Recently Passed COVID-19 Congressional Legislation and Ongoing Advocacy Efforts 

April 3, 2020

Congress has passed several bills to address the COVID-19 pandemic. As the crisis has unfolded, Autism Speaks has been actively engaged with Members of Congress and federal agencies to ensure that the concerns of the autism community are being heard. Autistic individuals and families need help now. While the recently passed bills provide significant assistance, much more needs to be done to address the enormous challenges faced by individuals and families across the country.  

Below are summaries of the three COVID-19 bills that have passed thus far and our advocacy priorities moving forward.  

  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. This sweeping $2 trillion law provides economic impact payments to most Americans (up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child), increased unemployment benefits, hundreds of billions of dollars to address the public health response, and important assistance for small businesses and other employers to retain employees and keep their businesses operating. In addition, the law contains billions of dollars for schools and extends through November the Money Follows the Person program, a Medicaid program that gives people needing long-term support services more choice about where they live and receive care. To read more about the provisions in the bill, please click the following links (Part A and Part B). Check the IRS website for more information on the economic impact payments. 
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act became law on March 18, 2020. This law provides emergency paid sick and family leave, tax credits and free COVID-19 testing (where available); expands food assistance and unemployment benefits; and increases Medicaid funding. The U.S. Department of Labor has provided questions and answers regarding the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the law. More details on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act are available here. Also read our statement asking the DOL to ensure paid sick leave coverage for caregivers of adults who have to stay home due to the closure of an adult care facility or loss of access to direct care workers.
  • The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act became law on March 6, 2020. This law provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. 

As Congress considers additional legislation, our priorities include the following:  

  • Additional funding for home and community-based services (HCBS);  
  • Access to telehealth services for health care needs;  
  • Additional funding to meet the educational needs of students with autism;  
  • Protecting the rights of students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other laws; and 
  • According caregivers of adults with disabilities the same emergency paid sick and family medical leave policies accorded caregivers of children.  

Autism Speaks urges Congress to act on these issues. We look forward to working with elected officials at all levels of government to help meet the needs of the autism community during his pandemic.