Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act News

Last week, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), Department of Education announced plans to hold two public meetings to seek comments about the proposed regulatory changes contained in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register on April 16, 2015. The hearings will provide an opportunity for the public to provide comment related to the NPRM which amends the Code of Federal Regulations Parts 361 (State Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program), 363 (State Supported Employment Services Program), and 397 (Limitations on Use of Subminimum Wage. The first meeting will be held on April 30, 2015 from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. in Washington, D.C. at the Department of Education. The second will be held May 20, 2015 from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. at the Department of Rehabilitation in Sacramento, CA. Speakers will likely have five minutes to provide comment in person, however written comments can be submitted using www.regulations.gov through June 15, 2015.

Additionally, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Department of Labor announced the next meeting of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. It will take place via webinar on Monday, May 11, 2015 from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. and Tuesday, May 12, 2015 from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. (EDT). If you wish to participate in the webinar, you must register here by May 4th. If you desire to address the committee during the public comment period on May 11 from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. (EDT), you must send your name, the organization you represent (if applicable) and additional materials to IntegratedCompetitiveEmployment@dol.gov or call David Berthiaume at (202)693-7887 by May 4th.

Department of Labor Announces Disability Employment Initiative Grants For Individuals with Disabilities Seeking Employment

Last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced $15 million in Disability Employment Initiative grants to assist youth and adults with disabilities seeking employment. The Disability Employment Initiative is a joint program of the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration and the Office of Disability Employment Policy. DOL anticipates awarding eight grants — ranging from $1.5 to $2.5 million — to be spent in a 42 month period. Funding will be provided to at least one project for each of the following three target populations: adults with disabilities (ages 18 and older); youth with disabilities (ages 14-24); and individuals with significant disabilities (ages 14 and older). Workforce agencies interested in applying for this funding should visit http://www.grants.gov. The deadline to apply is June 11, 2015.

Disability Employment Initiative to Provide $15M to State Workforce Agencies

Last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the availability of approximately $15 million in grants to state workforce agencies to develop flexible and innovative strategies to increase the participation of people with disabilities in existing career pathways programs in the public workforce system. These grants represent the fifth round of funding through the Disability Employment Initiative, a joint program of the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration and Office of Disability Employment Policy. Eligible applicants are public state workforce agencies. DOL anticipates awarding eight grants of between $1.5 and $2.5 million, to be spent over a 42-month period. Applications are due July 8, 2014. Learn more at grants.gov.

Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) starts October 1. NDEAM is a national campaign to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?”  The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Programs has created a toolkit to help organizations celebrate NDEAM.

New report aimed to enhance the employment of people with disabilities in the federal government

The Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy has released a new report, “Summary of Promising and Emerging Practices for Enhancing the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities.” The document identifies promising and emerging practices for advancing the recruitment, hiring, and retention of individuals with disabilities identified in 10 selected agency plans submitted under Executive Order 13548, Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals With Disabilities (issued July 26, 2010).

Webinar on Accessible Technology & Employment of People with Cognitive and Developmental Disabilities

On Thursday, August 2nd the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) will offer a live webinar on Accessible Technology’s Impact on the Employment of People with Cognitive and Developmental Disabilities. Presenters will address the current state of accessible technology for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities, as well as provide examples of the current and future use of these technologies in the workplace. Visit ODEP’s web site to learn more.

Department of Labor Announces “Employment First” Grants

Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez announced first-of-its-kind grant funding for four states under the “Employment First” initiative. The effort helps facilitate the full inclusion of people with the most significant disabilities into the workplace and community. Under the new Employment First State Leadership Mentor Program, the states of Iowa, Oregon, and Tennessee will receive grants to assist with planning, policy development, and capacity building. In addition to receiving technical assistance from national experts in employment of people with significant disabilities, these states also will receive assistance from officials in the state of Washington — which is receiving a grant for mentoring.

First Federal Agency Signs an Alliance with Office of Disability Employment Policy

The Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has signed its first federal agency alliance, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection. The alliance is intended to increase the agency’s hiring of people with disabilities, in accordance with Executive Order 13548.  ODEP’s Alliance Initiative, begun in 2006, enables organizations committed to improving disability workplace practices to work with ODEP to develop and implement model policies and initiatives that increase recruiting, hiring, advancing, and retaining employees with disabilities. Visit the Department of Labor website to learn more.

Department of Labor awards nearly $25 million to improve employment for people with disabilities

The Department of Labor (DOL) has awarded nearly $25 million in grants and other funding to improve the employment picture of the nation’s workers with disabilities. Seven states – California, Hawaii, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin – were provided a total of $21,166,560 under the Disability Employment Initiative to improve education, training, and employment opportunities and outcomes for youth and adults who are unemployed, underemployed, and/or receiving Social Security disability benefits. Additionally, DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy provided $3,787,000 in continued funding to five organizations managing consortia that develop models, provide technical assistance and share best practices to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.