Notice of Proposed Rule Making

Last week, the anticipated Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), as related to implementation of the changes to the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program contained in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, were posted in the Federal Register. Two different NPRMs apply to the VR program, the first related to program changes in several areas, can be accessed here. The second, related to State Supported Employment Services Program, and Limitations on the Use of Subminimum Wage can be found here. Public comments are due June 15, 2015. Comments can be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by US Postal Service to: Janet LaBreck, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW., Room 5086 Potomac Center Plaza (PCP), Washington, DC 20202-2800.

National Governors Association Issues Report on Employment for People with Disabilities

At the National Governors Association (NGA) meeting on August 2, 2013, outgoing NGA Chair Governor Jack Markell (DE) wrapped up his year-long Chair’s Initiative, “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.” The initiative focused on “the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities and the role that both state government and business can play in facilitating and advancing opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.” At the NGA meeting, Governor Markell released a final Blueprint for Governors summarizing the initiative’s activities, findings, and recommendations. The blueprint presents five topic areas with examples of actions governors can take in each area:
  • Make disability employment part of the state workforce development strategy.
  • Find and support businesses in their efforts to employ people with disabilities.
  • Be a model employer by increasing the number of people with disabilities working in state government.
  • Prepare youth with disabilities for careers that use their full potential, providing employers with a pipeline of skilled workers.
  • Make the best use of limited resources to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Governor Markell appeared recently on the PBS NewsHour to talk about the initiative and Blueprint.
Additionally, incoming NGA Chair Governor Mary Fallin (OK) has announced that her Chair’s Initiative will also focus on employment: “America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs.”

Settlement Agreement Reached with the State of Rhode Island and the City of Providence Resolving Violations of the ADA

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) reached an interim settlement agreement with the State of Rhode Island and the city of Providence resolving violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement addresses the unnecessary segregation of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in a sheltered workshop and segregated day activity service program and the placement of students with I/DD at risk of unnecessary segregation in those programs. The settlement impacts about 200 Rhode Islanders with I/DD who have received services in the segregated programs. The state will no longer fund the sheltered workshop or segregated day program and the city will stop funding the in-school sheltered workshop. Over the next year, individuals will receive person-centered career development planning, transitional services, supported employment, and integrated day services with the goal of working 20 hours per week at competitive wages.

President Obama releases FY 2014 spending plan

President Obama released his Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget request on April 10. Overall, the President’s Budget would cancel the across-the-board cuts for FY 2014-2021 through targeted spending cuts and increased revenues and reduce the deficit over the long term.

While the President’s Budget would not make structural changes to Medicaid and Social Security, it does propose a change that would result in benefit cuts in Social Security programs. It includes a plan to use a different measure of inflation, known as the “chained” Consumer Price Index (CPI), to calculate cost of living increases. The Arc remains concerned that the measures to limit the effect of this change on very low income persons would still result in benefit cuts for many people with disabilities.

Most disability-related discretionary programs would be level funded at the FY 2012 level in the President’s Budget (it is not possible to say how the proposed FY 2014 funding compares to the FY 2013 amounts as federal agencies are still in the process of determining how they will allocate the approximate 5.2 % funding cuts within affected programs). Proposed increases and decreases from FY 2012 funding levels for disability-related programs are listed below:

Dept. of HHS – Center on Birth Defects & DDs +$0.1 million
Dept. of HHS – Natl. Institute of Child Health and Human Dev. +$20 million
Dept. of ED – IDEA- Part C Early Intervention +$20 million
Dept. of ED – IDEA- Part D National Programs – State Personnel Development
+$1.1 million
Dept. of ED – Research in Special Education +$10 million
Dept. of ED – IDEA- Part D National Programs – Personnel Preparation -$2.9 million
Dept. of ED – State Assistive Technology Programs -$2 million
Dept. of ED – Voc. Rehabilitation State Grant +$180.4 million
Dept. of ED – Natl. Inst. on Disability & Rehab Research +$1.2 million
Dept. of ED – Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education +$256.5 million
Dept. of Labor – Office of Disability Employment Policy +$3.5 million
Dept. of HUD – Section 811 Supportive Housing PRA Demo -$78 million

In addition, there are a few noteworthy changes proposed in the President’s Budget:

  • Reduction of funding for new supported housing units. A significant reduction is proposed for the Section 811 housing program for persons with disabilities Project Rental Assistance (PRA) Demonstration. The President’s Budget provides for only $20 million to develop 700 new units of supported housing, down from $98 million in FY 2012 to develop 3,500 new units of supported housing.
  • Use of the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) to fund existing programs. The PPHF was created by the health reform law to substantially expand investments in our public health system. Unfortunately, some of the funding in the past has been used to pay for other programs. The President’s request also proposes to use the PPHF to fund other programs. The President’s FY 2014 Budget would take 52% of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities funding from the PPHF, placing its long term funding at risk.
  • Consolidation of Education programs. Several Education Department programs would be consolidated, including the Postsecondary Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, into the Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education, and the Supported Employment State Grant into Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants.

Learn more about the FY 2014 President’s Budget at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/presidential-budget-2014/

House Approves the SKILLS Act

The House approved the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803; introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)) by a vote of 215 to 202. The legislation would consolidate 35 major workforce development programs, include most major programs authorized under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), into a Workforce Innovation Fund that would provide funds to state and local workforce investment boards for employment and training programs. States would have the option of consolidating additional programs into the Workforce Innovation Fund; however, states could not consolidate Vocational Rehabilitation programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act. The bill would also consolidate the Projects with Industry and State Supported Employment Services Programs into the existing Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) State Grants program. The Arc opposes this legislation. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.

House Introduces and Marks Up Legislation to Reauthorize WIA

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803; introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)). The legislation would consolidate major workforce development programs, include most major programs authorized under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), into a Workforce Innovation Fund that would provide funds to state and local workforce investment boards for employment and training programs. Additionally, the bill would consolidate the Projects with Industry and State Supported Employment Services Programs into the existing Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) State Grants program. States would have the option of consolidating additional programs into the Workforce Innovation Fund; however, states could not consolidate Vocational Rehabilitation programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act. The bill is similar to legislation introduced by Rep. Foxx in the 112th Congress. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce in addition to the Committees on the Judiciary, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, Energy and Commerce, and Transportation and Infrastructure. The Arc opposes this legislation.

The Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up the bill on March 6. The 23 Republicans on the Committee voted to approve the bill; however, the Democrats on the Committee walked out mid-debate in protest of what they viewed as a partisan process. Visit the Committee web site for more information and archived video.

Department of Justice agreement with North Carolina

The Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into an Olmstead agreement with North Carolina that will reform the state’s system for serving individuals with mental illness. Over the next eight years, the state will provide community-based supportive housing for 3,000 individuals living in adult care homes. The state will provide supported employment services to 2,500 individuals, create a crisis service system, and expand access to mental health services.

National Council on Disability Report on Subminimum Wage and Supported Employment

The National Council on Disability (NCD) has issued a report, Subminimum Wage and Supported Employment. The report is the result of a review over the last year by NCD of the use of the subminimum wage for persons with disabilities, authorized under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In its report, NCD recommends phasing out the subminimum wage and makes other policy recommendations designed to increase opportunities for integrated employment at or above the minimum wage for people with disabilities. NCD is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.

Department of Justice Issues Oregon Findings Letter

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a findings letter on its investigation of employment and vocational services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Oregon pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The letter notifies the state of its failure to comply with the ADA, concluding that Oregon fails to provide employment and vocational services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. DOJ’s five major findings are:

  1. Sheltered workshops are segregated settings;
  2. The majority of Oregon’s employment and vocational services are delivered in sheltered workshops;
  3. Oregon administers its employment and vocational service system in a manner that segregates persons with disabilities in sheltered workshops;
  4. Persons with disabilities exiting the school system are at risk of placement in sheltered workshops; and
  5. Serving persons with disabilities in integrated employment settings can be reasonably accommodated.

DOJ recommends two remedial measures. First, DOJ recommends that the state “develop sufficient supported employment services to enable those who are unnecessarily segregated in sheltered workshops to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.” Second, DOJ recommends that the state implement an effective discharge and transition plan to transition people in workshops into integrated employment.

Home and Community Based Waivers and Pre-vocational Services

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an Informational Bulletin to update its Waiver Technical Guide Version 3.5 and clarify its position on employment and employment related services. In the update, CMS emphasized the importance of competitive work for people with disabilities and highlighted its goal to promote integrated employment options through the waiver program. The TA Guide added a new core service definition by splitting supported employment into two definitions – individual and small group supported employment. It clarified that volunteer work and other unpaid integrated community employment activities are pre-vocational services, not supported employment services. The TA guide also clarified that pre-vocational services are designed to help obtain competitive employment and are time-limited although no specific limit is given in the update.