Washington, D.C. – At a time when 70% of working age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce and more than 9 million working age Americans with disabilities are living on government benefits, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on bi-partisan, bicameral legislation to increase opportunities for people with disabilities. Leaders from the House and Senate have introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The Senate passed WIOA on June 25th by a vote of 95-3. The House is scheduled to take up WIOA on the suspension calendar Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
The suspension calendar is used in the House of Representatives to quickly pass (usually) non-controversial bills. Suspension refers to suspending normal Congressional procedure rules. In this streamlined process, a bill that comes up may be debated by Congress for up to 40 minutes, but may not be amended and requires two-thirds of the Representatives to vote in favor of passage. A bill on the suspension calendar will usually pass by “voice vote.”
To find out how your Representatives and Senators will vote on this important legislation and to ask for their position paper on jobs for people with disabilities, call the Congressional switchboard at 1-202-224-3121 or 202-225-3121 and ask to speak with their office.
- To maximize opportunities for individuals with disabilities, including individuals with significant disabilities, for competitive integrated employment,
- To increase employment opportunities and employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities, including through encouraging meaningful input by employers and vocational rehabilitation service providers on successful and prospective employment and placement strategies, and
- To ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that youth with disabilities and students with disabilities who are transitioning from receipt of special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1400 et. seq.) and receipt of services under section 504 of this Act are either continuing their education or employed in competitive integrated employment independently.
“Polls show that the majority of people with disabilities want to work. Hiring people with disabilities can also make companies more profitable. Nationally Walgreens, hospitals, AMC theaters, EY and others have found this to be true as employees with disabilities, when aligned with their talents and interests, are productive, loyal and successful,” commented Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbilityUSA, a non profit working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream. Recently the organization released a major report on jobs for people with disabilities. “Hiring Americans with disabilities can be win-win-win for people with disabilities, employers and taxpayers alike. The U.S. spends billions each year on benefits to people who, in most cases, would rather have a hand up than a hand out. They need to be included in employment because of the talents they bring to the table. Their work and commitments to success can be a part of how the U.S. can compete successfully.”
The White House has already indicated support for the bill, as has the National Governors Association. If passed, this bill will build on the work done over the past two years by the National Governors Association (NGA) and individual governors who are shifting dramatically to “employment first” policies. The NGA has put employment of people with disabilities at the center of their work with both “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities” as well as the new focus, “America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs” on workforce development.
The new legislation will streamline programs and make them more accountable to people with disabilities and taxpayers alike. Indeed, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) identified 45 programs that supported employment for people with disabilities in fiscal year 2010, reflecting a fragmented system of services. The programs were administered by nine federal agencies and overseen by even more congressional committees. All programs overlapped with at least one other program in that they provided one or more similar employment service to a similar population—people with disabilities. However, there was little coordination or collaboration and only 10 of the 45 programs reported that an evaluation had been conducted the last 5 years before the GAO report was issued in 2012. Just one of the 45 programs (Job Corps) reported conducting an impact study—a study that would most clearly show whether the program (and not other factors) was responsible for improved employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
Said Mizrahi, “We don’t see much bipartisan agreement in Washington these days, but thanks to Congresspeople Virginia Foxx (R-NC), George Miller (D-CA) and others, this is completely bipartisan.” The bill was previously known in the House as the SKILLS Act and is supported by a broad group of leaders and organizations. According to the U.S. Census 56 million Americans have disabilities and people with disabilities (PwDs) represent 18.6% of our population.
For more information contact: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi at JenniferM@RespectAbilityUSA.org