DIEP newsletter, Issue 5 (January 2022)

January 2022 – Issue 5


Welcome to the fifth issue of the Disability Inclusive Employment Policy RRTC Newsletter. 

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 next five years, the goal of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on “Disability Inclusive Employment Policy” (DIEP) will be to design and 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.


Launch of New Disability Inclusive Employment Policy Website

View the website at: https://disabilityinclusiveemployment.org/ 
On Tuesday, January 25, 2021, the Disability Inclusive Employment Policy RRTC (DIEP-RRTC) launched its newly redesigned website at disabilityinclusiveemployment.org. The new site features research articles, news, and project publications. The site includes information about timely topics such as recent changes in employment among people with disabilitiesreturn to work and financial and benefits counselingunemployment insurance income supportgig workersDisability-Owned Business Enterprises and supply chain diversityapprenticeshipminimum and sub-minimum wagespaid sick and family medical leave, and telework as an accommodation.

New Policy Brief – Disability Inclusion in Registered Apprenticeship Programs

The Build Back Better Act (H.R 5376) includes $5 billion to create and expand apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships can bridge the gap between the skills of jobseekers and the demands of employers by combining on-the-job training, mentorship, and classroom instruction with a paycheck. Apprenticeships may be particularly valuable for people with disabilities, many of whom face multiple barriers to employment.
Read the Full Policy Brief

**Research Spotlight**

Build Back Better Act

Build Back Better Act: Opportunities to Advance Employment and Economic Security for People with Disabilities

The Build Back Better Act, which passed the House of Representatives on November 19, 2021 and is currently stalled in the Senate, offers many opportunities that would result in workers with disabilities being compensated fairly, jobseekers with disabilities benefitting from apprenticeship programs that are inclusive in diverse industries, individuals with significant disabilities gaining from increased funding for Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) to participate in supported employment and customized employment in integrated settings, employees accessing paid leave to protect against risk of job loss due to health issues and new supports and services to enable entrepreneurs with disabilities to start and grow small businesses.

The bill includes:
$300 million for state grants to help transition employed people with disabilities to Competitive Integrated Employment. This support is a critical step towards ensuring that workers with disabilities are compensated fairly, have equal opportunity, can live independently, and can be economically self-sufficient.

Currently, Federal law allows certain people, including people with a physical or mental disability impairing their earnings or productive capacity, to be employed at subminimum wage ratesDisability advocates have pushed to end subminimum wage in favor of Competitive Integrated Employment for workers with disabilities. In Competitive Integrated Employment, workers with disabilities work alongside workers without disabilities and are subject to the same labor laws, including minimum wage. 

$150 billion in funding for Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services which helps people with disabilities live in their own homes and communities rather than in institutions. By supporting integration into the community, such investments increase the opportunity for people with disabilities to enter the workforce. In addition, Home and Community-Based Services funding also supports some employment services, such as supported employment and customized employment services for people with developmental disabilities and some people with mental illness.

$5 billion to create and expand apprenticeship programs and specifies that at least half is appropriated to entities that serve a high percentage of individuals with barriers to employment including people with disabilities.

Apprenticeships can bridge the gap between the skills of jobseekers and the demands of employers by combining on-the-job training, mentorship, and classroom instruction with a paycheck. This approach is particularly valuable for people with disabilities, many of whom face multiple barriers to employment. However, even though apprenticeships have the potential to address many long-standing challenges to increasing employment opportunities, people with disabilities are underrepresented in apprenticeship programs. Although the number has been growing steadily since the Department of Labor began requiring programs to report the disability status of their apprentices in 2019, only 1.5% of apprentices report having a disability.  If deployed correctly, the BBA funding could begin to remedy the lack of disability inclusion in the apprenticeship system.
See our new policy brief: Disability Inclusion in Registered Apprenticeship Programs
See our new policy brief: Disability Inclusion in Registered Apprenticeship Programs

$1 billion to increase access to affordable high-speed broad band on top of $65 billion to upgrade broadband infrastructure in the recently enacted Infrastructure Bill.
These policies are especially likely to help people with disabilities, given the digital divide between Americans with and without disabilities. Data from the just-released 2020 American Community Survey indicate that people with disabilities age 15 or older are three times as likely as those without disabilities to live in a home without internet access (15% compared to 5%). The gap widens when looking at internet use by individuals: 2019 data show that 39% of people with disabilities did not access the internet from any location, compared to 20% of people without disabilities.Expanded internet access is therefore likely to especially help people with disabilities. Along with the social benefits, internet access can improve opportunities for telework. While working from home can have benefits for workers in general, it may be especially helpful to workers who have disabilities that make it difficult or costly to commute, or who require extra job flexibility. Before the pandemic, people with disabilities were more likely to work at home than those without disabilities. This pattern changed during the pandemic. Among people who remained employed, workers with disabilities were less likely than those without disabilities to be doing home-based work due to the pandemic because worker with disabilities are disproportionately likely to be in blue-collar and service jobs that are not amenable to teleworkIn spite of limits on telework from the current occupational distribution, an expansion of broadband access from the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills may help to increase telework opportunities for people with disabilities. For more information see our study: Telework After COVID: A “Silver Lining” for Workers with Disabilities?
Schur, L. A., Ameri, M., & Kruse, D. (2020). Telework after COVID: a “silver lining” for workers with disabilities?. Journal of occupational rehabilitation30(4), 521-536.

Four weeks of paid leave for employees. Employees with disabilities may especially benefit from access to paid leave, due both to their greater likelihood of health issues and to their generally greater risk of job loss. While paid leave mandates may increase employment of people with disabilities by protecting existing employees and motivating others to join the workforce, these laws could also lead employers to avoid hiring people with disabilities to minimize potentially costly disruptions.

Currently (in the absence of the Build Back Better Act), people with disabilities are less likely than people without disabilities to be in jobs that provide paid leave, so the effects of the BBA paid leave mandates may be larger for people with disabilities. A new study from the Office of Disability Employment Policy shows that only one-fourth (27%) of workers with disabilities have access to paid leave for family and medical reasons, compared to over one-third (37%) of workers without disabilities.

There has, however, been no study of the relative effects of paid leave mandates on people with disabilities. One of the DIEP RRTC projects is using Census data over the 2008-2020 period matched to information on paid leave laws in a quasi-experimental framework to analyze the effects of these laws on the employment and earnings of workers with and without disabilities. Initial results will be available in summer 2022 and will be presented at two conferences.

Extension of improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The EITC is a refundable tax credit for certain people who work and have earned income under $57,414. The amount of the credit varies based on the taxpayer’s income and number of “qualifying” children (children under age 19 who live most of the year with the taxpayer). Prior to 2021, workers without qualifying children between ages 25-64 could get a maximum tax credit of $543 compared to $3,618 to a family with one child and up to $6,728 for a family with three or more children.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA, P.L. 117-2) made two temporary changes to the credit for these “childless” workers. First, it expanded eligibility workers younger than 25 and older than 64. It also increased the maximum credit amount to $1,502. The BBBA extends the change for another year.

These changes are particularly important for people with disabilities who tend to be older are much less likely to have children under 19 who are living at home. The changes also provide additional support to younger workers with disabilities as they enter the workforce.

More information about the EITC

Goodman, N., Morris, M. & Brucker, D.L. (2013) Use of the Earned Income Tax Credit among people with disabilities. Completed as part of the Employment Policy and Measurement RRTC funded by NIDRR

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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; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA; New York City, NY; and Lexington, KY. Learn More about BBI

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