Washington, D.C. — Yesterday Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) Act and the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) in the Senate. The REAADI Act was also introduced in the House by Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), while the DRMA was introduced in the House by Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL).
The REAADI Act creates new guidelines to account for the needs of older adults and people with disabilities in emergency preparedness and disaster planning and recovery. The DRMA guarantees that Medicaid-eligible individuals don’t lose their Medicaid-supported services after relocating due to a disaster. Together, these bills create an important framework to ensure that the rights and needs of disabled and older Americans are protected in the wake of a natural disaster. Following the introduction of both bills, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress issued the following statement:
Though it’s true that natural disasters don’t discriminate, it’s also true that disabled and older Americans face disproportionate harm when forced to endure a natural disaster or other emergency. Close to 1 in 4 Americans with disabilities have complex access requirements and functional needs during times of natural disaster. And people with disabilities are two to four times more likely to die or sustain a critical injury during a disaster than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the fact that the diverse needs of people with disabilities and older adults have not been adequately accounted for in disaster and emergency planning. Additionally, it is important to note that people may acquire disabilities as a result of natural disasters and emergencies and their aftermath. As the probability of extreme weather increases due to climate change, there is a new urgency to make sure that disaster recovery policy is inclusive and honors the civil rights of all Americans.
The REAADI Act and the DRMA are giant steps forward in both responding to the needs and protecting the community resilience of older and disabled Americans before, during, and after a natural disaster. Together, the bills create an essential disaster response framework for the more than 1 in 4 Americans with a disability and the more than 48 million adults over the age of 60. I applaud the Senate and House co-sponsors for introducing the REAADI Act and the DRMA and encourage Congress to quickly pass both bills.
Related resource: “Serving the Hardest Hit” by Rejane Frederick, Rebecca Cokley, Hannah Leibson, and Eliza Schultz
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