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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently proposed rules to improve the way the public receives emergency alerts on their mobile phones, televisions, and radios.

The nation’s Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts help keep the public safe and informed and are of ever-increasing importance given the emergencies and disasters Americans have faced in recent years.  

In 2018, however, a false emergency alert in Hawaii mistakenly warned of an incoming ballistic missile and highlighted the need to improve these systems. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 subsequently charged the Commission with adopting rules to strengthen emergency alerting in various areas. Consistent with this directive, the Commission has adopted a Notice Proposed Rulemaking to ensure that more people receive relevant emergency alerts, enable government agencies to report false alerts when they occur, and improve the way states plan for emergency alerts.  

Specifically, the Commission proposed to

  • Combine the current “Presidential Alerts” category, which is non-optional on devices that receive Wireless Emergency Alerts, with alerts from the FEMA Administrator. The new non-optional alert class would be called “National Alerts.” 
  • Encourage all states to form State Emergency Communications Committees, which help administer alerting on the state level, or to review the composition and governance of existing committees, as well as require these committees to certify that they held a meeting in the past year.
  • Provide a checklist of information that should be included in annual submissions of state Emergency Alert System plans and amend the process for Commission review of those plans.
  • Specify that government agencies may report false emergency alerts to the FCC’s 24/7 Operations Center.
  • Require and ensure that Emergency Alert System participants can repeat certain alerts over television and radio when the government alert originator requests it.

Also consistent with the new legislation, the Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry to explore the technical feasibility delivering Emergency Alert System alerts through the Internet, including streaming services, and whether it is feasible for Emergency Alert System participants to leverage the Internet to offer advanced alerting capabilities to the public.

Interested parties may file comments by accessing the Electronic Comment Filing System at https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings. All filings must reference PS Docket Nos. 15-91 and 15-94. 

People with disabilities who need assistance to file comments online at https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings may request assistance by email to FCC504@fcc.gov

Notice of Inquiry (NOI) Comments Due:  May 14, 2021

NOI Reply Comments Due:  June 14, 2021

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As part of a shared commitment to President Biden’s National Strategy and Executive Order to ensure an equitable COVID-19 response, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the Administration for Community Living (ACL), and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have published several new resources to help states, vaccination providers, and others leading COVID-19 response activities improve access to vaccines for people with disabilities and older adults. These resources clarify legal requirements, illustrate some of the barriers to vaccine access faced by people with disabilities and older people, and provide strategies – and examples of how the aging and disability network can help employ them – to ensure accessibility.

The Office for Civil Rights released new guidance outlining legal standards under the federal civil rights laws prohibiting disability discrimination and providing concrete examples of the application of the legal standards in the context of COVID-19 vaccine programs and how to implement them. OCR also issued a fact sheet setting out specific steps that those involved in the planning and distribution of vaccines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic may wish to consider to promote compliance with disability rights laws and provide access to vaccination programs for people with disabilities. Earlier COVID-19 guidance from OCR addressed civil rights protections prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, and civil rights of persons with limited English proficiency.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Office for Civil Rights has made clear that civil rights laws remain in effect during emergencies,” said Acting OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese. “These long-standing laws require that people with disabilities have equal access to services funded by HHS and today’s guidance, along with other important resources from our HHS partners, will help providers ensure compliance with their obligations to make vaccinations fully accessible at every step in the process – from public education to registration for appointments and vaccine administration.”

The Administration for Community Living has compiled strategies and best practices for helping people with disabilities and older adults access COVID-19 vaccines. This compendium provides creative approaches to outreach and education, appointment facilitation, ensuring website and vaccination site accessibility, and reaching people who cannot be vaccinated outside of their homes. Also included are examples of how the aging and disability network have collaborated with state agencies at virtually every stage of the vaccination process to ensure access for people with disabilities and older adults.  

“Vaccination is critical for people with disabilities and older adults, but many face significant barriers to getting vaccinated,” said Alison Barkoff, Acting Administrator of ACL. “It is crucial that states and local health authorities take affirmative steps to ensure equitable vaccine access to older adults and people with disabilities, particularly those who may face additional barriers due to race, ethnicity, income, language, or other factors. The organizations in the aging and disability network can be invaluable partners in these efforts.”

As trusted members of their communities, the aging and disability network offers unique and specialized knowledge of the needs of the people they serve, as well as established channels for reaching them. Through a partnership between ACL and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the network will receive nearly $100 million to assist with scheduling of, and travel, to appointments, direct support services, and more. The grants also will enable the aging and disability network to identify people who cannot travel to vaccination sites and to assist local authorities with improving vaccine access for people with disabilities and older adults. Funding is being distributed now, with initial grants issued last week.

Finally, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation published an issue brief on the prevalence and characteristics of older adults who are normally unable to leave home unassisted and for whom leaving the house would take considerable and taxing effort. This will inform the development of interventions to increase vaccination of this population, which has proven challenging to reach thus far.

“Older adults who have difficulty leaving their homes may have a hard time getting to vaccine sites in their communities,” said Rebecca Haffajee, Acting Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. “This brief identifies the characteristics of these individuals, additional challenges they may face when trying to get vaccinated, and what services they use to help communities and providers better target their outreach and in-home vaccination efforts.”

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Open through April 26, 2021

Submit ideas, comments, and votes 

The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking input on ideas for ensuring equity in employment policies and programs for people with disabilities from historically underserved communities. 

Share your ideas, review community input, and comment on others' ideas. Your feedback will be used by the department to identify solutions for overcoming barriers to employment for people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds, communities, and identities. It will also inform future programs and funding opportunities that equitably deliver vital employment services and supports to all.

This effort is co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment PolicyOffice of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Women’s Bureau.

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Hello—I am currently looking for volunteer participants for a research study titled “Exploring Practitioners’ Strategies for Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities.” This study has the potential to add knowledge to the field of human services and will be shared broadly once completed.

Participants need to:

- Be 18 years or older and live in the United States.

- Have experience as a community development practitioner/ consultant/connector/organizer or other similar role with communities or neighborhoods in the United States.

- Have experience working with communities that include, either purposefully or not, people with disabilities

- Are willing to be interviewed in English over video conferencing or on the phone.

Your participation is voluntary, and interview responses will remain confidential.

More information is available at www.lourash.com. If you are interested in participating or have questions, contact:

Allison Lourash

Email: Allison.lourash@waldenu.edu

Phone: 715-205-7305

This study has been approved by Walden University’s Institutional Review Board (The Institutional ReviewBoard number is: 01-14-21-0228087) to ensure that it is aligned with the University’s standards and that interviews are conducted in an ethical manner.

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Researchers at Brandeis University are conducting a study on the experiences of people with disabilities who self-direct Medicaid-funded HCBS during the pandemic. Please see the attached flyer for more information.

Brandeis COVID Flyer (3).pdf Seeking Participants for Self-Direction and COVID
Brandeis COVID Flyer (3).pdf, 330KB

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Vaccine rollout in Wisconsin is going study, but there has been a lot of confusion about who is eligible when. People who are in long-term care programs, such as IRIS and Family Care, became eligible on March 1st, but many providers were unaware of that. People who were eligible were trying to schedule their vaccine were being denied because the provider didn't know that they became eligible. The Department of Health clarified it's priority list, but advocates say there are still many barriers to getting vaccinated. 

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to help households struggling to pay for internet service during the pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, and virtual classrooms.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

A household is eligible if one member of the household:

  • Qualifies for the Lifeline program;
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers' existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

The program has been authorized by the FCC, but the start date has not yet been established. The FCC is working to make the benefit available as quickly as possible. Please continue to check the program webpage for updates.

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Recently, President Biden signed a big pandemic relief bill that will send billions of dollars to special education and home-and-community-based services. This is the first major relief bill that addresses disability services since the pandemic started. Advocates have been begging for more funding since the pandemic started last spring. After a full year, some funding is finally coming. Adults with disabilities who are considered dependents will qualify for the checks. Additionally, special education will receive $2.5 billion. It also includes money to help states with COVID testing and vaccine distribution. 

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ACL's National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) has opened two new funding opportunities for Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects (DRRP) on on Reducing Social Isolation of People with Disabilities and National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities.

The purpose of the DRRP program is to plan and conduct research, demonstration projects, training, and related activities (including international activities) to develop methods, procedures, and rehabilitation technology that maximize the full inclusion and integration into society, employment, independent living, family support, and economic and social self-sufficiency of individuals with disabilities.


DRRP on Reducing Social Isolation and Loneliness Among People with DisabilitiesUnder this particular DRRP priority, the grantee must conduct research to identify categories of people with disabilities who are most at risk of social isolation. The grantee must also conduct research that will inform the development of in-person, community-based solutions and approaches to reduce social isolation and loneliness among people with disabilities.

View more details and application instructions.

Please visit the link above for more details about the grant opportunity and application process. This grant opportunity closes on May 7, 2021.


February 28th was a special day for Wisconsin's Long-term care system. The very last person on the waiting list for long-term care enrolled in the IRIS program. This ended all waiting lists for adults who are eligible for long-term care services in Wisconsin. 

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