After a marathon week of negotiating, Congress has wrapped up final deliberations and voted to pass a COVID-19 relief package for individuals, businesses, and local governments, which are continuing to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. On hold since May, when the House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act, Congress finally agreed to provide about $900 billion in aid as part of a massive 5,600-page year-end omnibus appropriations bill. That means the bill will fund both coronavirus relief and the federal government’s regular budget cycle, which began on October 1, 2020.

The 2020 elections are upon us and, unsurprisingly, the act of voting is dominating the headlines. With that in mind, here's a brief roundup of stories that caught our attention, with an emphasis on the voting experience for people with disabilities.

Thank you so much to everyone who was able to join the first AFB Town Hall on the impact of COVID-19 on access to healthcare, transportation, and voting for Americans who are blind or have low vision. A complete archive will be available soon, for anyone who missed the live conversation. As promised, here are some of the resources shared by the presenter and attendees:

Flatten Inaccessibility report cover - dark blue background with white text and a montage of photos. Research report September 2020, Impact of COVID-19 on Blind and Visually Impaired Adults in the United StatesAFB is immensely proud to release the report on the findings of the Flatten Inaccessibility Study.

The American Foundation for the Blind's Public Policy and Research Institute, working in coalition with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, wrote to the National Governors Association to express the needs of public transportation users with disabilities as states across the country implement reopening policies.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on returning to K-12 schools safely. Considering that students with disabilities are often left out of the conversation, it was exciting to hear that they were considered in multiple lines of questioning presented by the witnesses and the Senators themselves. From the witnesses, we learned that educators are deeply concerned about the digital divide, the health and safety of students and educators, and delivering high quality academics while making up for lost learning.

As schools around the country navigate how and when students might safely be able to return to school, given the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Foundation for the Blind encourages legislators, educators, administrators, superintendents, and parents to ask the following questions:

On May 8, 2020, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) joined forces with eight other national organizations to pen a letter to the Chairs and the Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension and the House Committee on Education and Labor. The letter is a request to Congress to continue supporting children who are blind or have low vision by opposing waivers that would affect the services that children receive and by providing additional funding to support students’ access to their education.

During this national period of quarantine due to the novel coronavirus, many US schools have instituted distance learning programs that allow students to continue their education at home. This change should prevent students from losing important academic skills—for example, in reading and math—and ensure that they are prepared to advance to the following grade in the fall.