RELEASE: Centering the Disability and Aging Communities in Federal Emergency Response Efforts

Washington, D.C. — As officials prepare to manage hurricane and wildfire seasons against the backdrop of a global pandemic, a new column from the Center for American Progress looks at the importance of including aging and disabled Americans in federal disaster response plans.

The column finds that disabled and aging adults are disproportionately likely to die or be injured in a disaster yet are often left to the mercy of volunteer and government responses that are unprepared, inaccessible, and often noncompliant with federal accessibility standards.

The brief looks at the importance of the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion  (REAADI) for Disasters Act and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) to prioritize the needs of the disability and aging communities during natural disasters. The REAADI for Disasters Act would direct funds toward research, technical assistance, and disaster response for the aging and disability communities while creating opportunities for those communities to advise on disaster planning. It would also require review of federal disaster response efforts’ compliance with discrimination policies. DRMA, meanwhile, allows for Medicaid portability across state lines in the case of a disaster event, allowing evacuees to receive the same level of care they were entitled to under Medicaid in their home communities.

“Disabled and aging Americans are disproportionately at risk of both natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Valerie Novack, a fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of the column. “As we approach hurricane and wildfire season, policymakers must work to address these compounding risks and center the disability and aging communities in all disaster planning. The REAADI for Disasters Act and DRMA would provide the resources and lived experiences that would correct practices that have left disabled and aging populations to be disproportionately killed, injured, and displaced. Both bills prioritize engaging knowledge and leadership of those who know these issues best—the disability and aging communities—so that when disaster does strike, these people can be prepared.

Read the column: “Centering the Disability and Aging Communities in Federal Emergency Response Efforts” by Valerie Novack

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