McMorris Rodgers, Scott Introduce Bill to Help Workers with Disabilities Access Competitive and Meaningful Employment

Apr 06, 2021
Disabilities
Press

Washington, D.C. (April 6, 2021) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) introduced the bipartisan Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act to ensure that states and employers help workers with disabilities transition into fully integrated and competitive jobs.

The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act provides states, service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with the resources to create competitive integrated employment service delivery models while phasing out subminimum wages for workers with disabilities, which are currently allowed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, over a five-year period.

“Disability employment is the next policy frontier to empower people with disabilities to live full and independent lives,” said Rodgers. “A job is so much more than just a paycheck, it’s what gives us dignity, purpose, and the opportunity for a better life. I look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure more people – who are ready, willing, and able to work – find employment.”

Under Section 14(c), employers can apply for special certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. There is no minimum floor for the hourly wage that an employer can pay an individual with a disability under these certificates.

“Today, federal law continues to deny access to opportunity for many workers with disabilities.  It is long past time for Congress to phase out the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities and expand access to fulfilling employment and economic self-sufficiency,” said Scott. “By fostering collaboration between employers and services providers, this legislation makes clear that it is not only possible, but beneficial to invest in fully integrated and competitive jobs for people with disabilities. We must take this next step to ensure that every worker can succeed in the workplace and earn a fair wage.”

In 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for phasing out the 14(c) subminimum wage, finding that it has “limited people with disabilities participating in the program from realizing their full potential while allowing providers and associated businesses to profit from their labor.”  Research also confirms that, when individuals with disabilities transition to competitive employment, they are better able to achieve financial independence and spend time engaging in their community.

While seven states have either phased out workshops that pay subminimum wages or are in the process of doing so, a recent GAO report underscores that many employers and workers with disabilities do not have the appropriate resources or services to transition to competitive integrated employment.  The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act specifically provides states, service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with resources and technical assistance to help workers with disabilities transition away from sheltered workshops and into community employment settings.

The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act:

  • Creates a competitive state grant program to assist states to transition all 14(c) certificate holders to models that support competitive, integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. States will be able to apply for these transformation grants and must establish an advisory committee of key stakeholders, including employers, organizations specializing in employment for individuals with disabilities, Medicaid agencies, AbilityOne contractors, individuals with disabilities and their families, and vocational rehabilitation agencies. States that successfully complete a grant will be eligible for a 25% increase in the allotment for supported employment for individuals with the most significant disabilities.
  • Creates a competitive grant program for current 14(c) certificate holders that are located in states that do not apply for the state grant, to transition their business models to support individuals with disabilities in competitive, integrated employment.
  • Immediately freezes the issuance of any new 14(c) certificates by DOL and phases out the use of existing 14(c) certificates over 5 years until employees are paid at least the federal minimum wage.
  • Establishes a technical assistance (TA) center to support all entities, even those not receiving the transformation grants, to transition to competitive integrated employment. The TA center, which will be funded by DOL, is tasked with disseminating information about best practices, lessons learned, and models for transition to all entities transitioning to competitive, integrated employment.
  • Requires reporting and evaluation on the progress of creating and expanding the service delivery structure to support workers with disabilities in competitive integrated settings and the inclusive wraparound services they receive when not working. States and 14(c) certificate holders will also be required to report on their grant activities, evaluate changes in employment for individuals with disabilities, report average wage information, and evaluate employer actions taken to comply with the phase out of 14(c) and transformation grants.

Click here for a fact sheet on the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act.

Click here to read the bill text.

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