2020 Presidential Primary Candidate Survey on Disability
Kamala Harris’ Responses
Employment: What are your views on paying a subminimum wage based on disability?
People with disabilities have the right to work a job that pays the minimum wage or higher–absolutely nothing less. That’s why I am a proud co-sponsor of the Raise the Wage Act, which would eliminate the subminimum wage and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers. Eliminating the subminimum wage is about ensuring justice and equality, and it’s past time we get it done.
As we fight for just wages, we also must fight for increased opportunity. We’ve made so much progress since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, but too often in America, people with disabilities are left out of the workforce or forced to take under-stimulating jobs. We need to do more. That’s why as president, I will fight to ensure students with disabilities have adequately funded classrooms, expand access to integrated employment opportunities, and appoint an Attorney General who will prioritize enforcement of the ADA. We can reduce the unemployment rate for people with disabilities without the injustice of sacrificing fair pay.
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?
Whether it is a special-purpose computer or a prosthetic, assistive technologies are crucial to helping people with disabilities live at home and fully engage with their communities. We must ensure these technologies are available to all people who need them. One reason I support Medicare for All is because it will help expand access to assistive technology by creating a comprehensive healthcare program available to all Americans, including those with disabilities. Medicare for All will cover long-term support services, reduce prescription drug prices, prioritize community-based services, and end copays and out of pocket costs.
Making sure people with disabilities get the assistive technology they need is key to building a more inclusive America, and we must pay attention to all the barriers they face to accessing them. For example, when natural disasters strike, not only is it harder for people with disabilities to evacuate, but when they do it often means leaving services like Medicaid behind, which is how many people afford assistive technologies. We should provide uninterrupted access to Medicaid services across state lines so that people impacted by disasters continue to be able to access assistive technologies. That’s why I have co-sponsored the Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA) and will fight to sign that bill into law as president.
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?
I believe we have a responsibility to ensure all of our students have access to high quality education. To do that, our schools must be equipped to spark a love for learning in children with disabilities and prepare them for post-secondary education, employment, and independent living. That means finally meeting the federal government’s commitment to fully fund the IDEA. I am a co-sponsor or the IDEA Full Funding Act in the Senate because I believe it is simply unacceptable that the federal government has failed to meet the needs of our children. As president, I intend to make it right and sign the legislation into law.
Mental Health Services: What is your vision for a system of services to support people with mental illness?
In America today, one in five people experiences a mental health incident in their lifetime. This is an epidemic that too many are left to face on their own. To address it, I believe we must drastically increase affordability and access to mental health care in all communities.
First, we need to ensure mental health services are affordable for every American, not just a luxury for the wealthy. That’s why I support Medicare for All, which will provide comprehensive coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment services with no copays, premiums, or deductibles.
But ensuring mental health services are affordable isn’t enough. We also must ensure every American can access those services no matter where they live. Today in America, more than 120 million people live in an area with a shortage of mental health professionals, including many in New Hampshire. That’s why I introduced the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act, which would utilize telemedicine to ensure Americans in rural and under-served areas can receive care. I also introduced the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act, which would incentivize mental health professionals to practice in those areas.
Workforce Shortage: Please explain how you would address this immediate and growing workforce shortage?
When people talk about the future of work in America they often ignore the fact that we already know what a large part of that future will look like: It will be home care workers and other direct support professionals.
As our population ages, we must finally recognize the value and dignity in this work. That’s how we address this shortage. That’s why I plan to introduce a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act in the Senate, a sweeping proposal to strengthen protections, increase supports, and finally raise wages for home care workers.
We also must recognize this work is often done informally by parents, grandparents, spouses, and other caretakers. They need support too. That’s why as president, I’ll fight to finally make paid family and medical leave a reality in America, and strengthen Social Security to ensure the hard work of family giving is included when determining retirement benefits.