Doyle and Smith Urge COVID-19 Assistance for Autism Community

April 16, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – April 16, 2020 – – U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (PA-18) and Representative Chris Smith (NJ-4), co-chairs of the Congressional Autism Caucus, announced that they sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Leader Kevin McCarthy, Leader Mitch McConnell, and Leader Chuck Schumer, urging them to address the unique needs of children and young adults with autism, and to help their parents and caretakers especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a three-page letter that carefully underscores the added challenges that the pandemic presents for those on the autism spectrum, the lawmakers asked that critical assistance programs and funding be incorporated into any upcoming relief package.

Doyle and Smith pointed out that children with autism and their caretakers have critical needs during the crisis and that emergency federal assistance is needed to shore-up the Home and Community-Based Services program and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) services. It is essential to augment existing distance learning, telehealth and other critical virtual services for the autism community, they said.

Coping with the Coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown of non-essential activities has been difficult for many Americans, but few more so than individuals with autism and their families, who have seen services they rely heavily upon halt abruptly,” Congressman Doyle said. “That’s why we’re urging the House and Senate leadership to expand telehealth services and increase funding for IDEA and Home and Community-Based Services for them.”

The autism community is facing a unique set of challenges with stay-at-home orders, school closures, travel bans and other abrupt changes that can be very disruptive for all Americans, but even far more so for many on the autism spectrum,” said Congressman Smith. Congress must not overlook individuals on the spectrum as we prioritize unmet needs in the upcoming round of federal assistance in the battle against the coronavirus. These are very troublesome times for individuals with autism, who often feel secure only in a stable, routine environment, and whose lives have been turned upside down, Smith said.”

Smith and Doyle worked together on the Autism CARES Act, signed into law by the President in September, to reauthorize federal programs and activities over five years that assist children, adults and families with autism.

The Autism CARES Act of 2019, HR 1058, (P.L. 116-60) is a reauthorization of Doyle and Smith’s Autism CARES Act of 2014 HR 4631 (P.L. 113-157) that authorizes over $1.85 billion in funding for programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) over five years. The funding supports developmental disability surveillance and research at CDC; education, early detection and intervention at HRSA; and expansion and coordination of autism-related activities at NIH. The legislation also requires HHS to report to Congress on the progress of activities related to autism and other developmental disabilities, and the health and well-being of individuals on the autism spectrum.