Normally, almost every weekday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., you can see lobbyists and members of the thousands of advocacy and awareness groups walking the halls of the House and Senate office buildings. They have meetings with congressional staff, grab lunch in the cafeterias, and often wear matching t-shirts and pins touting the cause they are championing.
Right now, Washington, D.C. is a ghost town. The streets and sidewalks are empty, and even congressional staff are working from home. This is why we transitioned what was going to be an exciting three-day in-person Advocacy Forum to being a fully online event. Members of Congress and their staff said, “We still want to hear from you about what matters to your community, but right now we can only do that virtually.”
So, the Amputee Coalition team converted the whole Forum into a virtual event, and it was a really wonderful, engaging experience. More than 300 people registered for the Forum, and our educational sessions and remarks from guest speakers were well attended and sparked lively discussion and Q&A sessions.
From the Amputee Coalition, President and CEO Mary Richards and Chief Policy and Programs Officer Dan Ignaszewski led the informational sessions for attendees by talking about the power of advocacy and what federal government issues are most important for the limb loss and limb difference community right now. Advocacy expert Raissa Downs from the government relations firm Tarplin, Downs & Young spoke about the current climate on Capitol Hill as it’s negotiating COVID-19 relief packages all while planning the budget and programs for the upcoming fiscal year. Grassroots advocacy expert Matthew Zablud from Beekeeper Group shared advice about how to talk about our policy issues so that lawmakers will listen. And, Health and Human Services Department senior official Laura Trueman spoke to attendees about HHS’ commitment to the National Limb Loss Resource Center®, the President’s health care efforts, and asked for community feedback related to Administration priorities.
On the final day of the Forum, advocates sent hundreds of emails to their Senators and Representatives, calling for $4 million in funding support for the National Limb Loss Resource Center® for Fiscal Year 2021 (which starts October 1, 2020) and highlighted the importance of ensuring access to care for the community. Feedback from congressional offices has been positive, and we’re looking forward to continuing to educate lawmakers about our community’s needs in the months to come as they finalize the budget they’re working on.
Later in the year, our advocates will reach out to Members of Congress about the access-to-care issues that people with limb loss and limb difference experience so that our community will be able to get the care they need across their lifespan.
You can add your voice to ours and educate lawmakers and their staff about living with limb loss or limb difference. To learn more about the Amputee Coalition’s advocacy program, visit our website, and sign up for Lead Advocate training.