LSA-DN Weekly Update

Disability Network News
Friday, July 10, 2020


The Lutheran Services in America Strength & Service Series

Lutheran Services in America is taking full and active advantage of the virtual space to help our member organizations nationwide stay in the know on new and evolving practices and resources — curating a broad lineup of topics and subject matter expertise. This month we are pleased to launch our continuing virtual program, the Strength & Service Series. Strength & Service is an ongoing, interactive, virtual gathering of the best minds in our space, laser-focused on examining and tackling the unintended consequences and uncertainties in today’s climate — all with the goal of helping move your organization forward.

By drawing on the expertise of external influencers and our member organizations’ own vital lessons learned, we’re able to share tailored content and facilitate deeper connections to help meet your unique needs during this historic moment. The combination of our broad array of providers and central thought leaders in our space will make for truly symbiotic, interactive dialogue in a safe and trusting space — exactly when we all need it the most. We view these timely virtual convenings as critical to your organizations, to the many people you serve and to the future of Lutheran social ministry in America as a whole.

Upcoming Series Webinars

  • July 23, 12–1 p.m. EDT: Impact of COVID-19 on Employer Health Care Costs by global advisory firm, Willis Towers Watson. In 2021 employers like you could be facing increased medical costs of between 4% and a whopping 10% for employees, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Given this increasingly challenging climate, Jeff Thiemann, President & CEO of Portico Benefit Services, will host a dynamic interactive session with experts from Willis Towers Watson who will explore the challenging landscape of increasing dependent coverage, delayed elective surgeries and other key trends on short- and longer-term employer health care costs – all of which may greatly affect your bottom line. Register here.
  • July 28, 1–3 p.m. EDT: Workshop on the Path to Become More Racially Aware Leaders—Foundational Elements for the Journey. Professional diversity coach Marion Hodges Biglan will lead a workshop where participants will learn and reflect on their connection to some foundational concepts about racism that will be essential on their journey to become more racially aware and impactful leaders. Register here.

Advocacy Update

New HHS Funding Portal for Locked-Out Medicaid Providers Expected

Following the announcement on June 9 by The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of targeted funding via the CARES Act’s Provider Relief Fund, representing $15 billion for eligible Medicaid providers who participate in state Medicaid programs and haven’t received a payment from the Provider Relief Fund General Distribution, the agency has confirmed they will open a new funding portal for providers who had previously been locked out from receiving funds. However, HHS has not yet indicated when the portal will be made available or how much additional funding will be distributed. Details on applying for funding in the previous $15 billion allocation, for which eligible providers include home and community-based services providers and assisted living facilities, can be found here and on our “Federal Funding Opportunities” webpage.

Congress Moves to Provide Cash Flow Relief to Nonprofits who “Self-Fund” Unemployment

On July 9, the House passed by unanimous consent the bipartisan Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act of 2020 (S.4209), following its similarly unanimous passage in the Senate on July 2. The bill must now be signed by the President to be enacted into law, which is expected soon. Currently, the CARES Act allows self-funded nonprofits (those that would otherwise reimburse states 100 percent for the unemployment benefits collected by their former employees) to reimburse only 50 percent to the states while the federal government covers the other 50 percent. However, guidance issued by the Department of Labor in April requires states to collect 100 percent of unemployment costs from nonprofits up front and reimburse them later, putting a further strain on organizations’ cash flow. If the President signs the measure into law, S. 4209 would clarify that self-funded nonprofits are only required to provide 50 percent in payments up front. This is a step in the right direction toward what Lutheran Services in America has been advocating in one of our key priorities, namely 100 percent unemployment benefit reimbursement to self-funded nonprofits.

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.

The ADA at 30: Reflections on a Landmark Law

July 26 will mark the 30th anniversary of President George H. W. Bush signing into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a hallmark piece of legislation calling for equal treatment for people with disabilities in America. The 1990 act safeguards the ability of people with disabilities to live independently and with dignity by expanding access to opportunities in the workplace, in transportation, through government programs and services, and in other important aspects of daily life.

This groundbreaking law was a long-overdue extension of civil rights to one in four Americans. Using the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a model, the ADA has been described as the most comprehensive disability rights legislation in U.S. history. The ADA affirmed that the skills Americans with disabilities bring to their jobs are no less valuable. According to the Department of Labor, the ADA explicitly prohibits discrimination in job application procedures, hiring, advancement, termination, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. More importantly, the act was the first of many key decisions over the last three decades to advance the rights of people with disabilities by asserting the value of every human being within society, from the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. ruling in 1999 to IDEA just two years ago. More from LSA's Blog


Deadly Discrimination: The Forgotten Impact Of Covid-19 On People With Disabilities

Disability rights are civil rights, and July 26, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Similar to laws in other countries, it is significant civil rights legislation affording persons with disabilities legal protection from discrimination.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it is precisely these legal protections that should safeguard people. However, according to Marcie Roth, CEO of World Institute on Disability, “of the 43% of COVID-19 deaths attributed to congregate facilities, almost 100% are disabled people.”

More from Forbes

Face Mask Exempt Cards Citing ADA Are Fake, Justice Department Says

Federal officials have issued multiple warnings about cards and flyers circulating online that falsely claim to exempt people with disabilities from wearing face masks.

With an increasing number of cities and states across the country requiring people to wear face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Justice has put out at least three notices to alert the public that the documents are fraudulent.

More from Disability Scoop


OCR Resolves Complaint with Tennessee After it Revises its Triage Plans to Protect Against Disability Discrimination

Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing that it has reached an early case resolution with the state of Tennessee after it updated its crisis standards of care (“CSC”) plan to ensure that the criteria does not discriminate against persons based on disability or age.  This is OCR’s fourth resolution with a state regarding disability discrimination concerns during COVID-19.

More from

Quadriplegic man's death from covid-19 spotlights questions of disability, race and family

Michael Hickson, a 46-year-old father of five from Texas, was sick with covid-19 when doctors reached a crossroads in his treatment. He had pneumonia in both lungs, a urinary tract infection and sepsis — a dangerous immune response leading to multi-system organ failure.

He needed a ventilator to help him continue breathing, but the hospital felt further intervention for the disabled man was futile. A doctor explained to the family that there was little hope Hickson would survive or regain “quality of life.”

Hickson’s sister, a physician, agreed. So did the agency acting as his legal guardian. But his wife, Melissa Hickson, was horrified. She worried doctors were placing less value on her husband’s life because he was a black man who was disabled. After going into cardiac arrest in 2017 and suffering complications, he had been left quadriplegic and brain-damaged.

More from The Washington Post

People With Disabilities Face Threat Of Medical Bias, Health Care Rationing During COVID-19 Outbreak

One in four adults in the U.S. is living with a disability. That's 61 million Americans for whom everyday obstacles are exacerbated due to the outbreak, as COVID-19 shines a light on existing issues and poses new pandemic-related threats for people with disabilities.

Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Health Policy Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said generally, there are crisis standards of care that have been put together prior to a crisis to maintain consistency between treatment of patients.

“What we are finding, though now in the COVID crisis, is that now that these crisis standards of care are being unpacked a little bit is that they do sometimes include biasing statements about disability,” Iezzoni said.

More from Texas Public Radio

Research & Reports

Majority Of States Failing To Meet Obligations Under IDEA

Less than half of states are doing what they should to serve students with disabilities in compliance with federal special education law, the U.S. Department of Education says.

The agency indicated in a report out late last month that just 21 states satisfied the “meets requirements” threshold for the 2018-2019 school year in annual evaluations of their obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for students ages 3 to 21.

More from Disability Scoop

COVID-19 Disability Needs Assessment Report

Lakeshore Foundation and the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), initiated a survey to explore current needs of people with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The survey was released online over a two-week period from April 2, 2020 through April 17, 2020 targeting people with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions and those who are family members or caregivers.  A national representation of over 1,400 people resulted in findings consistent with public health evidence showing the disability community continues to see critical, unmet needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More from NCHPAD

Military families with disabled members need more accessible homes, survey finds

Some military families with disabled family members “are being forced to live in homes that hinder their quality of life and in many cases are just unsafe for them,” concludes a new report. The report is based on a small online survey of special needs families living in privatized housing, conducted by the Military Housing Advocacy Network.

More from Military Times

Resources, Opinions & Opportunities

Hassan & Murphy: We Urge Our Senate Colleagues to Approve More Aid for Schools - and $11 Billion for Students With Disabilities - in the Next COVID-19 Relief Bill

COVID-19 turned our system of learning upside down. Classrooms shifted to living rooms. Teachers, who have a herculean task in the best of times, now have an even harder job. And parents took on new roles in teaching their children — all while balancing their own day-to-day workload.

Educators and parents have collaborated to find new, innovative approaches to meet the needs of all students. And districts have been creative and persistent in addressing student needs, from access to high-speed internet to nutrition.

We are grateful for these efforts, but it is clear that students, parents and educators need more support as we all navigate educating our children during this pandemic. Many of the students most in need of additional help also have disabilities, so they require additional supports and services to be able to access the same educational opportunities as their peers.

More from The 74

Black Disabled Lives Matter: We Can't Erase Disability in #BLM

In the days after the first wave of anti-police brutality protests following George Floyd’s death, Justine “Justice” Shorter wanted to join fellow protesters on the streets. Due to her vision impairment, she didn’t feel safe enough to go alone.

She said “with [so] much police aggression [at the protests], and not having any assistance or anybody who I can connect with [to] give me situational awareness about what was going on around me, cause you never know what kind of environment the police were going to foster with their behavior,” she couldn't go.

But Justine’s presence in the movement is important — particularly because disability is so often left out of police brutality narratives.

More from Teen Vogue

Health 202: To open schools in the fall or not: That is one pressing coronavirus question

Sharp divisions over where Americans kids should be taught this fall are emerging among doctors, schools and teachers' unions.

It’s a hugely emotional and fraught topic as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen in the United States. Parents worry about not being able to return to their jobs because of kids stuck at home, teachers fret about getting ill in the classroom and health professionals are anxious about the educational and emotional effects on kids, especially those in disadvantaged homes.

More from The Washington Post

Disney World disability policy for rides is deeply flawed

At Disney’s theme parks, large crowds and long waits are an all too common part of the “magic.” Making the waits more bearable for guests is a high priority for Disney’s Imagineers.

During the renovation of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, these designers created an air-conditioned playground that is a part of the queue for the ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Parents now receive a beeper that indicates when it is time to board. Their kids can enjoy the playground instead of enduring a long wait in an often hot outdoor line.

Thoughtful design can transform waiting from boring to fun with some pixie dust and a few “Hidden Mickeys.”

Unfortunately, Disney has not been as creative with its disability accommodation procedures.

More from Orlando Sentinel

Lutheran Services in America's Front Line Heroes

Each day, Lutheran Services in America posts a story about heroes working on the front lines. Those posts are meant to celebrate the extraordinary work of Lutheran social ministries, and elevate the commitment to serving communities throughout crises. Read front line hero stories here.

To submit stories front line hero stories, email Caitlyn Gudmudsen at

Upcoming Events

LSA-DN 2020 Summer Meeting
August 5-6, 2020
Agenda for what will be our virtual summer meeting due to COVID-19 concerns to be shared shortly

LSA-DN 2021 Winter Meeting
February 24-26, 2021
Details TBD


For more information on our topic specific work groups, please email Jen Beltz at

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

Keep in Touch

Lisa Morgan
DN Convener
Chief Operating Officer, Lutheran Family Services of Virginia

Rita Wiersma
DN Treasurer
Chief Executive Officer, Accord

Jen Beltz 
VP, External Affairs, Lutheran Services in America