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Research & Reports

Racing Against the Clock: Preserving Disability Supports During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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This brief profiles providers of Medicaid-funded disability supports, outlining how challenges they face cannot be addressed solely by funding from two federal programs created by the CARES Act: the Paycheck Protection Program and the Provider Relief Fund.

Efforts to maintain the safety and survival of people with disabilities and frontline staff during the COVID-19 pandemic must be prioritized given the heightened risk these people face. People with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) are more likely to die if they contract the coronavirus and rely heavily on Medicaid-funded supports to stay safe and healthy in the community.

This brief profiles providers of Medicaid-funded disability supports, outlining how challenges they face cannot be addressed solely by funding from two federal programs created by the CARES Act: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Provider Relief Fund (PRF).

Specifically, this brief highlights several troubling findings:

  • The pandemic has generated such deep financial loss for providers that it threatens their ability to deliver supports at all.
  • Funding is insufficient to address the increased responsibilities placed on Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), in addition to fears about the well-being of themselves and their loved ones. This exacerbates a long-standing workforce recruitment and retention crisis.
  • The financial duress and staffing challenges wrought by the pandemic create dynamics that force providers to make impossible choices that will have lasting consequences for individuals with I/DD.
  • Even when PRF and PPP converge with state initiatives to successfully help providers, long-standing structural challenges remain—and any advances can be undone by new surges in COVID-19 cases.

Given the dire nature of this situation, Congress must prioritize legislation to fund Medicaid supports that both keep people with I/DD healthy and safe during the pandemic, and ensure people with I/DD have the options and resources they need to live, work and thrive in the community long after the pandemic has subsided.