Survival Coalition Wisconsin

The Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations is a cross-disability coalition of more than 40 state and local organizations and groups. For more than 20 years, Survival has been focused on changing and improving policies and practices that support people with disabilities of all ages to be full participants in community life.


Issues that Impact People with Disabilities in Wisconsin: Background Papers

Survival has prepared these issue papers to provide background and a disability perspective for elected
officials, candidates for office and other policymakers and advocates. Many people with disabilities access programs and services funded by the federal, state, or local governments to support them in maintaining their health, accessing education and employment, and participating in their communities. As policy makers, you will make decisions on programs and services that are critical to the independence and the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory disabilities, and aging adults.

The issues discussed in these background papers impact many Wisconsinites. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 26% (1 in 4) of adults have some type of disability. Survival Coalition invites candidates and elected officials to include the disability perspective as you deliberate on policies for employment, transportation, education, health care, voting, mental health, and long-term care. Our Coalition leadership and member organizations are available to address questions and serve as a resource for you.

COVID-19 has created new challenges for Wisconsinites with disabilities to access the services they rely on to maintain their health and independence.  Since many people with disabilities are at greater risk for COVID-19, it is essential that policy makers prioritize the needed funding and policies to provide and maintain vital services in a manner that is safe, accessible, and person-centered.  COVID-19 relief legislation and policies must address funding to state and local government to sustain vital services for people with disabilities including funding for Medicaid, Home and Community Based services, transportation, and support for students with disabilities and public schools.  Read Background Papers

U.S. Senate COVID relief HEALS Act falls short for people with disabilities, contact Congress

The U.S. Senate released its COVID relief package (the HEALS bill) on Monday.

Most of the disability community priorities are NOT in the Senate bill, including no funding for Medicaid or Home and Community Based Services. The House passed the HEROES Act in May that includes many disability priorities. The House and Senate will have to negotiate on a final bill.

It is important that both U.S. Senators and Representatives hear from constituents as they make changes to ensure disability priorities are included. Our advocacy over the next 2 weeks is going to be critical!

Action Steps

  • Contact U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (call (202) 224-5653 or e-mailand Ron Johnson (call (202) 224-5323, or e-mail)
  • Contact your U.S. Representative (Who is my U.S. Representative).
  • Tell them any COVID relief package MUST include:
    • Significant aid to state and local governments so education, Medicaid, transportation, and other programs people with disabilities depend on will not have to be cut or eliminated.
    • Dedicated funding for Home and Community Based Services
    • Increased federal match to support state Medicaid programs
    • Support for students with disabilities and public schools that need to provide virtual education

Basic Overview of U.S. Senate HEALS bill

No aid to state or local governments

Many states predict as much as a 20-30% decline in money coming in to pay for programs–like Medicaid, K-12 education, and programs run by counties–at the same time costs to respond to the pandemic and help people who have lost their jobs and healthcare are increasing. Many states are facing large budget deficits now and expect state budget deficits to continue for at least the next two years.

State budget shortfalls will have major impacts on Medicaid, education, transportation, county services and other programs that receive state funding. States facing budget crises could cut services, putting people with disabilities at increased risk of unnecessary institutionalization.

Reductions in state aid will impact school district, county, municipal and town budgets which may force cuts to education, local services, and local government workforces.

No dedicated funding for Home and Community-Based Services (Family Care and IRIS)

Without dedicated funding, advocates worry people currently living in their homes will experience additional barriers finding workers or support they need, leading to more people forced into institutions where the risk of COVID is greater.

Funding is needed to ensure providers of critical in-home services stay in business and are not forced to cut their workforce, costing jobs and leaving people with disabilities with no workers and few choices.

No funding to specifically address needs of students with disabilities

The Senate bill includes funding for K12 education, but reserves most of it for schools reopening for in-person instruction. Survival Coalition focus groups found that 1 in 4 families had children who cannot risk exposure to COVID due to their health conditions, and will not be able to attend in-person classes until the pandemic is under control.

Many families said virtual learning was impossible for their child due to their disability, poor internet access, lack of technology equipment, accessibility shortfalls of virtual learning platforms, need for adults support in a typical classroom or little to no support from schools.

Many Wisconsin school districts are planning to open virtually in the fall; others opening initially in-person have contingency plans in place should the pandemic require transition to virtual learning. Without dedicated funding and direction, many students with disabilities will be left behind.

No increase in federal match to support state Medicaid programs

The Senate bill does not include an increase in the amount of money the Federal government provides the state (FMAP) for Medicaid programs (including Family Care, IRIS, Children’s Long Term Support, MAPP BadgerCare) and services (ForwardHealth card).

Many people have lost jobs, income, and employer-sponsored health insurance. More people are depending on Medicaid for health care during the pandemic. Without greater federal support, state budgets will not have enough money for people to get the care they need.

Providers are shielded from liability for negligent care

The Senate bill would shield healthcare providers and other businesses from liability for COVID-19 illnesses and death. These provisions, which would give immunity to nursing facilities, excuse negligent care, and allow harm to residents to go unaddressed, would reward bad actors and remove incentives for facilities to comply with laws and regulations, eliminate one of the last remaining oversight protections for residents, place workers and communities at risk, and perpetuate racial disparities in health care.

Resources on the U.S. Senate and House COVID relief proposals


The Impact of Virtual Education on Families and Students with Disabilities Family Focus Groups – June 2020

The Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations organized two family focus groups to better understand the impact of school closures and virtual learning on families with children with disabilities. Read full  press statement about those results including a link to our report.


Send Public Comments to Governor’s Caregiver Task Force by July 14th

The Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving is taking public comments on proposals to address the workforce crisis until July 14th. Survival Coalition submitted public comments (see attached) on many of the ideas being considered by the Task Force.

Public comments can be submitted online by July 14th. Survival Coalition requests members submit comments to the Task Force, and encourage their networks to do so as well. The Task Force will consider the input from public comments when it decides which proposals to include in a package of recommendations for the Governor to consider later this fall.

Survival Coalition’s comments emphasize improving: (See full comments)

  • Health care and other benefits to recruit and keep quality workers
  • Flexibility in rates to allow greater pay and career progression for workers, and making sure rate increases are reflected in worker’s wages
  • Support for family caregivers including expanding the ability of ADRCs to provide resources to caregivers of all ages, avoiding caregiver burnout, and supporting legislative proposals that support family caregivers (CARES Act, Caregiver Tax Credit, updating the Family and Medical Leave Act).

Guidance on re-opening during COVID-19 pandemic in ways that protect people with disabilities and older adults

Many organizations and programs provide services to people with disabilities—including those with mental health needs—and older adults. Everyone has a role and responsibility to re-open communities, businesses, and services in ways that protect our neighbors who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. A coordinated approach will be needed between the state, Wisconsin counties, service providers and case(?) managers to reduce the risk of infection and outbreaks during the pandemic.

Wisconsin businesses and service providers need uniform and clear policies and protocols to prevent infection and respond to outbreaks in ways that protect and respect the individual rights of people with disabilities and older adults, and ensure they receive all the services and supports they rely upon to live in the community.  Read guidance document.

Survival Coalition Thanks Governor for Much-Needed $100 Million Grant Program that Includes Community-Based Long-Term Care

(Madison) – The Survival Coalition of more than 30 disability organizations appreciates the Governor’s recognition of the hardships facing people with disabilities, older adults and their home and community-based provider networks with his announcement today that $100 million dollars of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds will be directed towards Long-Term Care, Home and Community Based Services, and Emergency Medical Services. This injection of funds for these vital services and providers will help them to remain viable in the face of the extreme financial strain that Covid-19 has put on these organizations. Read Survival Statement.