We Need to do More to Support People with Disabilities.
As governor, I’ll work to make inclusion and equality a reality in Virginia.
An inclusive Virginia means one where all of our Commonwealth’s citizens have the same opportunity to live comfortably in our communities, learn in our schools, and earn a good wage for hard work. Virginia has lagged behind the rest of the nation in meaningfully integrating people with disabilities. We can and must do more, while continuing to stand up against contemptible policies coming from Washington.
The Trump administration’s budget proposal would cut more than $1.49 trillion from Medicaid , which would disproportionately impact people with disabilities, particularly children. Kids with disabilities are more likely to live in low-income households than other children, and many are insured by Medicaid. Some of the programs covered by Medicaid include early intervention and special education services, home and community-based care, and prescription drugs (like those for seizure disorders and heart defects).
In addition to Medicaid cuts, the Trump budget proposes over $70 billion in cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance, which provides income supplements to adults who have notable (and usually physical) disabilities that prevent them from working.
As governor, I will be a firewall against the hateful rhetoric and agenda of the Trump administration, designed to hurt the poorest and most vulnerable Americans. I will emphasize inclusion and equality in every aspect of my administration’s policies and priorities. To address the needs of people with disabilities, I will:
Expand Support for Students Receiving Special Education Services in Virginia’s Schools
The $880 billion cut to Medicaid proposed under the American Health Care Act of 2017 alone would have a devastating impact on special education programs. Speech, occupational, and physical therapy are covered by Medicaid, and slashing federal dollars for these essential programs is a cruel and short-sighted demonstration of the administration’s misplaced priorities.
As governor, I will work to shift more of Virginia’s budget into education. We need to put Virginia at the forefront of finding better ways to serve students with disabilities by ensuring that there are proper support staff levels in public schools (including aides for kids with disabilities), strengthening state investment in disabilities research, and exploring ways to incorporate assistive technology into individual education plans for students with disabilities.
Ensure that All Students are Treated with Dignity and Respect
We need to ensure that no matter your zip code or your unique needs, you have the same access to a safe and supportive environment, particularly within foundational institutions like our public education system. We must act to strengthen our state’s anti-bullying laws and work with school districts to determine the best methods of reporting, investigating, and recording incidents of bullying to better protect all of our Commonwealth’s students.
Beyond protecting students from their peers, we also need to ensure that school discipline is used appropriately, as students with disabilities are particularly impacted by excessive disciplinary practices in schools. Though students with disabilities make up 14 percent of Virginia’s school populations, they represent 30 percent of all students referred to the police and the court system.
Lack of understanding of the emotional needs and struggles of people with disabilities too often leads to inappropriate disciplinary responses. Though students with disabilities make up only 12 percent of the national student population, they represent 67 percent of those students subjected to restraint and seclusion as disciplinary tactics in schools. As governor, I will work with our educators, administrators, and law enforcement to end disproportionate responses to student behavior and ensure that suspension and expulsion are a last resort, particularly for young students.
Strengthen In-Home and Community-Based Care Options
The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to Medicaid will be devastating to people with disabilities. States will receive less money from the federal government for Medicaid and will be forced to either fund the difference or kick people with disabilities off healthcare. People with disabilities who rely on in-home care providers and community-based programs may lose funding for those services and be forced into institutions, tearing apart families and shaking the foundation of our communities.
We cannot allow this to happen. Representing my historically red home district, I lost my seat when I voted for the Affordable Care Act in Congress. I did not back down then, and I will not back down now. As governor, I will fight to protect and expand Medicaid — including the Affordable Care Act’s coverage for preexisting conditions and all 10 essential benefits — and work to adjust medical insurance implementation to better support in-home and community-based care services that allow adults to live independently where possible.
Improve Public Transportation like Paratransit
Access to transportation plays a huge role in overall quality of life for people with disabilities and older adults and too often determines whether these individuals can continue to live independently. As governor, I’ll work to expand transit options in rural communities, enhance free and discounted fare options for people with disabilities and older adults on existing transit routes, and increase access to paratransit. My administration will prioritize building out the infrastructure required to connect hardworking Virginians with available jobs.
Strengthen Dignified and Well-Paying Career Opportunities for Virginians with Disabilities
In Virginia, only 37.4 percent of the approximately 500,000 working-age Virginians with disabilities are employed. The federal hiring benchmark for employees with disabilities is 7 percent, but I think we can do better. During the first year of my governorship, I will issue an executive order committing to a goal of exceeding the federal benchmark for state employment of individuals with disabilities across all levels of government and in positions with state contractors.