2020 Presidential Primary Candidate Survey on Disability
Bernie Sanders’ Responses
Employment: What are your views on paying a subminimum wage based on disability?
Despite the progress that has been made over the past two decades, we unfortunately still live in a world where people with disabilities have fewer work opportunities, are often forced to work in sheltered workshops where they are paid as little as 2 cents per hour, and experience much higher rates of poverty.
When Bernie is in the White House, we will end the subminimum wage for individuals with disabilities so that all persons with disabilities are paid a livable wage. In addition, we will enact a federal jobs guarantee that will pay living wages to all persons with disabilities who want to work through the program.
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?
Bernie believes that as a nation, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that all Americans have the supports and services they need to live at home, participate in their community, and to age with dignity and respect. Under Medicare for All, health care will be guaranteed as a right, including assistive technology and home and community based services and supports. The program will also provide transportation to and from health services for those who need it.
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?
Over 40 years ago, the federal government made a promise to school districts around the country to fund 40 percent of the cost of special education. It is an understatement to point out that the federal government has not come close to keeping this promise.
Because of inadequate federal funding, property taxes around the country are increasing while kids with disabilities are not getting the attention they deserve. The IDEA helps about 6.5 million children with disabilities, but because of a chronic lack of funding there is a shortage of special education teachers and physical and speech therapists, and the turnover rate among them is incredibly high.
As president, Bernie Sanders will:
– Provide mandatory funding to ensure that the federal government provides at least 50 percent of the funding for special education.
– Guarantee children with disabilities an equal right to high-quality education by enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
– Increase educational opportunities for persons with disabilities, including an expansion in career and technical education opportunities to prepare students for good-paying community employment.
– Address the shortage in special education teacher recruitment, training opportunities, workload, and pay for special education teachers.
– Triple Title I funding to ensure students with disabilities are able to get quality education regardless of the zip code they live in.
Mental Health Services: What is your vision for a system of services to support people with mental illness?
We are experiencing a crisis in mental health treatment in this country. Bernie’s Medicare for All plan would address this crisis by providing comprehensive coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment services as well as prescription drugs. Mental healthcare, under Medicare for All, will be free at the time of service, with no co-payments that can be a barrier to treatment.
Workforce Shortage: Please explain how you would address this immediate and growing workforce shortage?
We need 7.8 million home health and personal care aides by 2026 to meet our needs. In order to meet the growing demand, we need to make direct care a quality job that pays a living wage. Direct care workers, who are overwhelmingly women – in particular, women of color and immigrants, too often do not receive health insurance through their employment. We will guarantee them high-quality health care under my Medicare-for-All, single payer health insurance system.
We must ensure our care workers are afforded a living wage and a safe working environment. Bernie will provide strong protections for collective bargaining, workers’ rights, and workplace safety for all workers, including caregivers. We will provide our caregivers guaranteed vacation leave, sick leave, and family and medical leave. And we will enact the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act to compensate the more than 43 million unpaid caregivers for their work.
We will also address our health workforce shortage crisis by increasing funding for the National Health Service Corps, which provides scholarships and loan repayment to clinicians working in underserved communities.
We will bring more providers to underserved communities by increasing federal funding for community health centers, which currently serve over 28 million people in underserved communities.
Bernie’s Medicare for All plan requires an evaluation of health disparities, including geographic disparities, and a plan for addressing the disparities found in the evaluation. It also creates an Office of Primary Health to figure out how to increase access to care, including how to train the workforce we need to address these disparities.
Bernie has also worked to expand access to caregiving programs provided by the Older Americans Act (OAA). As you know, OAA provides critical funding for a wide variety of social and legal services such as home-delivered meals, employment opportunities for low-income seniors, and caregiver support. The National Family Caregiver Support Program provides caregiver counseling, training, support groups, and respite care so caregivers can have a break for a few hours to help avoid burnout.