We are continuing to serve the disability community during the COVID-19 crisis. As this situation evolves, we will be updating this webpage with information related to COVID-19 and its impact on people with disabilities.
Read our public briefing to learn more about the steps we're taking to advocate for Nebraskans with disabilities during COVID-19.
Here are some disability issues we're working on during COVID-19.
DISCRIMINATORY CARE RATIONING
The current crisis is placing increasing pressure on our health care system, and officials are searching for solutions. Some states are looking to health care rationing - or restricting some peoples' access to health services due to limited resource. This has extremely negative implications for members of the disability community.
The ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act include non-discrimination requirements for medical treatment. Still, advocates around the country are confronting dated policies on emergency resource allocation that allow people with disabilities to be denied access to ventilators. We're also taking action on this issue. On March 27, we expressed our concerns about care rationing in a letter to Governor Ricketts and other state officials.
April 8, 2020: Advocates call on Governor Ricketts to protect at-risk Nebraskans during COVID-19
Disability Rights Nebraska did not receive a response to our initial letter to state officials regarding care rationing. Because of the urgency of this matter, we issued a follow-up letter to the Governor, signed by a large coalition of advocacy organizations, urging immediate action. Read the follow-up letter to the Governor and the related press release.
April 29, 2020: State affirms our request to issue guidance to protect Nebraskans with disabilities
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has answered our calls for action against discriminatory care rationing. In an April 29th memo to healthcare providers, Nebraska DHHS Chief Executive Officer Dannette Smith and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone affirmed that anti-discrimination laws are in full force during COVID-19. The memo encouraged medical professionals to read this Office of Civil Rights bulletin which provides recommendations for non-discriminatory service. Read our press release and CEO Smith's memo to healthcare providers.
For a quick look at what we are doing to prevent discriminatory care rationing in our state, view the brief video below. The information in this video is also available in an informational packet that includes links to resources.
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES LIVING IN FACILITIES
People with disabilities are, and will be, at high risk of contracting COVID-19, particularly those who are in congregate residential programs, state-operated institutional settings, prisons and jails, and long-term care facilities. In a letter to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, we itemized specific concerns for how the state will protect individuals living in group homes, institutional living arrangements, correctional centers, and other facilities.
Have you been in a facility recently? We want to hear from you!
To help ensure the rights of people with disabilities living in facilities are being upheld during this public health crisis, we created an online survey. We're asking people who have recently left a facility or know someone in a facility to share information about facility conditions.
HALTING RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS
Due to COVID-19, many individuals have experienced significant financial hardship. To ease renting Nebraskans' fears of losing their residences, Governor Ricketts issued an executive order to prevent evictions of renters unable to pay rent due on or after March 13th because of the pandemic. The order defers a landlord's right to a trial in an eviction action for unpaid rent until May 31.
To further the positive impact of the Governor's executive order, Disability Rights Nebraska joined several other legal organizations in calling on Presiding Court County Judges to enter Administration Orders clarifying residential eviction legal actions in districts' County Courts during COVID-19.
PROTECTING YOUTH IN CORRECTIONAL AND JUVENILE FACILITIES
In March, a staff member at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney tested positive. This diagnosis, along with the other 450+ confirmed cases in the state, present significant risks, particularly to people living in facilities.
Disability Rights Nebraska signed onto two letters - one to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and another to the Nebraska Judicial Branch - urging officials to take action to protect the youth in juvenile and correctional facilities, including Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers. (Update 4/7/2020: Read the Judicial Branch's Response).
EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
School closures are changing the landscape of education. We're working to ensure these approaches take all students into consideration, including those with disabilities.
Schools have been working on inventive approaches to bring the classroom to their quarantined students. A provision in the recent stimulus bill gives the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, 30 days to waive parts of the special education law, allowing schools to skip providing that same innovation for students with disabilities.
We signed onto a letter with over 300 other organizations telling members of Congress that no additional waivers are necessary under IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Read the letter opposing education waivers during COVID-19 and visit the National Disability Rights Organization's website to learn how you can take action.