day program for disabled

Pandemic Threatens Survival of Day Programs for Disabled

Q: How has the pandemic impacted day programs for the disabled?

For all the progress made on behalf of the disabled community since the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted 30 years ago, day-to-day life remains challenging for many. And the pandemic has only made things worse—especially for people who rely on day programs. 

First off, applying for disability benefits in Arizona is a complex and often time-consuming process that many people trust to a skilled disability benefits attorney. The federal government offers two different disability benefits which programs which, other than sharing the requirement of meeting a common definition of what constitutes a “disability” are quite different in their other criteria. 

In a nutshell, one program (SSDI) is for those who previously worked and can satisfy the work credits history requirement, while the other (SSI) is for those of extremely limited financial means. Being “disabled” is defined as “the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable impairment that has lasted or is expected to last a minimum of 12 months or result in death”. A comprehensive list of physical and mental impairments that generally qualify an applicant for benefits is the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. 

Whether an applicant is born with a qualifying impairment or becomes disabled later in life, they may end up needing disability support services like day programs. 

What is a day program?

Unlike a residential facility where residents live on a 24/7 basis, day programs generally provide adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities a place to go during the day to receive services such as:

  • exercise classes;
  • arts classes;
  • job training; and
  • other activities. 

The funding for day programs differs state by state, but generally, these programs are funded through the federal and state government.

As a result of the pandemic, many of the day centers were closed for several months and, even for those who were able to eventually reopen, there’s the continued struggle of dramatically-reduced attendance. Some folks can’t access staff or transportation to help them get to the program, while others may have pre-existing medical conditions that make the virus more dangerous and they fear going out in public at this time. Of course, even those centers that have re-opened may be threatened by future closure orders if cases surge in upcoming weeks and months. Not all centers offer virtual or remote programming and not all disabled people are able to access such programming if it is available due to lack of technology or challenges to using it, or other factors. 

As a result of these serious and prolonged revenue challenges, many day programs are at risk of having to close their doors if the financial situation doesn’t change through government assistance or other methods.

If you or a loved one needs assistance applying for federal disability benefits, or appealing the denial of benefits, or have any other questions, the disability attorneys at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

From our offices in Tempe, Phoenix, and Tucson, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona in all matters of disability law.