Reauthorizing – rewriting – the long overdue Workforce Investment Act (WIA), has been cited as a priority for Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), leaders in their respective parties.
Advancing legislation that promotes workforce development activities has garnered bi-partisan support and is especially important for individuals with disabilities who have the highest rate of unemployment of any segment of the nation’s population. More than two-thirds do not participate in the workforce at all, according to lawmakers.
Last week, after months of negotiations, leaders in the Senate and House of Representative were able to strike a deal despite starting the process from significantly different vantage points.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) includes numerous provisions impacting individuals with disabilities, including:
- Limiting the use of subminimum wage for individuals with disabilities by ensuring that before an individual receives subminimum wage they first (1) receive pre-employment transition services; (2) applied for vocational rehabilitation services, and if eligible, made a serious attempt at competitive integrated employment; (3) receive counseling, information and referral about alternatives to subminimum wage employment.
- Individuals with disabilities currently employed at subminimum wage must be provided on going career counseling, information and referrals, and notification of local training opportunities to move into competitive integrated employment, as appropriate.
- Emphasizes State vocational rehabilitation agencies make “pre-employment transition services” available to all students with disabilities and to coordinate those services with IDEA’s transition services.
- State vocational rehabilitation programs will set aside 15% of their Federal funding to help young people with disabilities transition from secondary school to post secondary education programs and employment.
- The Independent Living program and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (which the bill renames National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research) will move from the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living.
The House-Senate compromise paves the way for WIOA to move rapidly through the legislative process, first for consideration by the full Senate and then the full House, a process that is expected in the coming weeks.
A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.
The statement of managers, including a section-by-section summary of the legislation, can be found here.
A summary of key improvements WIOA makes to current workforce development programs can be found here.
The text of the bipartisan, bicameral agreement can be found here