Justice in Aging calls on federal, state, and local governments to take immediate action to reduce risks and ensure access to services for older adults, people with disabilities and other health conditions, and other populations who are at greatest risk from COVID-19. This starts with implementing the emergency declarations necessary to enable access to funding and activate agency authority at the federal, state, and local levels.
In developing responses and policies, governments and organizations must center the needs of the populations most at risk for serious illness, including nursing facility and assisted living residents, people receiving home- and community-based services (HCBS), the direct care workforce and family caregivers, people with limited English proficiency (LEP), people experiencing homelessness, and older adults who are detained or incarcerated. Governments, organizations, and individuals must take proactive measures to ensure that the virus is not used to justify racist or xenophobic behavior or policies, and that all information shared about COVID-19 is accessible to everyone, including LEP populations and people with disabilities.
At the federal level, we call on the Trump Administration and Congress to employ and bolster Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, as well as programs that support the economic well-being and safety of older adults and their families. This includes augmenting programs that provide food, housing, utility, and transportation assistance, especially as needs increase due to rising costs and decreased household incomes. We also call for immediate action to provide paid leave and expand unemployment insurance to those who lack it, particularly the direct care workforce, to ensure that no one working in residential facilities, hospitals, congregate or home-based settings feels economic pressure to come to work if they are sick or have been exposed to the virus.
Justice in Aging also recognizes our individual and organizational civic duty to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. In particular, we call on everyone to be mindful of community impact. In protecting ourselves and assessing our own actions, we must consider not only our own risk, but also the people we come in contact with, especially older adults and others at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and follow public health guidance such as the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the state of California.
In recognition of this duty, Justice in Aging has instituted internal policies to work from home, encourage external meetings to be conducted via telephone or video, and eliminate nonessential travel. We will be working with partners and examining policies that would address the needs of older adults and others at highest risk from COVID-19. We strongly urge aging and disability organizations, legal services, and everyone in our network to take action to support older adults in our communities and reduce the risk for everyone.
For more information and resources, see Justice in Aging’s summary of guidance on nursing facilities and the Administration for Community Living’s webpage on What Older Adults and People with Disabilities Need to Know about COVID-19.