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Stimulus Package Brings Some Relief To New Yorkers With Disabilities

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - While additionalfunding for home-based serviceswas excluded from the first two coronavirus relief bills, people with disabilities and their families will finally see some relief in the new stimulus package.
The package includes $350 billion in aid to states and localities to provide services to people with disabilities.

Gregg Beratan director of development for the Center for Disability Rights says thousands of people with disabilities died in New York state nursing homes in 2020, and says having funding for home and community services would have helped save lives.

“It is far safer than institutional services, as we've seen”, said Beratan. “There’s now plenty of evidence to show living in the community is much more conducive to saving your life in a pandemic than living in an institution.”

The new package also expands direct relief to caregivers. Previous packages allowed relief only for dependents younger than 17. Now, adult dependents, including those with disabilities, are eligible to receive $1,400e. Beratan says people are still struggling, and the money goes a long way.

“To someone living in poverty, $1,400 is a lot,“ Bearatan said. “Much of our community, particularly here in Rochester, are living in poverty or below the poverty line.”

Payments for the relief package began last week.and are distributed to qualifying individuals based on their 2019 tax return, or 2020 tax return if already filed.

Beratan adds that food insecurity was a concern for many people CDR served during the pandemic; he's glad that there is an increase in funding for participants in the SNAP program.  20% percent of people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.

Despite a push from disability advocates and lawmakers,the elimination of the  subminimum wage for people with disabilitiesfailed to make it in the newest stimulus package. Beratan said it was the closest he saw to subminimum wage being changed on a federal level.

“Paying subminimum wages to disabled people, tells disabled people that their work isn’t valuable,” said Baratan.

He adds that CDR has and will continue to support people with disabilities throughout the pandemic.

This story was produced by WXXI's Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.