Autism Speaks statement in response to reports of surge in COVID-19 cases among people with disabilities

We must take action to protect our community during this time of crisis

April 9, 2020

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our communities, Autism Speaks has taken swift action to respond to the immediate needs of people with autism and their families – through advocacy, services and supports, resources and direct assistance. We are deeply concerned by reports of increased incidence of COVID-19 among people with disabilities, particularly in group homes, as reported by the New York Times and other news outlets. In response to news of the rapid spread of COVID-19 among communities of people with disabilities, we urge lawmakers at the local, state and federal level to take immediate action to protect our community.

We must ensure the equitable distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to caregivers and service providers to people with disabilities, including autism and developmental disabilities, to ensure their safety and prevent spread of COVID-19.

Access to PPE can and will save lives. As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with disabilities have an increased risk for complications from COVID-19, making PPE and appropriate infection control practices a critical need to protect their health and well-being.

We call on governors and state developmental disability agencies to ensure residential and healthcare providers can access crucial relief funds through the recently passed CARES Act. Appropriate funding can help not only prevent infection but reduce the risk of injury, neglect, abuse and death for residents at overburdened facilities.

Congress must do more to support the disability community in the next COVID-19 relief bill.

It is crucial that the bill include additional funds for Home & Community-Based Services (HCBS), which pays for the majority of residential programs across the country. We urge that any increase in funding for HCBS allows caregivers and service providers to access PPE and other vital resources that will ultimately save lives.

We extend our gratitude to our congressional champions, including U.S. Representatives Chris Smith and Mike Doyle, co-chairs of the Congressional Autism Caucus, for their support in advocating for the urgent needs of people with autism. In this time of uncertainty, we must be relentless in our efforts to advocate for the health and safety of people with disabilities and their families.