DRT Receives CARES Act Funding
Since the beginning of the pandemic, people with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted culturally, economically, and in rates of infection and fatality by COVID-19.1 DRT has seen a more than 20% increase in requests for services because of COVID-19. These issues included the reduction of special education services in virtual settings,2 the skyrocketing rates of illness in group homes and nursing facilities,3 navigating isolation,4 and unemployment rates that remain nearly double that of people without disabilities.5
In response, DRT shifted our work to be conducted virtually and expanded our services to meet the evolving needs of our community. Early on we advocated for effective communication in media broadcasts.7 We worked to educate fast-food chains about the needs of our clients who face barriers to ordering takeout food at drive-thrus.8 We created tips sheets for navigating hospitals’ new ‘no visitors’ policies.9 We also filed an Office of Civil Rights complaint about rationing care for people with disabilities during COVID-19, which resulted in positive changes to Tennessee healthcare guidelines.10
Over the past nine months as the pandemic has evolved, so have the needs of our clients. To meet these needs and further expand our work in response to COVID-19, we sought additional funding from the CARES Act. We are grateful to have received the CARES Act grant award, which allows us to support Tennesseans with disabilities between birth and age 22 with COVID-19 related issues.
This funding has already been able to help young Tennesseans with disabilities in many ways. We have supported teenagers living in group homes recieve family visitation that were initially denied to them and helped them access appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks. We have helped people receive reasonable accommodations to attend their medical appointments. And we have begun tracking the use of CARES funds for special education services and collaborating with school districts to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are being met.
Our work in response to COVID-19 is far from complete, but with this new CARES funding we can be more responsive than ever to ensure the rights of Tennesseans with disabilities are protected during the pandemic.
If you have an issue or concern related to COVID-19, please contact us at 1-800-342-1660 or at GetHelp@DisabilityRightsTN.org.
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