2020 Presidential Primary Candidate Survey on Disability
Cory Booker’s Responses
Employment: What are your views on paying a subminimum wage based on disability?
Anyone who wants to work should be able to do so, in a job that pays a living wage and offers meaningful benefits. That’s why I’m a co-sponsor of the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and phase out subminimum wages for workers with disabilities, as well as for tipped workers and youth workers.
Assistive Technology: What do you plan to do to increase access to assistive technology for people with disabilities who need it to effectively and independently engage in their communities?
Civil rights for people with disabilities is a natural extension of the civil rights movement that granted my parents and grandparents the right to fully participate in our democracy. We cannot realize our full potential as a nation unless all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, are able to work with dignity, exercise their right to vote, and engage as equals in our society.
As President, I will make major new investments in interventions that improve access to information and communication technology and lead to better educational and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. My administration will work to increase funding for the Assistive Technology Act, the only existing piece of federal legislation that provides funding for assistive technology programs, and work with Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Finally, we will create a Technology Bill of Rights for People with Disabilities to ensure our increasingly technology-dependent world is accessible and inclusive for all.
Special Education: How would you propose to strengthen the IDEA when it is reauthorized so that it truly fulfills its stated purpose of preparing children with disabilities for post-secondary education, employment, and independent living, including children with the most significant disabilities?
We have an obligation to provide students and teachers the resources they need to be successful. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed almost 45 years ago with a promise that the federal government would provide 40 percent of the funding needed to educate children with disabilities — a promise that it has yet to fulfill. In fact, the federal government has never provided even half of the 40 percent they promised, forcing states and local school districts to cover the remaining costs. It is long past time for the federal government to make good on that promise by reauthorizing and fully funding the IDEA.
Mental Health Services: What is your vision for a system of services to support people with mental illness?
I believe healthcare is a human right, and that includes mental health care. Right now, one in five Americans are affected by mental health conditions, and more than half of those affected are left untreated, either because they cannot access care or because they do not know that they need it. This is not just devastating for the families left coping with these illnesses unassisted, but it is devastating for our economy too. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that untreated mental illnesses cost about $100 billion a year in lost productivity. We must expand what we mean when we talk about healthcare and healthy families and healthy communities.
As President, I will fight for Medicare for All, which would allow every American to be able to see mental health providers like psychologists and psychiatrists without incurring any out-of-pocket costs. I will also immediately end efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and work to strengthen and expand it with every tool I have. It is past time we make access to affordable health care–including mental health care–to every person in this country.
Workforce Shortage: Please explain how you would address this immediate and growing workforce shortage?
We can start by offering competitive wages to direct support professionals who are too often overworked and under appreciated. Most direct support professionals are making around $10 an hour, roughly the same amount they were making a decade ago, while many less demanding jobs are offering higher pay. We can address this growing workforce shortage by restructuring Medicaid reimbursement rates to offer competitive wages starting at $15 an hour.