[nfbmi-talk] Key provisions in proposed amendments to WorkforceInvesstment Act

Christine Boone christineboone2 at gmail.com
Tue Apr 8 15:47:01 UTC 2014

Hi Joe, You are quite right that we might se no action during this session.  Indeed, the first time that the Workforce Investment Act came up for reauthorization was, I believe in either 2003 or 2004 and it has yet to come to fruition.  Given the language on the table this time, no action would be preferable to passage of the proposed legislation.  
I don't know about Section 509 funding for sure, but believe that funding of all covered programs under Wia would be taken up in a separate action anyway.  I could be wrong on this.  

On Apr 8, 2014, at 11:35 AM, joe harcz Comcast <joeharcz at comcast.net> wrote:

> While I see some issues of real concern Christine I must say something you might not expect. Given the constant gridlock in congress, for good, bad, or indifferent I really doubt that anything will go through this year.
> They are already scrambling for mid-term elections.
> Regardless, I'm wonderring how other programs under the Rehab Act will shake out like say the Section 509 funding for the PAIR program and the CAP funding.
> Lots of questions indeed and thanks for this.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Christine Boone" <christineboone2 at gmail.com>
> To: "NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List" <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>; <nfbp-talk at yahoogroups.com>
> Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 10:49 AM
> Subject: [nfbmi-talk] Key provisions in proposed amendments to WorkforceInvesstment Act
> Federationists:
> As most of you know, beginning with its reauthorization in 1998, the Rehabilitation Act has been included as Title IV  in the Workforce Investment Act.  That Act has never been reauthorized since its first writing, but it is once again scheduled for reauthorization this year.  The current proposal would have some significant negative  ramifications respecting vocational rehabilitation services.  Here is one overview that was prepared by a State Vocational Rehabilitation agency outside Michigan. It is provided here for your information.
> Review of Key Provisions
> in S. 1356 and the SKILLS Act
> S. 1356
> Splits up Rehab Act programs.
> Sends VR to Labor Department, Independent Living to HHS, and NIDRR (research) to HHS.
> The transfer of VR from Education to Labor will disconnect VR from rehabilitation expertise and place it in a department with no rehabilitation experience and a scant record of serving people with severe disabilities.
> The Secretary of Labor would write the regulations for Rehab.
> The new name for RSA would be Disability Employment Services and Supports Administration (DESSA).
> The Commissioner would still be a President’s appointment but would not have to have rehabilitation experience or knowledge.
> Rehab would be put under ODEP (the Office of Disability Employment Policy) – a tiny division that has never administered direct service programs.
> Placement in Labor ties VR closer into the generic One-Stop culture, where the focus is on the general population and specialized approaches tend to be absent.
> The bill mandates state VR programs to expand and intensify services to youth transitioning to post-secondary life, without added funding to do so.
> Youth are defined as age 14-24.
> Creates a new category of Pre-Employment Transition, for youth age 14 up with significant disabilities.  For those in Supported Employment, VR would pay 4 years extended services.
> Makes states set aside 15% of basic VR funds for Transition, limiting administrative spending to 5% of this.
> Requires all VR offices have Transition Coordinator positions with support staff – administrative expenses which would mostly have to come out of basic VR funds, beyond the 15% set-aside.
> These provisions effectively make Transition a priority for VR spending.  As a result, some state VR programs may have reduced funds for serving adults with severe disabilities.
> The bill subjects VR to the same performance standards and measures used for Workforce programs for the non-disabled public.  There are concerns this will not accurately reflect VR performance, will be costly to implement, and could discourage service to persons with the most significant disabilities.
> To implement use of common performance measures, VR would have to retool data systems at great cost.  Adjustments in standards to reflect different conditions for the VR population would entail much staff work, negotiation and approval by Labor.
> VR would have to pay for 2 years of extended services for Supported Employment clients, instead of the current flexible 18 months.  This would be 4 years for youth.
> The bill de-emphasizes rehabilitation throughout.
> Rehab credentials for VR staff are weakened.
> There is concern that features in S. 1356 will reduce access to the highly specialized services required to remove employment barriers for people with severe disabilities.
> Positive features in the bill are business relations emphasis, in-demand occupations emphasis, and a focus on career exploration, work experience and internships for youth.
> Skills Act
> H.R. 803 by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
> Consolidates 36 federal employment programs, not VR, which remains a mandatory partner, however.  Although VR remains a distinct program, various provisions in the bill tie VR more closely into the generic Workforce system.
> Requires common data reporting and performance measures for all Workforce partners.
> Increases business representation on Workforce state and local boards. Boards would be 2/3 business representatives.  Partner members like VR are not required on the Boards.
> Emphasizes job training that is responsive to in-demand occupations and business needs.
> In HR-803 VR remains a distinct program but is moved more closely into the generic Workforce system.
> Partners must make all their “work-ready” services available at One-Stops. It is uncertain whether this translates to co-location.
> Lets Governors decide what funds each partner must contribute to the One-Stops.  The Governor can require partners contribute funds above those set in any infrastructure formula.  Thus VR funds could be tapped for various One-Stop expenses.
> One-Stops and training providers would have to meet standards, be certified and re-certified every 3 years, with focus on meeting standards of program integration, as well as other goals.
> It is unclear if VR training providers would have to meet training provider criteria set by the Governor.
> Makes RSA commissioner a Director, no longer a Presidential appointment.
> Requires at least 10% of a state’s VR basic funds must be for expanding Transition.
> The Comprehensive Needs Assessment must add a focus on Transition needs and the performance of existing services in meeting those needs.
> Supported Employment title VI grants are eliminated.
> States must set aside one-half of 1% of their basic VR funds for grants to for-profit businesses to do job readiness, training and placement.
> Eliminates in-service training of VR personnel as a training grant purpose.
> Special concerns related to maintaining an effective Rehabilitation system:
> Special concerns for Rehab:  with VR melded more closely into the generic Workforce system in a number of ways – there is concern for the future of some key rehabilitation principles, features and resources that are critical for successful employment results, including:
> informed client choice
> individualized plans and services
> specialized services
> information accessibility
> communication accessibility
> physical accessibility
> availability of specialized staff
> staff and system understanding of disability
> There is concern that more closely merging VR into the generic Workforce system will lead to
> leaching away of VR funds for non-VR use
> cherry-picking – serving the least disabled first
> reduced help for severely disabled with the greatest employment barriers
> increased diversion of staff time to bureaucratic functions, away from direct service delivery.
> ___________________________
> This week staff and administrators from most public VR agencies across the Nation are gathered in Washington D.C.  Today they are on Capitol Hill, visiting with their Congressional delegations.  Yesterday they were briefed by a panel of experts which included leaders of the National Federation of the Blind.
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