Disability exclusion in COVID relief
(Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock)

COVID-19 Relief Package Excludes Many Disabled Americans; Labor Department Suspends Trump Ban on Diversity Training; and More

COVID-19 relief package excludes many disabled Americans.

Although Congress did finally pass its latest COVID-19 relief package in late December, disability advocates are angry that the approved $900 billion worth of aid once again denies stimulus payments to some individuals with disabilities that require additional services, according to DisabilityScoop’s Michelle Diament.

Passing the enormous stimulus package took weeks of negotiations and back-and-forth from law officials, but when it was finally approved, it paved the way for $600 cash payments for Americans who earned less than $75,000 annually on their 2019 taxes, with tiered payment available for those with an adjusted gross income below $87,000.

However, Diament wrote, “Much like previous COVID-19 relief legislation passed last spring [of 2020], there is no dedicated funding for home- and community-based services or to help people with disabilities transition out of congregate settings, which have been ravaged by the virus.”

Also problematic: disabled adults who are classified as dependents on the taxes of their parents or other individuals are once again excluded from the $600 stimulus payments.

“A provision in an earlier coronavirus relief bill expanding paid leave from work for parents needing to care for their children with developmental disabilities during the pandemic was allowed to expire at the end of 2020,” Diament reported.

“It’s unconscionable that Congress ignored the dire needs of people with disabilities, their support staff and families as this pandemic rages across the country,” Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc told DisabilityScoop. “For months, our leaders have known the consequences of their inaction … Yet in the waning days of 2020, they have shut us out in the cold in COVID-19 relief legislation.”

This, even after Berns said disability advocates logged nearly 150,000 calls and emails with Congress over the past few months, asking for the extra funding and much-needed support.

“While the just-passed COVID relief package includes funding for unemployment insurance, SNAP and other important benefits to help people devastated by the pandemic, as well as funding to help states distribute the vaccine, it fails to respond to the crisis facing the disability community,” the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) wrote in a statement following the passage of the second COVID-19 package. “We will keep advocating for a real response to this crisis.” 

 

Labor department suspends Trump ban on diversity training.

Following a preliminary nationwide injunction issued last month by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, USA Today‘s Jessica Guynn reports that the Labor Department has suspended the enforcement of Donald Trump’s executive order restricting diversity training by government agencies and contractors. The injunction was the result of a lawsuit filed in December 2020 by LGBTQ rights groups in the Northern District of California.

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success in proving violations of their constitutional rights,” Freeman wrote in her ruling. “Moreover, as the government itself acknowledges, the work Plaintiffs perform is extremely important to historically underserved communities.” 

Based on this, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has said it “will stop investigating any agency or contractor suspected of violating the executive order and will take no enforcement action,” Guynn reported. “A hotline set up to collect complaints will no longer be used.”

In a statement given to USA Today, Guynn noted that the Labor Department “is fully complying with the preliminary injunction.”

Trump had previously tried to block diversity training in large sectors of the country, calling it “divisive” and “un-American.” The movement comes just under two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn into office as the country’s 46th President. He was widely expected to rescind the order, rendering it moot anyway. 

 

Domestic violence protection now extends to LGBTQ individuals in all 50 states.

Following a recent Court of Appeals ruling In North Carolina, LGBTQ citizens of the state who are in unmarried, dating relationships now have the same domestic violence protections as state residents who are in heterosexual relationships. NBC News has reported that North Carolina was the last state in the country to offer this protection to same-sex couples.

The case behind the ruling involved a feuding same-sex couple within the state. One half of the couple, identified by court records as simply “M.E.” feared for her safety because of her partner’s large gun collection. When she filed for a protective order from the state, they refused to offer her protection because she was not in a heterosexual relationship.

According to NBC News, the Court of Appeals ruled that this act “violated the state Constitution and the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.”

Because the law, which prevented the protection from being put in place, defined a “personal relationship” as “persons of the opposite sex” who have lived together or are in a dating relationship, same-sex couples were specifically excluded, attorneys for M.E. argued.

In issuing her verdict, Chief Judge Linda McGee agreed, saying the law served “no ‘important,’ ‘substantial,’ or even legitimate government interest” in denying equal domestic violence protections to people in same-sex relationships. She added that instead, it “runs directly counter to the promotion of the public good, welfare, morals, safety and any other legitimate public interests of the State.”

LGBTQ advocates in North Carolina hope the ruling will further efforts to pass other nondiscrimination bills in the state, which has been labeled poor for LGBTQ rights since its controversial passage of a “bathroom bill” in 2016 that prevented transgender people from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender identity.

“It paves the way for a legal framework for [fighting] discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under state law,” Ames Simmons, policy director at Equality North Carolina, told NBC News.

 

D.I. Fast Facts

 

140,000
Number of jobs the U.S. economy lost in December of 2020
NBC News

 

$500,000
Amount NYPD cops cost the city in lawsuits and payouts over a four-year period due to racist, sexist and homophobic offenses toward the public
The Intercept

 

50%
Increase in corporate searches for women and non-white board members that theBoardlist (an online talent marketplace) registered in 2020
Sacramento Business Journal

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

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