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Casey, Colleagues Introduce Legislation Improving Disaster Preparedness for Seniors, People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C. – As climate scientists forecast worsening climate change outcomes, and in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, is announcing the introduction of two bills that would support the disability and aging communities before, during and after disasters and emergencies: The Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) and the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act.

U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) has introduced the House version of the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act. U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI-2), Chris Smith (R-NJ-4) and Albio Sires (D-NJ-8) have introduced the House version of REAADI.

“As we see the dramatic and catastrophic effects of the climate crisis, including increasing severity of extreme weather events, it is vital that we consider the needs of people with disabilities and older adults in planning and coordination efforts,” said Chairman Casey. “We must ensure that seniors and people with disabilities are active participants in developing emergency preparedness plans that will keep them safe and ensure that their needs are met before, during and after a disaster strikes.”

“Often times, many families who are forced from their homes due to natural disasters are also forced to lose their health care coverage,” said Congressman Panetta. “The bipartisan and bicameral Disaster Relief Medicaid Act would prevent that from happening by ensuring Medicaid eligibility for those who have to relocate to other states. Preserving the health care for those who are fleeing natural disasters is the least that Congress can do to help them recover.”

“As natural disasters and extreme climate events become more frequent, ensuring the safety of people with disabilities during emergencies must be a forethought, not an afterthought,” said Rep. Jim Langevin, co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in the House and Senate to introduce this critical legislation, which will make sure the unique needs of older Americans and people with disabilities are accounted for during the planning, response, and recovery phases of emergencies and disasters.”

“People with disabilities and seniors face unique challenges during natural disasters and other emergencies,” said Rep. Albio Sires. “I’m proud to work with Senator Casey, Rep. Langevin, and Rep. Smith to introduce this critical legislation, which will ensure that the needs of people with disabilities and seniors are accounted for before, during, and after extreme events.”

The Disaster Relief Medicaid Act
The Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) would ensure that people with disabilities and seniors who rely on Medicaid waivers do not lose the life-sustaining supports they rely upon after a federally declared disaster or emergency. For individuals forced to relocate to another state due to disaster or emergency, DRMA would protect those residing in an area covered under a presidential disaster declaration as a “Relief-Eligible Survivor” and grant them the support needed to easily access or apply for Medicaid services in their host state.

The REAADI for Disasters Act
The REAADI for Disasters Act would ensure that older adults and people with disabilities are involved in the preparation, response, recovery and mitigation of disasters. It would establish a network of centers focused on technical assistance, training and research to assist state and local governments, launch a competitive grant program to pilot strategies that promote greater inclusion of these populations in disaster management and expand the National Advisory Committee on Individuals with Disabilities and Disasters to better reflect the diverse characteristics of the disability community. The REAADI for Disasters Act would also require the Department of Justice and Government Accountability Office to review the extent to which the civil rights of these populations are upheld during disasters and whether federal agencies have spent relief funds in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Read more about the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act here and the REAADI for Disasters Act here.