COVID-19 One Year Later: What Lies Ahead

March 19, 2021

This month marks one-year since our collective lives were turned upside down by the pandemic. 

Abruptly, we all needed to adapt as lockdowns were issued and programs were forced to close and then address new safety restrictions.  Priorities shifted in an instant.

Autism New Jersey prides itself on being able to help the autism community navigate complex system to access services and treatment.  The early weeks of the pandemic tested that, as we collectively sought clarity about rules and regulations that were in constant flux.  We did this all surrounded by great uncertainty, isolation and fear.

A year later, uncertainty still lingers, but there is reason for hope and optimism.  We continue to monitor important developments.

Reopening

The vaccine availability is providing a true glimmer of hope. We monitor the status of all services as state restrictions begin to be eased and more spaces and places reopen.  We remain cautiously optimistic and encourage all to continue to practice social distancing and continue to wear a mask.

As schools and day programs begin to open for on-site instruction and services, in-person hours will vary by district and program.  Check with your school or program for details on their plans.

Read more:  DDD Reopening Plans

Federal COVID-19 Relief

The most recent federal COVID-19 relief stimulus package, known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, allocates substantial federal resources to state governments, some of which will be dedicated to the autism and broader disability community.  These include emergency relief for home and community-based services (HCBS) and special education.  New Jersey’s funding decisions continue to unfold.

Stimulus Payments

$1,400 stimulus payments for dependents over the age of 16 is also included in the most recent relief package.  Previous rounds were only provided for dependents under age 17.  For those who receive SSI, if you receive a stimulus payment, you have 12 months to spend it down.  Remember, the 12-month mark is approaching for anyone who received a check during the first round of payments last April.

Getting Your Vaccine

Autism New Jersey’s recently announced partnership with the Visiting Nurse Association of Central New Jersey has seen intense demand, with more than 500 pre-registering in its first ten days.  The clinic has met an important need to accommodate those with special needs who would face considerable challenges at a public site.

Compensatory Services

There’s much still to be considered about how schools will make up for lost time and services, and there are no easy or immediate answers.

The New Jersey Department of Education released a memo on March 3, 2021, putting the responsibility of determining need for compensatory education services squarely on the shoulders of each child’s IEP team. As is the case with any aspect of the IEP process, parents can disagree with their Child Study Team’s decisions.  Affected students and parents have a two-year statute of limitations in which to resolve any dispute over compensatory education.

Additionally, students in their final year of transition from school to adult services likely lost a critical year.  Recognizing this, the NJ State Legislature is considering a bill that would require districts to provide an additional year for those with IEPs who are set to graduate this year or next.

Read More:  Compensatory Services

Virtual Resources

Last March, few would have imagined that our internet connections and devices would have emerged as so essential. As we eagerly await a return to in-person learning, service delivery is still occurring virtually.

Read more:  Virtual Learning Resources

We will also be keeping an eye on telehealth regulations to ensure continued access in whatever ways individuals with autism need access to treatment.

We’re still here for you!

We invite you to explore our library of articles for topic related to COVID-19 and reopening.  With rapidly changing information, we encourage you to connect with our 800.4.AUTISM Helpline for up-to-date information and resources.