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Disability Inclusive Employment Policy RRTC
Disability Inclusive Employment Policy Rehabilitation Research and Training Center Newsletter

January 2024 - Issue 12

Welcome

Welcome to the twelfth issue of the Disability Inclusive Employment Policy RRTC Newsletter. In this issue we introduce the fourth Season of the Reimagining Disability-Inclusive Employment Policy podcast series focusing on Long Covid and provide updates on relevant legislative and regulatory developments. 

Today’s unprecedented health, social, and economic challenges raised by the coronavirus pandemic require a retrospective, present-day, and prospective view of U.S. employment policy for individuals with disabilities. Over the two remaining years of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on “Disability Inclusive Employment Policy” (DIEP), we will continue to implement a series of studies that produce new data and evidence on policy levers to increase employment rates of persons with disabilities with the objective of informing current and future policy and program development. This project is a collaboration between Syracuse, Harvard, and Rutgers universities.

Invite others to receive this quarterly FREE newsletter to stay updated on the latest employment policy research related to advancing economic stability, and security for youth and adults with disabilities.

**NEW**

Let’s Get to Work: Reimagining Disability-Inclusive Employment Policy Podcast Season 4

View the podcast series web page 
web: disabilityinclusiveemployment.org/podcast-series/

Fourth DIEP Podcast Series Focuses on Understanding the Impact of Long COVID on Employment

The DIEP RRTC continues its investigation into the status and impact of Long COVID on individuals with disabilities and their employment status. This series of podcasts offers conversations with six experts with varied backgrounds and perspectives on COVID 19 and Long COVID from a legal, advocacy, public policy and research lens.  Millions of individuals have been impacted by Long COVID, which can adversely impact ability to work, the number of hours worked, and job performance. People with Long COVID may have different types and combination of symptoms that may emerge and persist over different lengths of time. Podcast summaries, resources and links are provided below.

Advocating for Long Haulers: Pandemic Patients founder Andrew Wylam discusses the reasons he created the organization, and his vision for future national efforts to address issues facing individuals with disabilities with Long COVID. The organization manages a COVID 19 Advocacy Center to connect individuals with Long COVID with policy makers in support of legislative proposals that will improve access to health services and expansion of family and medical leave policies. The organization also offers a Legal Assistance Network that provides attorneys who volunteer their time to assist individuals with Long COVID with such issues as disability discrimination in the workplace and access to social security disability benefits.

Accommodations in the Era of Long COVID:  Professor Yana Rodgers, Rutgers University and Professor Jennifer Cohen, Miami University discuss their collaborative research about Long COVID, disability and accommodation. Their research examines the prevalence of Long COVID across different demographic groups, and the extent with which workers with impairments associated with Long COVID have benefitted from remote work. People with pre-existing disabilities, women, sexual and gender minorities, individuals without college degrees and Hispanic people are more likely to experience Long COVID. These groups are also more likely to be clustered in jobs less amenable to remote work. Rodgers and Cohen suggest other types of accommodations for employers to consider, including flexible scheduling and task-sharing that re-evaluate essential job functions.

Long COVID and Disability Employment Policy: Sharon Rennert, senior attorney with the ADA Division of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has played a leading role in the development of their policy interpretations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. In this podcast, Sharon explains the protections for people with disabilities in employment and how they apply to people with Long COVID.

Long COVID: An Emerging, Essential Research Area: Vidya Sundar and Debra Brucker, Principal Investigators of the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability’s newly funded Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project on Living and Working with Long COVID, funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), discuss their proposed research activities to be implemented over the next five years. A critical piece of their research is to build on their prior study on the use and impact of “job crafting,” or how individuals can redesign their jobs to better align with their strengths without having to self-identify with a disability and rely on the formal disability accommodation process.

Click here for a list of resources relevant to this Podcast series: Resources relevant to COVID, The ADA, and Employment

Public Policy Updates (With support from APSE) 

Appropriations Updates.

Congress is returning to work after the holiday recess and faces a heavy legislative lift over the coming weeks with appropriations deadlines looming. Prior to the break, little consensus had been reached across multiple priorities. In mid-November, Congress reached agreement on a continuing resolution that averted a government shutdown and allowed extended time for negotiations on final appropriations language. Four appropriations bills are now set to expire on January 19, 2024, including Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MCVA), Agriculture, Energy-Water, and Transportation-Housing & Urban Development (HUD). The remaining 8 appropriations bills are now set to expire on February 2, 2024, including Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations, Legislative Brance, and Labor-HHS-Education. As of January 8, 2024, it appears that an agreement between the House and Senate may be finalized this week. Get the latest updates on actions taken in both the House and the Senate
Web: crsreports.congress.gov/AppropriationsStatusTable/

WIOA Reauthorization.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce released A Stronger Workforce for America Act, a bipartisan bill aimed to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA). Cognizant of concerns over losing gains made for people with disabilities in the 2014 reauthorization, including maintaining the current definition of competitive integrated employment, this reauthorization contains no revisions to Title IV (the Rehabilitation Act). Across Titles I-III, efforts were made to strengthen language in support of people with disabilities, including disabled veterans and youth with disabilities. Specifically, the bill aims to strengthen the workforce system to be more inclusive of people with disabilities and to evaluate the effectiveness of services provided to job seekers with disabilities. The bill moved out of Committee in December and House leadership has communicated the intent to quickly bring the bill to the floor for a vote. However, there is no confirmation yet that the Senate intends to move forward on reauthorization at this time. In addition to strengthening language related to the inclusion of people with disabilities, the reauthorization bill includes a few specific programmatic changes to Title I, II and III programs that are of interest to the disability community, which are outlined below.

  • The bill provides that the Secretary of Labor, in coordination with the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, may conduct studies that analyze the access to services by individuals with disabilities, including whether an individual who is unable to receive services under Title IV (the Rehabilitation Act) due to a wait list for such services is able to receive services under titles I through III.
  • The legislation provides that in any fiscal year in which the amount appropriated to carry out the YouthBuild program is greater than $90,000,000, 20 percent of the amount appropriated that is in excess of $90,000,000 will be used for the purpose of awarding grants to YouthBuild programs that are located in rural areas, or are in Indian tribes, or include individuals with disabilities. 
  • The bill requires that not later than 5 years after the first award of Reentry Employment Competitive Grants, Contracts, And Cooperative Agreements funds under this section is made, the Chief Evaluation Officer shall design and conduct an evaluation of the reentry projects that includes an evaluation of how the programs serve various demographic groups, including individuals with disabilities.

Read a Summary of the A Stronger Workforce for America Act

Disability Employment Incentive Act (DEIA, S3076) Reintroduced.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) reintroduced the DEIA in mid-October. The DEIA aims to incentive businesses to hire and retain employees with disabilities by way of tax credits including the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), Disability Access Expenditures Tax Credit, and the Architectural and Transportation Barrier Tax Credit. The reintroduction includes new language that prevents any business who pays employees subminimum wages through the use of 14c certificates to receive the WOTC credit. The bill was introduced without any Republican co-signers, indicating that it is considered a partisan non-starter bill at this point. While the bill was assigned to Committee in October, there has been no further action.

Senate Confirms New RSA Commissioner.

In early December, the Senate confirmed Danté Quintin Allen as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Education. This follows several years of advocacy to prioritize the confirmation of RSA leadership. Most recently, in October, the Consortium of Constituents with Disabilities (CCD) Employment and Training Task Force sent a letter to Senate Leadership encouraging movement on Mr. Allen’s nomination. Mr. Allen most recently served as the Executive Director for CalABLE, California’s qualified federal ABLE Act savings and investment program for people with disabilities. With his leadership, CalABLE has become the fastest growing ABLE program across the United States. His prior professional background includes an impressive record of leadership in public health systems, and he has been a longtime advocate for disability rights.
Read the CCD Employment Task Force letter: 

DOJ Issued Revised Guidance in Support of Olmstead. The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division released updated guidance regarding the ADA's integration mandate and Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. The guidance presents clear direction that day habilitation and employment services must be provided in integrated settings. The guidance suggests that segregated services may be a violation of the ADA. The DOJ’s statement notes that “a significant number of individuals with disabilities spend the majority of their daytime hours receiving public services in sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs. These settings segregate individuals from the community and provide little or no opportunity to interact with people without disabilities, other than paid staff.” The guidance goes on to state that access to supported employment services provided in the most integrated setting fulfills “the core promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Read the FAQ issued by DOJ: 
https://www.ada.gov/resources/olmstead-employment-qa/

Supporting Disabled Entrepreneurs Act Introduced in US Senate.  On December 14th, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging, introduced the bipartisan Supporting Disabled Entrepreneurs Act (S.3528).  The bill will amend the Small Business Act to increase access to services offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for individuals with disabilities who want to start or grow a small business.  According to a report from the National Disability Institute, People with disabilities who pursue entrepreneurship have been underserved by SBA programs despite the fact that a higher percentage of self-employment in working-age people with disabilities is observed in all age groups as compared to working-age people without disabilities.

The proposed bill will:

  • Establish a Coordinator for Small Business Concerns within the SBA Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Civil Rights;
  • Require collection on a voluntary basis of demographic data from SBA program applicants and service recipients on disability status;
  • Publish data on the participation of individuals with disabilities in SBA programs.

The new SBA Coordinator will be responsible for the creation and implementation of strategies and programs that will enhance support of individuals with disabilities across SBA capital, counseling, and contracting programs. The Coordinator is also expected to consult with district and regional SBA offices, SBA resource partners and other federal agencies to identify and design activities that will increase outreach to the disability community, develop responsive technical support and training, and improve coordination of efforts. The Coordinator will be responsible for reviewing the effectiveness and impact of SBA programs on individuals with disabilities, and report back to Congress not later than 2 years after the date of enactment on their findings, with recommendations for further Congressional action to enhance support for entrepreneurs with disabilities.

USDOL Issues NPRM on Apprenticeship System Enhancements. On December 14th, the US Department of Labor announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled National Apprenticeship System Enhancements to update current regulations to “bolster the capacity of the national apprenticeship system to respond to evolving employer needs while ensuring that registered apprenticeships provide workers with equitable pathways to good jobs.” Among the new proposed requirements for registered apprenticeship programs will be a minimum average of 144 hours of related instruction in technical subjects relevant to the occupation for every 2000 hours of on-the-job training. These new standards remove some of flexibility in program design. Additional relevant proposed requirements that will impact individuals with disabilities include:

  • Sponsors must have a written plan for the equitable recruitment and retention of apprentices from underserved communities, which includes individuals with disabilities.
  • Sponsors will be required to set forth a process for regularly assessing and providing feedback to the apprentice regarding the acquisition of job-related knowledge, skills, and competencies during the on-the-job training component of the apprenticeship.  The feedback provided would be inclusive and structured in a way that would be accessible to all applicants, including those with disabilities.
  • Utilization of end-point assessments to determine if an apprentice is fully proficient in the occupation and the structuring of the assessment must be done in an inclusive manner for all apprentices, including those with disabilities.  If needed, an apprentice with a disability can request a reasonable accommodation prior to the assessment.
  • Attestation will be required of sponsors that they will provide accessible facilities and equipment to ensure the safety of all apprentices.
  • Promotion of improved coordination and more uniform data collection between the federal Office of Apprenticeship and State Apprenticeship Agencies that will establish new program and system-level metrics to improve analysis of apprentice demographic data.
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DISCLAIMER The contents of this newsletter were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RTEM0006). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.”

 

About BBI

The Burton Blatt Institute (“BBI”) at Syracuse University reaches around the globe in its efforts to advance the civic, economic, and social participation of people with disabilities. Through program development, research, and public policy guidance, BBI advances the full inclusion of people with disabilities. BBI builds on the legacy of Burton Blatt, a pioneering disability rights scholar. BBI has offices in Syracuse, NY and Lexington, KY. Learn More about BBI