COVID-19 Update
April 22, 2020

Webinar: OCR Update on HIPAA and COVID-19
On Friday, April 24 at 12 p.m.,  The Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is hosting a webinar for health IT stakeholders on HIPAA privacy and security issues related to COVID-19 and recent OCR actions related to the pandemic.  We encourage all Chapters to participate in the webinar, as there are many questions about HIPAA during this time. The webinar is limited to 3,000 participants, so please register here right away if interested.

Draft Supervised IRA Enhanced Rates 
On today's 4 p.m. Provider Association call, The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) announced that DRAFT Supervised IRA enhanced rates (to cover additional DSP hours during weekdays for individuals who attend another agency's Day Hab, PreVoc, or Community Hab programs) are scheduled to be disseminated by The Office of Payroll Administration (OPA) by close of business this Friday.  These rates are still subject to final approval by the New York State Division of Budget (DOB).

Guidance on Provision of Services to Students with Disabilities 
We are now holding meeting with Chapter educational program leads in an effort to discuss practical approaches to delivering educational services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. We anticipate that these meetings will continue once the emergency subsides. The challenge of conducting evaluation of students during school closures was raised in our most recent meeting. Chapters continue to receive requests from The New York State Education Department (NYSED) and The Department of Health (DOH). NYSED addressed this concern within their March 27,  topic questions and answers document. Timelines for completion of evaluations is addressed in number seven of the Q&A.

If you are interested in being included on the Educational Program Lead distribution list, please reach out to us. 

Guidance for HCFs Regarding Management of Decedent Personal Effects
DOH has published updated "Guidance for Health Care Facilities Regarding Management of Decedent Personal Effects."   While the guidance covers a broad array of health care facilities, some of the content may be useful to Chapters when managing the property of an individual who passes as a result of COVID-19. Chapters are not mandated to follow the guidance as written, but rather should use it as a reference for the handling of personal effects. The guidance includes recommendations for cleaning items and returning them to families.  

Hazard Pay Advocacy
New York Disability Advocates (NYDA) submitted a letter to Governor Cuomo today thanking him for his statement calling for federal funding for hazard pay for frontline workers during the COVID-19 health crisis. The letter, which was submitted on behalf of NYDA's membership, including The Arc New York, emphasizes the need to include Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in funding such pay. The Human Services Coalition, with which we are also collaborating, is also finalizing a statement in support of Cuomo's request for hazard pay. 

COVID-19 Guidance from the Attorney General's Charities Bureau 
The New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau recently issued guidance for charitable not-for-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this guidance was an announcement of an additional automatic six-month extension of the filing deadline for the CHAR500. All organizations were previously granted a six-month extension to file their annual financial reports. Now, any organization whose filing deadline falls after February 15, 2020 will be given an additional six-months to file. Reminders were also provided regarding the use of restricted assets and endowment funds and the requirements of Attorney General or New York Supreme Court approval for certain strategic transactions.

Guidance Regarding Employee Refusal to Wear Face Masks
Since OPWDD and DOH guidance was issued requiring staff to wear masks, many Chapters have experienced staff refusing to wear masks and have requested guidance on how to proceed. If an employee refuses to wear a mask and does not provide a medical reason for their refusal, that employee can be disciplined. The employee can be suspended until they are prepared to wear the mask. You may permit them to use accrued time, but that is not required if they are on disciplinary suspension. Please ensure that any disciplinary measures conform with your Chapter policy/practice. If an employee refuses to wear a mask and indicates they are doing so due to health reasons, they cannot be disciplined due to the ADA requirement to provide a reasonable accommodation. Ordinarily, we would suggest requiring the employee to provide medical documentation, however the DOH guidance states that employers "are prohibited from requesting or requiring medical or other documentation from an employee who declines to wear a face covering due to a medical or other health condition that prevents such usage." Therefore, we cannot ask for medical documentation. Instead, we suggest providing an alternative accommodation if possible. If it is not possible to provide an accommodation, we suggest placing the employee on leave and allowing them to use accrued time off and then going unpaid.

Pine Ridge Industries COVID-19 Manufacturing Grant 
Pine Ridge Industries, a division of Schenectady ARC was awarded a $20,000 grant from FuzeHub to support manufacturing of laboratory supplies for COVID-19 Testing. 
This and all related updates will be cataloged on  The Arc New York COVID-19 Resource Page   for future reference. Please contact us if you have questions regarding any of this information.

Josh Christiana , Associate Executive Director for Quality, Compliance & Chapter Relations

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