The Arc’s COVID-19 Updates: March 20, 2020

Families, staff and agency leaders are showing amazing amounts of fortitude during these uncertain weeks.To build a community of caring we need to listen to each other and communicate regularly with you about what is happening and what we hope will happen. This message covers some positive developments and some goals ahead of us.

On March 16, the federal government announced new flexibility in Medicaid programs (which fund most if NOT all long term supports and services). Florida and Washington State are the first two states to take advantage of the flexibility, but Massachusetts has time, plus it has significant flexibility already through previous submissions not related to the COVID-19 situation.

This morning, the President signed legislation removing restrictions preventing manufacturers from selling industrial masks – which can readily protect healthcare workers – directly to hospitals. The Arc is working to ensure that DSPs and home health aides are a part of this change. Meanwhile, Social Security announced several changes, two of which are closing offices for in-person meetings (but continuing key activities) and suspending the processing and collection of overpayments.

As we go into the weekend, we expect two important sets of guidance documents. The first is more direction for group homes, staffed apartments and other living arrangements. This includes information for individuals and agencies from the Department of Developmental Services and MassHealth. We also are expecting payment information from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Private agencies are waiting to hear because it will affect their workforce and how responsive they can be in supporting individuals and families. We hope and expect capacity to be maintained during this crisis.

More to come next week. In the meantime, please fill out the survey we’ve released. It can aid us in recommendations as we work with DDS and MassHealth along with other stakeholders. We want to assist your personal advocacy by pointing out concerns or the barriers you may experience to decision makers. Please also share your stories.

Hang in there: we can get through this, together!

Coronavirus Legislative packages presently in Process

Coronavirus Legislation #2 which passed the House (not Senate yet) includes a 6.2% increase in federal reimbursement for states, would allow sick leave paid for DSPs and for caregivers among other things. Coronavirus Legislation #3 will support our workforce more fully and has more language for our field including Social Security, Money Follows the Persons and pauses disability determination reviews.

Social Security Announcement

  • “All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, we are still able to provide critical services.”
  • “We will not start or complete any current medical continuing disability reviews. If you have a medical continuing disability review pending, please do not request medical information from your doctors at this time. We will follow up with you for any medical evidence once the COVID-19 public health emergency subsides.”
  • “Where possible, we are suspending our processing and collection of overpayments.”
  • “We are not conducting organization or individual representative payee accountings.”
  • “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are extending our deadlines wherever possible.
    • If we asked you to contact us by a certain date, please do not come to the office. You can contact us once our offices reopen to the public or you can mail your documents to us. We will follow up with you once the COVID-19 public health emergency subsides.
    • We are providing maximum flexibility in applying our good cause policy. This policy allows us to extend the time limits for submitting appeals and taking other actions during this public health emergency.”

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