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National Disability Institute's Washington Insider is a monthly newsletter highlighting key federal policy news that impacts the financial futures and economic empowerment of all people with disabilities. The Washington Insider tracks legislative and policy initiatives gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, specifically in the areas of taxation, asset building and economic development.

 

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September 2016 | Vol. 8, Issue 8
CONTENTS
ABLE Legislation Update
Increased Economic Prosperity Leaves Out People with Disabilities
WIOA Advisory Committee Final Report Released
Ways and Means Social Security Hearing Summary
August Employment Profile


 

ABLE Legislation Update

This past month, Senate bills 2702 and 2703 (the ABLE to Work Act and the ABLE Financial Planning Act respectively) were discharged out of the Senate Finance Committee. The ABLE to Work Act essentially allows contributions to be made to an individual’s ABLE account above the $14,000 annual limit if the beneficiary is employed. The ABLE Financial Planning Act allows funds in a 529 College Savings account to be rolled over into a 529A ABLE account without incurring tax penalties (and visa versa). These two bills were introduced as part of a three bill package aimed at improving the original legislation passed in late 2014. The third piece of legislation, the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 2704), failed to be discharged out of committee alongside its other ABLE-related bills. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would increase the age of eligibility from 26 to 46, allowing thousands of individuals with disabilities who are currently not eligible to open an account the opportunity to build a more secure financial future for themselves and their families.

National Disability Institute (NDI) recognizes the merit in all three bills and appreciates Congress’ enthusiasm to further support individuals with disabilities through improvements to the ABLE Act. NDI’s position has been to support the movement and passage of all three pieces of legislation, so long as they move as a package. Under the consideration that the bills cannot proceed through the legislative process as a package, it is the position of NDI to prioritize the ABLE Age Adjustment Act as the most pressing improvement to the original legislation.

The age provision for eligibility did not exist in the original legislation and was added at the end of the ABLE Act’s eight-year legislative history with the understanding that Congress would restore the broader eligibility criteria. This concession resulted in the prohibition of certain individuals with disabilities from participating in ABLE programs due to the age of onset related to their disability. Moreover, many of those individuals were the same individuals who devoted nearly a decade of advocacy needed in order to pass the law.

In the coming weeks, NDI will work with other national disability advocacy organizations to encourage Congress to move all three bills as a package and to not continue to exclude individuals with disabilities from pursuing a more sound financial future solely based on the point at which they happened to incur their disability.

Visit the ABLE National Resource Center website to learn more about the ABLE improvement bills.

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Increased Economic Prosperity Leaves Out People with Disabilities

September marked the release of the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual Income and Poverty Report. The report indicated that every group in America had made income gains from 2014 to 2015, and that millions of individuals had moved out of poverty. The report documented that the median household income grew to $56,500 in 2015, up 5.2 percent from the previous year, which is the largest single year increase since record-keeping began in 1967. Additionally, the report indicates that African Americans living in poverty decreased by 2.1 percent, Hispanics living in poverty decreased by 2.2 percent and women living in poverty decreased by 1.3 percent, which translates to a more positive economic status for millions of Americans nationwide.

However, there was one exception to this unprecedented increase in economic standing, and that was for individuals with disabilities. Despite indications of economic growth for essentially every group of Americans, the study showed no increase among individuals with disabilities.

There was great media coverage of the gains made by most individuals and families nationwide across economic strata. However, there was no coverage of the different reality for people with disabilities. Finding this unacceptable, National Disability Institute (NDI) Executive Director, Michael Morris, authored a blog post in response to this lack of attention. Read Mr. Morris’ blog on The Huffington Post.

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WIOA Advisory Committee Final Report Released

On September 15, the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID) released the Committee’s final report containing its recommendations on how to bolster competitive integrated employment (CIE) for youth and adults with disabilities. Chaired by Mr. David Mank, the Committee was established through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014. The purpose of the Committee was to prepare findings, conclusions and recommendations for the Secretary of Labor on:

  • Ways to increase employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities or other individuals with significant disabilities in competitive integrated employment;
  • The utilization of sub-minimum wage and 14c waivers for the employment of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities or other individuals with significant disabilities; and
  • Ways to improve oversight of the use of such certificates.

The Committee membership consisted of 18 individuals from across the country, including both federal officials and private citizens from specific groups identified in the WIOA legislation (including leaders and experts from the disability community). Over the past two years, the Committee held 10 public meetings to discuss various topics relevant to increasing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and to solicit pertinent testimony from disability related stakeholders. Additionally, over the 24-month period, the Committee reported receiving more than 2,000 letters, emails and personal video messages from people with disabilities, and other citizens and organizations across the nation, that helped inform the work of the Committee and its final recommendations.

During the Committee’s two-year tenure, National Disability Institute (NDI) had the opportunity to address members of Committee on several occasions. NDI’s testimony assisted in educating the Committee about the work done by NDI, the importance of poverty reduction strategies and the substantial need for financial literacy supports for individuals with disabilities. NDI was pleased to see the Committee’s recognition of statistics related to poverty among the disability community and the inclusion of recommendations related to increasing financial literacy and capabilities among individuals with disabilities.

The following section contains some of the general recommendations from the report, broken down by their established sub-categories:

  • Overall Capacity Building
    • Create a federal interagency task force focused on policies to expand capacity of CIE and advance economic self-sufficiency.
    • Increase funding and initiatives to help agencies build CIE capacity, develop national standards of professional competence and train professionals skilled in facilitating CIE.
  • Capacity Building for Youth
    • Increase opportunities for early work experience.
    • Ensure systems integration for seamless transition.
  • Capacity Building through Changes in the Use and Oversight of 14(c) Certificates
    • Congressional amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow for a multi-year, well-planned phase out of Section 14(c).
    • Ensure the federal government assists states with building capacity of service systems to provide CIE services as alternatives to those provided under programs using a 14(c) certificate.
  • Building Capacity in the Marketplace
    • Develop additional outreach to federal contractors regarding the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) Section 503 regulations, which establish disability hiring goals.
    • Increase and more effectively communicate and perform outreach to businesses.
  • Capacity Building in Specific Federal Agencies
    • Develop a policy reform initiative designed to increase the number of SSI/SSDI beneficiaries in CIE who are self-sufficient.
    • Establish a cross-agency working group to provide policy guidance and technical assistance on integrated day and wraparound services that complement and maximize CIE and that advance the socioeconomic status and security of people with disabilities.
  • Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment in the AbilityOne® Program
    • Amend the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (JWOD) to fully align the Act with modern federal disability law and policy goals by reforming the criteria for contract procurement selection and for program eligibility.
    • Research the current use of AbilityOne to identify how the program is serving the target population and to determine steps for improving its ability to create CIE opportunities.

For more detailed information, read the full final report.  

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Ways and Means Social Security Hearing Summary

On September 21, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on “Understanding Social Security’s Solvency Challenge.” The hearing, led by Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Ranking Member Xavier Becerra (D-CA), was convened to allow members the opportunity to better understand the current projections for the longevity of the trust fund and potential solutions to extend the trust fund’s longevity to the point of solvency.

During the hearing, testimony was provided by Mr. Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration (SSA) and Dr. Keith Hall, Director, Congressional Budget Office (CBO). CBO projected that Social Security would not be able to pay full benefits starting in 2029. This is in contrast to the projections of SSA, which estimates solvency through 2034. The hearing marked the first time in several years that the two organizations have publicly come together to talk about the differences in their projections. The discrepancies in the projections are largely based on differences of opinions related to various characteristics that affect Social Security’s costs and revenues, including factors related to life expectancy, inflation, labor force participation and earnings levels.

While the cash benefit that is provided to individuals with disabilities through Social Security may be modest, it is often essential to their well-being and the only thing that stands between affording basic living expenses or living in poverty. National Disability Institute (NDI) encourages Congress to explore ways to extend the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund in a responsible manner, which does not harm individuals with disabilities.

View an archived video recording of the hearing.

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August 2016 Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for August 2016 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 11.3 percent. This is a 1.1 percent increase from August 2015. The latest employment statistics also find that only 19.8 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 68.8 percent of people with no disability. Data on people with disabilities covers those between the ages of 16 to 64 who do not live in institutions.

U.S. Disability Employment Profile
Statistic
With Disability
Without Disability
 
Aug.
2015
Aug.
2016
Aug.
2015
Aug.
2016
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
19.5
19.8
68.5
68.8
Employment-Population Ratio
17.5
17.6
65.1
65.5
Unemployment Rate
10.2
11.3
5.0
4.8
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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