The Arc’s COVID-19 Updates | June 29, 2020: Make Your Voices Heard Today

By the time you read this update, over 22,000 emails or calls will have been made to Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo, and Senate President Spilka about our safety net of supports for persons including DDS and MassHealth funded services. Our state’s leaders, legislators, and administration officials are facing scores of challenges and our combined voice can help them in the decision-making process.

Re-opening doesn’t mean the funding demands lessen; in fact, they increase due to safety measures and the slow return to services. The lives of thousands of people hang in the balance. As we previously reported, there are approximately 20,000 adults participating in day or employments funded by DDS or MassHealth (separate from adult day health). An additional 9,000 adults with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or other intellectual and developmental disabilities are supported in community home, and 1,300 students are hoping to obtain adult services as they leave special education services.

Agencies re-opening slowly will NOT be able to bill their agreements fully since billing is dependent on program participants being present for services. Yet they still have occupancy costs, and staff need to be trained in advance to deal with safety changes necessary to avoid the spread of infection.

Stay connected and share your voice so we can have equity in the delivery of day and employment services. In tribute to these hardworking support staff (DSPs) in our safety net, I encourage you to hear Peter Leidy’s guitar and voice in a song recognizing the DSPs.

Schools: Compensatory Services and Fall Guidance
This past week, The Arc of Massachusetts was active on a few fronts regarding special education. The Arc joined SPaN and the Federation for Children with Special Needs on a stakeholder call with MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to offer feedback on a draft Special Education Technical Assistance Advisory scheduled for early July. This future advisory will address additional/compensatory services for students with IEPs due to the suspension of in-person services related to COVID-19.

DESE asked for feedback, suggestions, and thoughts on future guidance/technical advisories. This is a time of incredible planning, and guidance is apt to shift and change several times as we move through the summer months. A meeting took place between the groups to develop a joint letter which was forwarded to DESE last week.

The Arc of Massachusetts remains committed to making sure students with disabilities are not left behind as plans are made and guidance published. In related news, DESE posted its fall guidance for schools here.

Visitation at DDS Congregate Care Homes or Apartments
As we reported on Friday, we hope to hear some good news on visitation guidance from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) later this week. Families have been reaching out for some weeks to state officials at EOHHS and DDS about the nature of relationships among our constituents and family.

Recent mainstream articles have discussed weighing risks and benefits and introduced the concept of larger “bubbles” of individuals or “quaran-teaming.” Special thanks to those agencies already demonstrating flexibility in their visitation practices.

Federal Stimulus Not Until Later July
We have talked about a fourth stimulus since late April. Today during Leo Live, Nicole Jorwic, senior policy director at The Arc (national), noted negotiations faded due to a combination of positive employment signs, some state re-openings, and the decision to delay by Senate Majority Leader McConnell.

But that’s all changed given disastrous job numbers combined with COVID-19 surges in several states. The new stimulus should be resolved during the week of July 20. The Commonwealth, other states, and localities all need federal assistance. And our staff, families, and constituents need relief too.

Our community is relying upon the leadership of federal policy-makers. The House’s “Heroes” package provides significant assistance as reported. See the article in Disability Scoop on the continued federal advocacy.

One Comment:

  1. Marilyn Belmonte

    Young adults not currently in group homes but attend day programs, are stuck at home with families everyday now. These families are struggling to keep their disabled adult children happy and occupied. The state should have reopened day services as essential services after the first few weeks of closure to sanitize facilities. Mobile day staff in homes, remote learning online, and minimizing occupancy inside day programs to keep everyone safe is vital to the mental health of these young adults. My daughter is miserable and misses her program. My husband and I are stressed beyond belief. Please do not forget about DDS day program participants who live at home. They need services too!

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