New Brief Explores the Impact of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act on People with Disabilities

December 1, 2014 - |

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) published a brief on the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law by President Obama on July 22 of this year. WIOA is a bipartisan bill aimed at strengthening and modernizing America’s workforce, including for people with disabilities. WIOA reauthorizes federal investment in disability related job training and workforce development programs made possible through the Clinton-era Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The new law is designed to reduce some of the bureaucracy of the previous act through streamlining existing training programs and allowing greater local flexibility in implementation of training programs.

ICI’s new brief outlines how WIOA will impact people with disabilities as well as the agencies and individuals that provide employment services to individuals with disabilities. Major highlights of the brief include:

  • A much larger role for vocational rehabilitation (VR) in transition services from school to adult life. Under WIOA, 15% of public VR funds must now be used for transition services, specifically pre-employment transition services
  • Efforts intended to limit the use of sub-minimum wage. A new section added to the Rehabilitation Act requires a series of steps before young adults under the age of 24 can be placed in a job paying less than minimum wage.
  • Requirements for formal cooperative agreements between VR and state Medicaid and IDD agencies. VR must have in place agreements with those agencies responsible for long-term supports for people with disabilities.
  • Clear definitions for “customized employment” and “supported employment.” Customized employment is defined as “competitive integrated employment, for an individual with a significant disability and the business needs of an employer,” and “carried out through flexible strategies.”
  • Definition for “competitive integrated employment” as an optimal outcome. The WIOA now defines “competitive integrated employment” as full-time or part-time work at minimum wage or higher, with wages and benefits similar to those without disabilities performing the same work, and fully integrated with co-workers without disabilities. WIOA considers “competitive, integrated employment” as the optimal outcome.
  • Enhanced roles and requirements for the general workforce system and One-Stop Career Centers in meeting the needs of people with disabilities. Local workforce development boards will have to ensure that there are sufficient service providers in the local area to assist individuals with disabilities with their career and training needs. One-Stop Career Centers will have to assess physical and programmatic access on an annual basis.
  • A number of disability agencies will move from the Department of Education (DOE) to the Department of Health and Human Services. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (now referred to as the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research) and the Independent Living Program will move to the Administration on Community Living (ACL).
  • Changes in performance measures, with potentially major implications for VR. Under WIOA, core programs are subject to common indicators of performance including a) entering and retaining employment, b) median earnings, c) obtaining an educational credential, d) skill gains via post-secondary education and training, and e) effectiveness in serving employers. These performance measures are new for VR and changes in current performance measures will be key in the implementation stage.

WIOA will be implemented over the next two years. The next step will include publication of proposed regulations for public comment in January of 2015. All provisions (unless specifically noted in legislation) will go into effect on July 1, 2015.

Click here to download the full guide…