But advocacy wasn’t confined to our state, as our national office finalized a meeting date (July 22) with the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). In Massachusetts and other states, CMS, the gatekeeper for federal funds reimbursing states, had delayed or refused flexibilities during the COVID-19 for certain services. More than twenty chapters joined to discuss policies and practices with Maura Sullivan weighing in on items such as “narrow interpretation” and authorization delays. We have felt the delays here despite the feds announcing flexibilities in March.

These services are for our constituents and families, not some abstract item. Many sectors are hurting. But these programs are extensions of federal and state policies. They reflect commitments.

We see the challenges: students attending summer programs with half-day schedules which requires parents to drive in the middle of the day to pick up their student. For adults as day programs open, only 45% will fit into buildings which require 133 square feet of space between participants. Transportation will be another matter. Our constituents and families will be facing these barriers. We need to allow for alternatives.

COVID-19, its aftermath, and potential “re-surging” are the culprits. No one else. But leadership and funding are necessary to address common human needs. As our state leaders struggle with tough decisions and the uncertainty that comes with this crisis, your voice and your participation will help us make the difference. Let’s not let our constituents be forgotten.

Stay informed as next Thursday (July 30), Maura has Russell Johnston, Senior Associate Commissioner of DESE, as her guest. As we face significant budget questions, Leo Live on Monday (July 27) will do a review of how our services are funded, touching on waivers and how funding gets to your services.

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