LSA-DN Weekly Update

Disability Network News
Friday, March 19, 2021


Annual Membership Meeting & Award Ceremony

Lutheran Services in America will hold its Annual Membership Meeting and a NEW awards ceremony on March 24 from 3-3:45 p.m. EDT. Member CEOs will cast votes for two member CEOs for the Lutheran Services in America Board of Directors and approve the FY 2022 budget and dues schedule.

Winners of the first Lutheran Services in America annual awards will be announced at the Annual Membership Meeting:

  • The Innovator Award recognizes a member organization that is pioneering new solutions, technology or business practices to solve complex issues. This member is forward-thinking and extending beyond its own mission to strengthen the Lutheran social ministry network across the country. Ultimately, their breakthrough solutions are designed to lift up the nation’s most vulnerable people and help ensure that all Americans can live abundant lives.
  • The Micah Award recognizes a member organization that is leading the way in its work in addressing justice, mercy and equity. This member’s leadership in race equity, inclusion and diversity is truly inspirational and best exemplifies the spirit of Micah 6:8, “Act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

Register here to attend.

Strength & Service Series

Mar. 25: 1-2pm EDT – COVID-19 and Poverty in the US

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to vast income disparities that exist in our country. Health and human service organizations across the U.S. are seeing increased demand for services as they care for vulnerable populations reeling from the spread of the virus and economic crisis. Please join us for this presentation from The University of Notre Dame Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO), who will share results from their groundbreaking study assessing the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the U.S. and how they can support your programs to address poverty at the local level. Register here.

Apr. 16: 1-2pm EDT – Understanding the Impact of Systemic Racism on Black Families

We know children thrive when they are raised in loving, stable families. Yet throughout American history there have been many forces that have actively destabilized black and brown families. Slavery, mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, and poverty are some of the many examples of policies and practices that have actively separated children from their families. Please join us for this captivating, original presentation by Dr. Harry Singleton, theologian, author, and one of the most passionate and informed voices on race and religion in America as he elevates the historical and cyclical impact that systemic racism has on children, families, and communities of color, and the considerations we as faith-based organizations must make if we are to disrupt its cycle. Register here.

Free Online Consumer CV19 CheckUp

CV19 CheckUp is an online system developed to help Americans be safer, healthier, and ensure their individual needs are met during the pandemic. CV19 CheckUp asks users to complete an easy, quick, confidential questionnaire. A personalized report is immediately provided, outlining the user’s level of risk and offering recommendations and resources to reduce those risks. CV19 CheckUp employs artificial intelligence and data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Share it with your consumers and residents at

Our COVID-19 Vaccine Resources Hub

Lutheran Services in America network in peer guidance & resources on developing COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution and Communication plans for your organizations.    Lutheran Services in America has created a COVID-19 Vaccine Resources Hub, which we are continuously updating, to assist with vaccine distribution and communications plans of our member organizations. Check out these latest resources including:

If you have any resources or strategies your organization would recommend to increase access and reduce barriers to the COVID-19 Vaccine, please share with with us at

Paycheck Protection Program Continues as American Rescue Plan Expands Eligibility

The American Rescue Plan, enacted on March 11, adds an additional $7.25 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, increasing the total program level to $813.7 billion.  The program, however, is still set to expire on March 31.

Eligibility has been expanded to nonprofit organizations with 500 or more employees across multiple locations, but with no more than 500 employees at a single one of those locations.  If your organization will only become eligible under this expansion, it is especially important to prepare immediately to be able to apply quickly, given the short timeframe between enactment of the law and the program’s expiration.

The Small Business Administration, which runs this program, has not yet indicated whether there will be a new or different application form or additional required supporting documents for this new group of eligible applicants, so we recommend you review the current application form and related information, available on our website and on the SBA website, and that you talk with your lender.

Other loan types still available:

  • “First Draw” loans for entities with fewer than 500 employees total who have not already received funding
  • “Second Draw” loans for entities that:
    • have already received and spent an initial PPP loan
    • have no more than 300 employees, and
    • can demonstrate a 25% reduction in gross receipts. 

For more information about this program and application requirements, including possible required documentation, please check our website and contact your lender.

Honoring Our Front Line Heroes

Lutheran Services in America is proud to honor the incredibly brave front line workers serving during this historic time in our national network. We proudly offer digital booklets to recognize this extraordinary work with our Front Line Heroes series. Our Summer and Fall 2020 issues highlight the courageous efforts of our members dating back to March, as part of a continuing campaign to lift up the impact our members are making on their communities across the country. You can find these issues and an overview video on our new Front Line Heroes page. Please feel free to share these resources on your own social media pages, and to email Chris Findlay ( with stories from your organization you would like to see included in our upcoming issues.

Advocacy Update

The American Rescue Act, signed into law on March 11, moves into the implementation phase.  With this latest COVID relief legislative package, even though it does not fully address our key priorities, it does include a number of provisions that will impact our member network. Significantly, the law expands eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program to organizations with 500 or more employees across multiple locations, but with no more than 500 employees at a single one of those locations. Applications must be submitted to lenders by March 31.

The law also includes an expansion to 75% of the subsidy for costs incurred by employers who provide unemployment benefits on a reimbursable basis, as well an extension of the expiration date through September 6, 2021, and an increased 10% FMAP during the emergency period for home and community-based services for states that implement one or more activities to enhance, expand or strengthen these services.  We are currently seeking guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services on how this dedicated funding is going to be dispersed to ensure that it goes to providers.  The law does not include the phased increase to the minimum wage originally contained in the bill. More details on the law are available on our website.

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday confirmed Xavier Becerra to be the next Health and Human Services Secretary.

Coronavirus Resources

Lutheran Services in America has compiled a list of COVID-19 news and resources that is regularly updated. In particular, we are tracking philanthropic and federal funding opportunities and requirements for our members and compiling a list of upcoming webinars, meetings, and events. Be sure to check out these pages and feel free to reach out to or with any related questions you have.


COVID-19 Cases Plummet Among Those With IDD

New data suggests that COVID-19 infections among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the staff who serve them drop dramatically once they are eligible for vaccines.

In Tennessee — the first state to make COVID-19 vaccines broadly available to residents with developmental disabilities — there was a decline of over 80% in infections among these individuals and their support staff between December 2020 and February 2021.

The figure comes from the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and accounts for people served through the state’s three Medicaid-funded programs for those with developmental disabilities as well as staff working for community-based services providers.

More from Disability Scoop

Biden administration begins throwing out Medicaid work rules

Biden health officials have quietly revoked the previous administration’s approval of Medicaid work rules in two states, as they move quickly to unwind one of former President Donald Trump’s signature health policies.

Federal Medicaid officials on Wednesday sent letters to Arkansas and New Hampshire officials, informing them that the administration had formally scrapped the federal government’s permission for the states to mandate that some enrollees work, volunteer or attend school as a condition of coverage. Though the Biden administration had left little doubt it would revoke work rules widely despised by Democrats, the timing of the move is significant. The Supreme Court is still weighing whether to review lower court rulings against work rules in Arkansas and New Hampshire, and revoking the programs could make the case moot.

More from Politico

The Boom in Out-of-State Telehealth Threatens In-State Providers

When the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation began offering telehealth services in Montana in early February, the nation’s largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider promised quality care for far-flung residents without their even having to leave home. 

That promise was what Montana and more than 40 other states had in mind when they temporarily relaxed rules restricting telehealth services and allowed out-of-state providers to hold remote patient visits for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic. A year into the pandemic, telehealth has become widely accepted. Some states are now looking to make permanent the measures that have fueled its growth. But with it have come some unintended consequences, such as a rise in fraud, potential access problems for vulnerable groups and conflicts between out-of-state and in-state health providers. More from KHN

Feds Propose Changes To Disability Employment Rules

The Biden administration is reconsidering what should qualify as competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Education said it plans to update a 2017 frequently asked questions document that serves as guidance for the vocational rehabilitation program and the agency is soliciting public comment on its proposal.

Under federal law, people with disabilities participating in vocational rehabilitation must be given the opportunity to obtain competitive integrated employment. The guidance in question addresses what counts.

The Education Department indicated that the update comes in response to requests for more clarification, particularly related to the location where work is conducted, and it represents the culmination of three years of meetings with stakeholders. More from Disability Scoop

Landmark Covid Relief Law Pumps More Than $100 Billion Into Public Health

Acknowledging that chronic underfunding of public health contributed significantly to the nation’s fragmented response to the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats included more than $100 billion in the recently enacted relief package to address urgent needs and enhance future efforts. “The pandemic has given us possibly the best chance we’ve ever had of getting on the right track to shore up our public health resources,” said Jeffrey Levi, a professor of health management at the George Washington University School of Public Health. “Tens of millions of us have directly experienced what happens when our country is not prepared.” Even so, Levi and other public health advocates worry that momentum will wane once the pandemic abates, as it has after past crises and natural disasters. They also say that more sustained funding will be needed over the next decade and beyond to address long-festering problems. More from KHN


Vaccine updates: Disability advocate group defends California’s no-verification policy

California’s pace of vaccinating against COVID-19 is increasing, and the equity gap as measured by the state is steadily shrinking.

State health officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom two weeks ago announced that 40% of vaccine allocations would go to disadvantaged communities, defined as the lowest quartile of ZIP codes according to California’s “Healthy Places Index.”

At the time of that announcement, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the bottom HPI quartile had received about 17% of all doses administered in California while the top quartile had gotten about 34%.

The state now says 18.8% of doses have now gone to the bottom quartile and 30.8% to the top, as of a Thursday update from the California Department of Public Health, narrowing the gap from 17 points to 12.

In another major change at the start of this week, the state directed providers to open eligibility to those ages 16 through 64 with disabilities or preexisting medical conditions that put them at higher risk from COVID-19.

More from The Sacramento Bee

In New York Advocates for those with disabilities urge Legislature to help

When the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on programs servicing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, providers say, they didn’t get any extra help from the state as they scrambled to protect their workers and New York’s most vulnerable residents.

Instead, they ended up shouldering additional state cuts to funding.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” said Jeff Paterson, chief executive officer of Empower, a nonprofit in Niagara Falls that serves some 400 families with loved ones needing housing and educational assistance. “We’ve worked very hard to keep people safe and healthy. I believe we should be talking about how much more funding we are going to need and not how much we are going to be cut.”

Paterson and other advocates for those serving people with developmental disabilities say the proposed budget issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would slice $330 million from the service delivery system at a time when provides are struggling with losses and additional expenses driven by the public health crisis.

More from The Daily Star

NY lawmakers want probe of how Cuomo also ordered homes for disabled to accept coronavirus patients

New York state Democratic leader said that after a conversation with a Republican colleague he may open an investigation into a still-in-effect directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that requires group homes for the developmentally disabled to accept residents who have tested positive for coronavirus but are "medically stable."

That policy remains despite a controversial, similar directive for nursing homes that has led to Cuomo being blamed for thousands of deaths. State Senate Republicans have called for an investigation into the policy, and now Democratic Senate Investigations Committee Chairman James Skoufis says the probe could become a reality. "Sometimes Republicans are right," Skoufis told the New York Post.

Skoufis, who had received a letter asking for an investigation, said he had spoken to his committee's ranking Republican member, Sen. Mike Martucci, about Cuomo's directive, which was issued on April 10, 2020 – 16 days after the nursing home order. The nursing home directive was rescinded in May, but the one for group homes remains.

"Governor Cuomo has created a culture of corruption, secrecy, and abuse. It’s time for the Legislature to step up and hold him accountable for all of his misdeeds, but in particular his order that exposed our developmentally and intellectually disabled citizens to this deadly virus," said the letter, signed by Martucci and fellow Republican Sens. Anthony Palumbo, James Tedisco and Fred Akshar. "The Investigations Committee has the power and authority to reassert legislative oversight and get to the bottom of this once and for all."

More from Fox News

Research & Reports

Potential Impact of Additional Federal Funds for Medicaid HCBS for Seniors and People with Disabilities

Home and community-based services (HCBS) help seniors and people with disabilities and chronic illnesses live independently outside institutions by assisting with daily needs. HCBS include but are not limited to home health aide services, assistance with self-care tasks such as eating or bathing, supportive housing, and assistive technology. People who use HCBS include seniors with physical and/or cognitive limitations, people with intellectual disabilities such as Down’s syndrome or autism, people with physical disabilities such as spinal cord injuries or cerebral palsy, people with serious mental illness, and people with disabling chronic conditions.

The unmet need for HCBS for seniors and people with disabilities pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic, with Medicaid serving as the primary source of coverage for HCBS. These services are unaffordable out-of-pocket for many people and unavailable through private insurance or Medicare. The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on seniors and people with disabilitiesparticularly those living in congregate settings such as nursing homes, has brought heightened focus on the need for additional HCBS, and the growing elderly population in the coming years will further intensify the need for these services. Over the last several decades, states have focused on shifting the Medicaid program’s historical bias toward institutional services by devoting an increasing share of their total long-term services and supports (LTSS) spending to HCBS. Spending on HCBS surpassed spending on institutional care for the first time in FY 2013 and comprised 56% of total Medicaid LTSS spending in FY 2018, with substantial variation among states.

More from KFF

Resources, Opinions & Opportunities

Vaccine Rollout Leaves Behind the Blind, Paralyzed, Autistic

Millions of Americans with disabilities are being overlooked during the pandemic recovery, stuck at home without therapy or social programs, and struggling to book Covid-19 vaccinations.

In Connecticut, a switch March 1 to an age-based inoculation system angered advocates, who said the decision bumped special-needs residents. Disability-rights groups in Arizona are pushing for swifter access to shots, citing a higher Covid-19 death risk. Coast to coast, vaccination-booking websites that lack adaptive software are confounding people with vision problems.

“One year into the pandemic, we’re just getting around to wonder how to make vaccine sign-up universal and accessible,” Bryan Bashin, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

About 1 in 4 adult Americans, or 61 million people, have a disability that can affect mobility, cognitive function, hearing and sight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty years after the Americans With Disabilities Act fundamentally changed how public and private entities must treat them, the pandemic is demonstrating once again how the disabled can be forgotten, advocates say.

More from Bloomberg

Conservatorships Should Be a Last Resort, Not the Go-To Option for People with Disabilities

Imagine that someone else could make every single decision about your life for you. Maybe that person is a parent, maybe they’re a stranger, maybe they’re someone you don’t like very much, and they can decide what you eat, who you see and spend time with, where you live, what medications you take, what job you do, and how you spend your money. This is the reality of being in a conservatorship or guardianship for untold thousands of people in the United States.

Sometimes people seek conservatorships in an effort to protect a loved one with a disability. However, conservatorships carry real risks and can cause real harm. Because of this, conservatorships should be as a last resort, imposed sparingly, lifted promptly, and overseen diligently.

Unfortunately, this is not the reality in the United States today. Too often, conservatorships are granted as a “first resort” when a person with disabilities reaches adulthood or encounters difficulties, or experiences age-related disabilities. Instead of so many conservatorships, we should have systems in place for people with disabilities — like people without disabilities — to live their lives with support and without losing their rights.

More from InsideSources

Upcoming Events

LSA-DN 2021 Spring Meeting (virtual)
April 8, 2021
1:00-3:30 p.m. Eastern


For more information on our topic specific work groups, please email Doug Walter at

  • Policy & Advocacy Team
  • Culture and Engagement Workgroup
  • Administrative Cost Survey Working Group

Keep in Touch

Lisa Morgan
DN Convener
Chief Operating Officer, enCircle

Myra Griffie
Interim DN Treasurer
Chief Operating Officer, Lutheran Services Carolinas

Doug Walter
Director of Policy and Advocacy, Disability Network, Lutheran Services in America