NDSC, along with many other disability rights groups, civil rights groups and financial stakeholders, supports passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/HR 1874) . The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would amend Section 529A(e) of the Internal Revenue Code to increase the eligibility threshold for ABLE accounts for onset of disability from before age 26 to before age 46. This increase would result in millions of additional individuals with disabilities becoming eligible to open an ABLE account, which is an important savings tool to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve and maintain health, independence and quality of life.
Not only is passing the ABLE Age Adjustment Act important from an equity perspective, but recent data from the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) (to be publicly released soon) shows that passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act is critical for the sustainability of ABLE programs nationwide. NDSC is working closely with other stakeholders to develop a legislative strategy, and we will be very active in the effort to get the ABLE Age bill passed during the 115th Congress. Watch for updates and NDSC Action Alerts coming soon. We are counting on our entire community to join in the effort to get this bill passed.
In other ABLE news, Texas launched its ABLE program in April, becoming the thirty-fifth state with an ABLE program. Although the Texas ABLE program is only open to Texas residents, many ABLE programs are open to qualified individuals nationwide.
NDSC is a founding member of the ABLE National Resource Center (“ANRC”) and continues to actively participate in ANRC’s informational campaigns and outreach. We encourage you to sign up for updates from ANRC and take advantage of the free resources and webinars that ANRC offers, and check out its website at www.ablenrc.org. The next webinar, “ABLE Program Spotlight Series Featuring the National ABLE Alliance,” will take place on May 24, from 2:00 – 3:00pm ET. You can register for it HERE.
“Competitive Integrated Employment” Definition At-Risk
On May 9, 2018, the Secretary of Education notified the public of her intent to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the regulatory definitions in the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority and expresses a clear policy in support of competitive integrated employment (CIE) for people with disabilities (For more information about CIE, see HERE). The definition of CIE as found in the law was reinforced by the 2016 regulations implementing WIOA, which were also consistent with the Congressional intent of the law.
NDSC is extremely concerned that the Secretary of Education has decided to “open up” the regulations, which means that the definition of CIE is in jeopardy of being altered. Opening up the regulations is completely contrary to the consensus of various stakeholders (including provider organizations) who had submitted a letter to the Department of Education in March 2018 from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Employment Task Force recommending that the Department make clarifying changes to its sub-regulatory guidance but not open up the regulations (See this letter HERE).
As part of the Collaboration to Support Self-Determination (CPSD), NDSC has submitted a letter strongly opposing the re-opening of these regulations and asking the Department of Education to re-consider its decision. (To read the letter, see HERE) CPSD will be meeting in person with the Department of Education this week to discuss this matter. We will keep you informed of any action that needs to be taken.
Seeking to Eliminate Subminimum Wage in a Responsible Way
NDSC would like to thank Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with her colleagues Senators Casey (D-PA), Murray (D-WA), Van Hollen (D-MD), Hassan (D-NH), Duckworth (D-IL) and Sanders (I-VT) for requesting information from the Department of Labor regarding the use of 14(c) waivers to hire workers with disabilities and pay them less than the federal minimum wage (“subminimum wage”). The Senators wrote, “These waivers are inherently discriminatory and should be phased out in a responsible way.” (See here for the full text of the letter HERE).
Phasing out subminimum wage in a responsible way should align with the recommendations made by the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) for Individuals with Disabilities. Some of these recommendations include capacity building for more CIE across federal agencies, for transitioning youth, and in the marketplace, as well as converting sheltered workshops to inclusive CIE settings. (HERE is the report with the recommendations). NDSC is working with legislators to draft or amend legislation to address these recommendations at the same time that subminimum wage is phased out.