The Arc Applauds Passage of the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act
The following summary is from Disability Scoop on the passage of the Workforce
Innovation and Opportunity Act. Employment First is moving forward. Also see s
tatement from The Arc as well.
A bill that would significantly limit young people with disabilities from entering
sheltered workshop programs is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 415 to 6 Wednesday to approve the
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Included in the bill are major changes
to the path from school to work for those with disabilities.
Specifically, the measure would prohibit individuals age 24 and younger from
working jobs that pay less than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour unless
they first try vocational rehabilitation services, among other requirements.
What’s more, the legislation would require state vocational rehabilitation
agencies to work with schools to provide “pre-employment transition services” to
all students with disabilities. And, such agencies must allocate a minimum of 15
percent of their federal funding to help individuals with disabilities in transition
“under the measure.
While the bill mandates that most young people try competitive employment
before they could work for less than minimum wage, there are exceptions for
those deemed ineligible for vocational rehabilitation and to allow individuals
already earning so-called subminimum wage to continue to do so.
“This bipartisan compromise will help workers, including workers with disabilities,
access employment, education, job-driven training and support services that
give them the chance to advance their careers and secure the good jobs of the
future,” Obama said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who spearheaded the components of the
legislation specific to people with disabilities, called the changes
“groundbreaking” and said they will “raise prospects and expectations for
Americans with disabilities so that they receive the skills and training necessary
to succeed in competitive, integrated employment.”
Nonetheless, the issue of submininum wage remains highly contentious within the
disability community, with some advocates arguing the legislation does not go far
enough while others say moving away from sheltered workshops may simply
leave people with disabilities fewer options for meaningful daytime activity.
The Arc Applauds Passage of the Workforce Innovation
and Opportunity Act
Posted on July 11, 2014 by The Arc
The Arc released the following statement applauding the passage of the
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). 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 in July of 2013. The proposal 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).
“Everyone should have the opportunity to earn a competitive salary while
contributing to their community, which is why we are thrilled with the passage of the
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The Arc applauds the bill’s focus on
integrated, competitive employment for individuals with disabilities, and on essential
transition services for youth with disabilities who need them to attain and hold a job.
We are grateful to the Members of Congress who developed and supported this
important legislation and stood up for individuals with disabilities who want to work,
but need additional supports to reach their career goals,” said, Peter Berns, CEO
of The Arc.
The Arc joined with other national disability groups to express strong support for
WIOA. Congress last reauthorized the workforce investment programs under WIOA
Over the last few years, reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, including
the vocational rehabilitation (VR) services under the Rehabilitation 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, consistent with its past
and current position statements on Employment.
In general WIOA focuses vocational rehabilitation (VR) outcomes on competitive,
integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for
youth with disabilities. WIOA also provides increased emphasis on coordination
between VR and other agencies including school systems, extends the initial time
period for VR supported employment services (from 18 to 24 months), and modifies
eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423