the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Employment & Social Security

Raise the Wage Act of 2017 Will Eliminate Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities

Earlier today Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), Senator Patty Murray (WA), Congressman Bobby Scott (VA), and Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2017. NCIL supports this legislation and is thankful to its sponsors for taking a step in the right direction toward fair pay for workers, including workers with disabilities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingThere are several key provisions in this bill: the minimum wage would be incrementally increased to $15 an hour; tipped minimum wage would be phased out; and the ability of employers to pay employees with disabilities subminimum wage would be sunset. NCIL is very excited to see the inclusion of people with disabilities and the use of 14(c) waivers in this bill.

The use of 14(c) waivers to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage – sometimes just pennies per hour – is a practice NCIL has long opposed. Paying people lower wages on the basis of their disability is discrimination, and this discrimination is one of the factors that has led people with disabilities to experience double the rate of poverty as people without disabilities. This bill takes a practical approach to the issue by providing transition assistance for businesses that have relied on 14(c) certificates to ensure the successful shift to higher wages. Moreover, information on competitive integrated employment will be provided to people with disabilities employed under these programs. These are both important measures that will help to ensure a successful move away from subminimum wages and toward closing the massive wage gap.

People deserve to be paid fairly for their labor, and NCIL applauds the introduction of this legislation. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 is a step toward eliminating the inequality that low-wage workers face, and a shift toward fair pay for people with disabilities. This bill will benefit workers, but it will also benefit communities, the economy, and the very businesses that employ these workers. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 is a strong piece of legislation that we hope to see pass in the 115th Congress.

Join Our Partner, the LEAD Center, for a Webinar on ABLE Accounts

The LEAD Center, in collaboration with the ABLE National Resource Center, will be holding a webinar focused on how individuals with disabilities, and their families, can use ABLE Accounts to increase their financial stability and produce more positive employment outcomes.

LEAD Center Logo - www.leadcenter.org

The webinar will take place on April 27 at 3:00-4:30 p.m. EST and aims to demonstrate how provisions in the ABLE Act can enable people with disabilities to achieve competitive integrated employment, begin to save more than $2,000 without fear of loss of SSI and Medicaid eligibility and set longer term goals for financial stability and self-determined and self-directed lives.  [Read more…]

Research Finds Individuals with Disabilities More Likely to be Employed in States with Expanded Medicaid

Individuals with disabilities are significantly more likely to be employed if they live in a state that has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a new study has found. The findings show expansion has allowed individuals with disabilities to increase their employment and not be required to live in total poverty to maintain their Medicaid coverage. Expansion not only enables people with disabilities to work more, which research has shown leads to greater quality of life, but contradicts the argument some have made that Medicaid expansion would “kill jobs” or be prohibitively expensive.

“Our finding has two major health and policy implications. First, in Medicaid expansion states, working-age adults with disabilities no longer will be required to be impoverished and apply for federal disability benefits to be eligible for public health insurance coverage,” the researchers wrote. “Second, to the extent that increased earnings and asset accumulation lead to improved health outcomes and decreased dependence on cash assistance, the shift from means-tested Medicaid coverage to expansion coverage could result in long-term cost savings to state and federal governments.”

Debate about the Affordable Care Act has been intense and discussions of repealing or replacing it have intensified since the election. This article sheds a great deal of light on the importance of the ACA and its impact on Medicaid expansion across the nation, both for states that have opted to expand Medicaid and those still considering this option.

“Medicaid expansion is empowering people with disabilities to go to work, and we would hate to see that rolled back because we could lose those gains.” – Jean Hall  [Read more…]

Host A Screening of the Bottom Dollars Premier!

Sparking discussion and encouraging action on important issues is the goal of the new documentary, Bottom Dollars, produced by Rooted in Rights. The film exposes the sub-minimum wages and segregated work environments for people with disabilities through personal stories and expert interviews. It also presents clear employment alternatives with competitive wages and community inclusion.

The film is now available for free for Centers for Independent Living that wish to host screenings and hold panel discussions to help raise awareness and educate audiences about this important topic.

“I can’t say enough as to the importance of Centers for Independent Living screening the film, Bottom Dollars. For our staff it was a revelation as to the dirty secret that is sub-minimum wage. For our community, it was an awakening that despite the ADA and other prominent federal laws, people with disabilities are legally being deprived their right to earn pay commensurate with their work. Truly the film is a call to action.”

– Anastasia Baciagalupo, Westside Center for Independent Living, Los Angeles, CA

We encourage Centers for Independent Living across the country to host screenings of Bottom Dollars, and panel discussions to further the effort in transitioning to community-based employment and fair wages for ALL people.

To host a screening, fill out the form at BottomDollarsMovie.com to receive a free DVD.

You can also contact info@rootedinrights.org for more information.

Join Our Partner, the LEAD Center, for A Free Webinar: Customizing Employment: Success through Partnerships

LEAD Center Logo - www.leadcenter.orgJoin this webinar to gain information you can use about Customizing Employment: Success through Partnerships. This webinar is particularly relevant for people who are involved in implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), directly or as a partner. Participants will gain insight on approaches and strategies for customizing employment by leveraging the resources of the workforce system and its partners (e.g., vocational rehabilitation, education, developmental disabilities, behavioral health, Medicaid, etc.).

This webinar will highlight opportunities for collaborations that enable people who experience barriers to employment, including youth and adults with disabilities, to use Customized Employment strategies to achieve employment outcomes. This is the first webinar in the LEAD Center’s Customized Employment webinar series, which will share practices that are being successfully implemented in different parts of the country and will provide resources to assist participants in replicating Customized Employment approaches.  [Read more…]

Act Now! Tell Congress to Fully Fund Social Security’s Operating Budget

Just think about it: 575 days in limbo, struggling to pay bills, the stress mounting on your shoulders. 575 days of uncertainty, while basic needs go unmet. 575 days is far too long for our Social Security Administration to leave people’s lives in jeopardy.

But that’s the alarming reality. Today, a record one million Americans are waiting over 575 days on average for a hearing on their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability claims. These historic delays can be devastating. While waiting, many people struggle to pay their rent or mortgage, to cover their medical bills, and to put food on the table. Some lose their housing, and some even die.

Today’s backlog exists because Social Security’s operating budget has been cut by over 10 percent since 2010, while workloads have increased as the baby boomers age. In fact, Social Security has been forced to cut back on services across the board. Since 2010 Social Security has closed more than 60 field offices and 500 mobile offices.

Now, Congress is considering even more cuts. A funding bill in the House of Representatives would cut Social Security’s operating budget by over $250 million in 2017.

The impact would be even more devastating.

More people with disabilities would wait longer for a hearing on their Social Security and SSI claims. Under the House bill, the Social Security Administration would need to close all its offices for two weeks, since all employees would be furloughed. And a hiring freeze would lead to longer wait times and delays in all parts of our Social Security retirement, survivors’, and disability system. The Senate version of the bill provides slightly more funding, but still fails to address many critical agency resource needs.

Social Security should be there for us when we need it.

That’s why we need you to contact your Members of Congress and tell them to fully fund the Social Security Administration.

President Obama has requested (PDF) funding for 2017 that would allow Social Security to begin reducing the disability claims backlog and to reduce other agency service delays.

Call your Members of Congress. Tell them:

  • I urge you to vote to fully fund the Social Security Administration’s operating budget, at the levels requested in President Obama’s 2017 budget.
  • Today, over 1 million people with disabilities are waiting over 575 days on average for a hearing on their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability claims. This is an all-time high. Most people have little to no income while waiting for a hearing, and run the risk of financial ruin and worsening health the longer they wait.
  • Social Security’s operating budget has been reduced by 10 percent from 2010 levels. Any further cuts will lead to even longer, more devastating waits and reduced service to the public.
  • Americans cannot afford a Social Security Administration that is underfunded and understaffed.
  • Please ensure that Social Security’s operating budget is fully funded for 2017 at levels the President has requested.

ODEP’s Campaign for Disability Employment Policy Twitter Chat – Working Together: How Businesses Can Support Career Success for Youth with Disabilities

Join the Campaign for Disability Employment on Thursday, July 28 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern for a Twitter chat on “How Businesses Can Support Career Success for Youth with Disabilities.” Held in honor of the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the chat will serve as a prelude to this October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) by highlighting why “inclusion works” for the current generation of youth and young adults with disabilities who are either transitioning to or just starting out in the workforce. The chat will explore what today’s post-ADA generation of youth with disabilities see as key to their workplace success—and the important role that employers can play in helping them achieve it. To participate in this important Twitter conversation, please use the hashtag #CDEYouth.

Join Our Partner, The LEAD Center, for A Twitter Chat: Promoting Inclusive Career Pathways

Thursday, June 30, 2016; 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Eastern

Join the LEAD Center on June 30th for an inaugural Twitter chat on Promoting Inclusive Career Pathways!

LEAD Center Logo - www.leadcenter.orgOver the next several months, the LEAD Center will focus on strategies and practices to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, and others who face barriers to employment, in career pathways initiatives. The goal of this Twitter chat is to give you the opportunity to inform our work, either by posing questions you’d like answered, letting us know about your successes, or identifying barriers.

To join the Twitter chat, use the hashtag #LEADChat or visit the LEAD Center’s Twitter page (@LEADCtr).

If you’re new to Twitter chats, this step-by-step guide will help you learn the basics. Twitter Chats 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Joining a Twitter Chat.

EEOC Issues New Resource Document Addressing Issues Related to Leave and Disability

Source: EEOC

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a new resource document that addresses the rights of employees with disabilities who seek leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The document is entitled Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Disability charges filed with the EEOC reached a new high in fiscal year 2015, increasing over 6 percent from the previous year. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations that allow people with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs, unless it would pose an undue hardship for the employer.

One troubling trend the EEOC has identified in ADA charges is the prevalence of employer policies that deny or unlawfully restrict the use of leave as a reasonable accommodation. These policies often serve as systemic barriers to the employment of workers with disabilities. They may cause many workers to be terminated who otherwise could have returned to work after obtaining needed leave without undue hardship to the employer. EEOC regulations already provide that reasonable accommodations may include leave, potentially including unpaid leave that exceeds a company’s normal leave allowances. Read more at eeoc.gov.

Invitation to Participate: Diversity Partners Survey

You are the expert!

As an employment service professional, we know that you have a lot to say about working with employers and supporting jobseekers, including individuals with disabilities. We want to learn from you!

Logo - Diversity PartnersPlease help us better understand the successes and challenges that you experience in your job by completing our anonymous survey. It will take approximately 20 minutes.

Why are we asking you to do this? And who is asking?

  • We are the Diversity Partners Project of the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
  • We are developing an online learning tool for professionals like you to support your work.
  • The Diversity Partners tools and resources will provide strategies to help you and your organization develop strong relationships with business and better support jobseekers with disabilities.
  • We need to learn about your real-life experiences to make these tools and resources the best they can be. For you.

Your time is valuable! As a token of our appreciation for your completion of the survey, you may choose to enter into a drawing to win an iPad Mini. More information on this is provided at the end of the survey.

Participation in the survey is completely voluntary and anonymous. Your answers to open-ended questions may be used verbatim in Diversity Partners materials, but with no identifying information. There are no anticipated risks associated with your decision to participate in the survey. Funding for this project comes from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). If you have any questions concerning the survey, please contact Carolina Harris: charris@cornell.edu.