Bipartisan Legislation to Update Critical Workforce Programs on Its Way to the President

Last Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), by a bipartisan vote of 415-6.

WIOA is a bipartisan, bicameral compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee last July. The bill was developed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX).

WIOA, which now heads to the President for signature, reauthorizes and updates existing federal workforce development programs, including the Rehabilitation Act which provides for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services for people with disabilities. WIOA focuses VR outcomes on competitive, integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities through emphasis on coordination between VR and other agencies including school systems, extending the initial time period for VR supported employment services (from 18 to 24 months), and modification of eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant disabilities.

Over the last few years, reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act has been a top priority for The Arc’s public policy agenda. The Arc advocated for many improvements to the system now incorporated under WIOA. These improvements are consistent with its past and current position statements on Employment. Additionally, The Arc joined with other national disability groups to express strong support for WIOA.

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