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December 2009 - January 2010
NDI Celebrates 2009 Outcomes & Prepares for Ambitious Year in 2010

As the country enters Year Two of the Obama Administration, NDI is preparing another ambitious agenda with respect to pushing favorable public policies that will significantly advance the economic outlook for individuals with disabilities.

In 2009, NDI actively engaged in a myriad of federal policy issues aimed at improving meaningful employment outcomes, generating income and developing long-term financial security for citizens with disabilities.  NDI's efforts, in collaboration with other national disability organizations, resulted in the following progress:
  • An increase in annual funding for the Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grants program to $12 million in FY2010, which represented a $4 million increase above and beyond FY2009 levels.  Language was also included in the appropriations bill which places a greater emphasis on the prioritization of VITA applications focused on improving outreach to individuals with disabilities in the FY2010 grant process.
  • Continued federal funding of the Disability Program Navigator Initiative within the FY2010 Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, resulting in a unique $12 million/$12 million split between ODEP and ETA for the development of best practices extracted from the DPN Initiative.  The program was originally zeroed out in President Obama's FY 2010 budget.
  • Enhanced efforts to promote free tax preparation and assistance to America's citizens with disabilities through leading the Real Economic Impact Tour, which provided support to 84 cities who prepared 181,152 tax returns, resulting in $176.6 million in tax returns and a projected savings in tax preparation fees of $66.4 million.
  • Strong potential for inclusion of provisions aimed at promoting asset development opportunities of working citizens living with disabilities in the introduction of WIA reauthorization legislation in the Senate.
  • Presentation to staff on the White House Domestic & Economic Policy Councils on proposed disability policy reform strategies in the areas of employment and asset development in July, 2009.
  • Consensus reached after careful negotiations led by NDI among the external advocacy community to push for inclusion of a refundable tax credit provision within the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) in order to promote use of ABLE accounts specific to supporting the long-term needs of citizens with disabilities.  NDI continued to actively engage in a core working group of six national organizations pushing for passage of the ABLE Act, which now has 143 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 11 cosponsors in the Senate.
  • Development of innovative employment proposals to the Senate HELP Committee for individuals with disabilities during its development of WIA reauthorization legislation.
In 2010, NDI will work with a number of partners both in and outside Washington to further a progressive public policy agenda, and will deploy its focus on the following policy goals and objectives:

Rising to the Occasion:  NDI's 2010 Federal Public Policy Priorities
  1. Support passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), which would enact a tax-advantaged family savings program to encourage individuals with disabilities and families to set aside funds for future asset goals.
  2. Reform asset limits to determine eligibility under SSI and Medicaid, as well as exclude as assets all restricted savings vehicle such as IRAs, 401(k) and 529 plans.
  3. Expand IRS community partnership development and volunteer tax preparation assistance programs to target low income tax payers with disabilities to ensure their enhanced access and use of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), financial education and low-cost affordable financial services and products.
  4. Raise the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level under SSI and SSDI by 100 percent.
  5. Protect the continuation of best practices created through the Disability Program Navigator (DPN) initiative by supporting expansion of DPN best practices through the Department of Labor, and work towards permanent codification of the DPN initiative via reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA).
  6. Enact the Savings for Working Families Act to expand the available number of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) by 1.2 million and provide over $120 million to support the dissemination of financial literacy and asset development education programs to workers with and without disabilities.
  7. Secure reauthorization of the Medicaid Infrastructure Grants (MIGs), and expand the MIGs to include not only a focus on improving the employment opportunities of individuals with disabilities, but also emphasizing the importance of promoting the economic advancement of individuals with disabilities. 
  8. Reform the Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) so as to expand its use among the 10 million+ recipients of SSI and SSDI based upon individual needs and preferences.
  9. Expand and improve the financial literacy and educational opportunities of individuals with disabilities through the creation of a national technical assistance center focused on the successful implementation of savings and asset development strategies for individuals with disabilities.
  10. Establish through Executive Order the creation of a Federal Task Force on Economic Empowerment for Citizens with Disabilities through the National Economic Council, tasked with identifying barriers to work and savings and also proposing results-oriented federal policies that incentivizes employment and asset development.
Amidst Skyrocketing Unemployment, House Passes Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010

Prior to breaking for the December holiday recess on December 15th, Congress passed the Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010, a bill intended to rapidly create real-time jobs and address the eight million jobs lost and 15 million people out of work.  The Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010 redirects $75 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) savings from Wall Street to Main Street to fund infrastructure and job investments to further stabilize jobs and provides additional emergency funding for struggling families.  A summary of the legislation can be found at: http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/Jobs_for_Main_Street_Act_of_2010_Summary.pdf
The bill, viewed by many critics as an extension of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, redirects $48.3 billion toward stabilizing jobs through infrastructure investments made by the ARRA; stabilizing public service jobs; and providing emergency relief for families hurt by the economy.  Some of the key highlights of most relevance to individuals with disabilities include:

  • Housing Trust Fund:  $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund to provide communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for extremely and very low-income households; and $65 million for project-based vouchers to support unites build by the Trust Fund.  Nationwide, for every 100 extremely low-income renter households, there are only 37 homes they can afford.  Additionally, capital expenditures for housing will support jobs in the construction industry. 
  • Unemployment Insurance:  $41 billion to extend, for six months, expanded unemployment benefits, including increased payouts and longer duration of benefits.
  • Small Business Loans:  $354 million, fully offset, to allow the Small Business Administration (SBA) to continue two temporary loan guarantee authorities through the end of fiscal year 2010 to make loans more attractive to borrowers and lenders and to free up capital. 
  • FMAP extension:  $23.5 billion to extend the higher federal match for payments for the provision of services to low-income families under Medicaid through June 2011.  The higher federal match provides an incentive for states to commit resources to their Medicaid programs and helps ensure services for Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Assistance Eligibility:  $305 million to freeze Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines at 2009 levels in order to prevent a reduction in eligibility for certain means-tested programs, including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and child nutrition.
  • Income Tax Refund Disregard:  Provides that individuals may exclude counting tax refunds as income for the purpose of assessing eligibility for means-tested programs supported by federal funds for one year.
  • Social Security Legal Assistance:  The bill permanently authorizes a provision to help Social Security and SSI disability claimants retain legal representations.  The provision limits attorney fees to 25% of claimant's past-due benefits, and only requires payment if the claimant wins and subject to a $6,000 cap.
To view the complete legislative text of the Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010 please refer to the House Appropriations Committee's website at: http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/2010_Jobs_For_Main_Street_Bill_Text.pdf.
Consolidated FY 2010 Appropriations Act Protects Continued Funding of DPN Initiative

The FY2010 Omnibus Appropriations Act was signed into law on December 19th, which included a total of $446.8 billion for six of the remaining appropriations bills(combining the Transportation; Commerce, Justice, Science; Financial Services; Labor-Health-Education; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs; and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bills).  The total FY2011 funding compares to $397.1 billion provided in 2009 for these same bills, not including emergency funding.
After a year of educating Congressional staff and policy-makers on the merits of the Disability Program Navigator (DPN) Initiative, NDI is pleased to report that the Senate leadership prevailed in securing additional funding in FY2010 to further develop the best practices that have resulted from the eight-year demonstration.  Despite attempts to eliminate the program altogether, the Congress allocated a joint $12 million/$12 million effort between ODEP and ETA for the furtherance of best practices extracted from the DPN Initiative. 
In addition to the DPN Initiative, additional highlights to the legislation are outlined below:

  • Fully funds the request for the Dislocated Worker Employment and Training program at $1.4 billion, providing over $70 million (or 5.3 percent) more than last year for training and support services for workers affected by mass layoffs and plant closures.
  • Provides $125 million for competitive grants to community colleges and local adult education providers to prepare workers for careers in high-demand and emerging industries; $40 million to prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy; and $45 million for a new initiative to help workers who face substantial barriers to entering the workforce.
  • Provides over $420 million to help States process over $140 billion in Federal and State unemployment benefits for over 15 million people because unemployment levels have doubled since the recession set in two years ago.
Health and Human Services
  • Includes $2.2 billion for Community Health Centers to support the provision of primary health care to 17 million patients, of whom 40 percent are uninsured, in 7,500 centers around the country;
  • Includes $66 million ($15 million more than 2009) to assist more than 100 million Americans who currently lack dental insurance,  and provide critical dental care through training dental workers in underserved communities;
  • Sustains last year's historic $5.1 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
  • Maintains $14.5 billion for Title I grants to provide educational services to 20 million low-income children, and provides $35 million more than last year to expand after school tutoring and academic enrichment for nearly 50,000 more students.
Social Security Administration
  • Provides a $993 million (or 9.5 percent) increase for the Social Security Administration, to help the agency process a rising number of retirement and disability claims, and work down its backlog of disability hearings.
A summary and complete text of each of the bills within the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act can be found at the House Appropriations Committee website at www.appropriations.house.gov.
Future of WIA Reauthorization is Questionable in 2010

As Congress heads into a mid-term election year with health care reform still looming, several questions remain as to the viability and willingness of both chambers to take up reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) in 2010.  Insiders at both the Department of Labor's Employment & Training Administration are working closely with the Senate HELP Committee staff to draft a legislation, which is expected to be introduced in the Senate by early February.  However, Congressional staff on the House Education & Labor Committee have raised concerns about the feasibility of moving WIA reauthorization legislation in 2010. 
Given the political dynamic, NDI and other national disability organizations are working steadfastly to advise policy-makers on Capitol Hill and the Administration as attempts are made to introduce a bill at least in the Senate during the first quarter of the New Year.
Despite the uncertain future of a WIA reauthorization bill in 2010, movement has increased among the Senate HELP Committee to push for changes to section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which allows employers to pay individuals with significant disabilities who meet specific criteria under the national minimum wage for work performed.  Concerns have been raised over the practice after Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) chaired a Senate committee hearing that examined why Henry's Turkey Service was allowed to pay its workers who were intellectually disabled 41 cents an hour to work in a turkey processing plant in West Liberty.  Since that time, Senator Harkin (Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee) has been studying the enforcement of a 71-year-old federal law that enables companies to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage if they first obtain federal approval.
Federal fines for labor law violations can be imposed only in cases of willful or repeated misconduct. The department accused Henry's Turkey Service of labor-law violations in 1997, 1998 and 2003, but the department did not impose any fines or penalties against the company. The Department of Labor sued Henry's Turkey Service in civil court, alleging multiple violations of federal labor laws.  In a separate action, Iowa Workforce Development has imposed a $900,000 fine on the company for alleged violations of state labor laws.
New data released this week show that the U.S. government fined only three of the 797 employers that violated federal labor laws while paying subminimum wages to disabled workers over a five-year period.  The newly disclosed statistics come from the U.S. Department of Labor and are in response to questions posed nine months ago by U.S. Chairman Harkin during the initial Senate hearing on the topic.
Critics say the new statistics confirm what they have long alleged: Companies typically have nothing to lose by violating wage-and-hour laws intended to protect disabled workers.  Senator Harkin stated in an interview with the Des Moines Register on January 3rd  that there is "no question" the law currently fails to provide the disabled with "fair employment opportunities that are sufficiently policed to prevent exploitation."  A copy of the full article can be found at:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100105/NEWS10/1050358/&template=artiphone.
Harkin also confirmed that he is preparing "substantial legislative changes" that he expects to make public in the next few months.  The Senate HELP Committee is looking at a number of options to reduce the use of section 14(c), including a possible 5-10 year phase-out of the use of subminimum wage altogether, and possibly an immediate prohibition of the practice among youth with significant disabilities who are transitioning out of the educational system into adulthood.
The 797 cases, handled between 2003 and 2008, involved almost $5 million in unpaid wages owed to more than 18,500 workers. All but eight of the cases resulted in an order to pay back wages to the workers.  In the three cases that resulted in penalties, the fines totaled $8,360.  Department of Labor spokesman Joseph De Wolk said that of the 797 cases described in the report to Harkin, 635 stemmed from "self audits" by employers.  Those cases were excluded from the penalty process, he said, because the department would have been unable to prove the violations in court.  De Wolk said many of the violators were small, non-profit agencies for which a penalty may not have been appropriate.
Nationally, the number of enforcement actions in response to alleged violations of wage-and-hour laws has dropped from 47,000 in 1997 to 30,000 in 2007.  In 2009, the Government Accountability Office alleged that the Department of Labor took a year or more to respond to some workers' complaints of unpaid wages and lied to others about efforts to resolve their complaints.
NDI and other organizations are providing data and information to the Senate HELP Committee to better inform the potential strategies available to the Committee in reducing the use of 14(c), including prescribing recommendations for spurring a greater focus and investment in federal resources toward increasing the implementation of innovative supported and customized employment strategies.
SPECIAL IN-FOCUS: Innovations in Employment Strategies

As Congress heads into 2010 with a focus on both WIA reauthorization and the reauthorization of the MIG program, Congressional staff in both chambers are looking for innovative policy approaches focused on creating significant improvements in the employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities.  As such, NDI would like to hear from stakeholders in the field about innovative models being deployed that are resulting in meaningful employment opportunities within integrated settings at competitive wages for individuals with disabilities. 
Please send your ideas, strategies, and case studies to Serena Lowe, Federal Government Relations Consultant to NDI, at EwoLAneres@gmail.com. Feedback is requested by February 10, 2010.  The recommendations and feedback will be compiled into a report and shared with Congressional staff serving on the key Committees of Jurisdiction for employment reform in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 
SPECIAL EVENTS: ODEP Announces Six Upcoming Regional Listening Sessions in Q1-2010

In early 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and its Federal partners will hold a series of six Listening Sessions across the country on disability employment.  Each Listening Session is an opportunity for members of the public to provide input to senior Federal officials on their ideas for more effective ways to employ all individuals with disabilities, including women, veterans, and minorities with disabilities.  The Listening Sessions will also provide what is currently working in each of these six regions to increase employment of people with disabilities.  ODEP seeks input particularly from the following constituencies:
  • Individuals & Consumers:  Youth and adults with disabilities, parents and caregivers
  • Employers:  Public and private
  • Service Providers & Advocacy Organizations (such as Employment Services and Partners)
Regional listening sessions are scheduled for the following dates and locations:



January 21, 2010

Dallas, TX

January 27, 2010

Philadelphia, PA

February 11, 2010

Chicago, IL

February 16, 2010

San Francisco, CA

February 24, 2010

Atlanta, GA

March 3, 2010

Boston, MA

To obtain additional information on the upcoming regional listening sessions, or to register, please refer to the following website at:  http://www.disabilitylisteningtour.com.
U.S. Department of Treasury & FINRA Investor Education Foundation Release First Comprehensive National Studies Assessing Financial Capability of Adults in the U.S.

In late December, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation (www.finra.org),
the largest foundation in the United States dedicated to investor education, released the first comprehensive national survey of the financial capability of adults in the United States.  The National Survey is one of three linked surveys that collectively constitute the National Financial Capability Study (in early 2010, results from the remaining two components, a State-by-State Survey and a Military Survey, will be released). The National Financial Capability Study, which was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury, represents a significant milestone in benchmarking American financial literacy and an opportunity to measure progress in the future. An individual's financial literacy and access to basic financial services affects household financial stability and may have long-term effects on financial well-being. The study provides empirical evidence regarding which families are most vulnerable and where action is needed most. This report contains detailed information about the financial knowledge, attitudes and behavior of Americans today. It details how Americans are trying to get by in the current economic environment, and the areas where they are in need of better information, better financial products, and better financial skills in order to prepare for the years ahead.

The results of the National Survey, the first of three linked surveys to be released as part of the Study, attempt to provide a rich and complex data on how Americans save, borrow and plan for their financial future in order to better inform the development of additional strategies to improve and focus financial literacy efforts across the nation. When put alongside the economic difficulties many families in the United States are currently facing, the results highlight how important it is to give people the information and resources they need to make sound financial decisions.

This project aims to assess and establish a baseline measure of the financial capability of U.S. adults by encompassing multiple aspects of behavior relating to how individuals manage their resources and how they make financial decisions (including the factors they consider and the skill sets they use). This report distills the rich and complex data resulting from the National Survey, a nation-wide telephone survey of nearly 1,500 American adults, focusing on the following four key components of financial capability:
  1. Making Ends Meet. Nearly half of survey respondents reported facing difficulties in covering monthly expenses and paying bills.
  2. Planning Ahead. The majority of Americans do not have "rainy day" funds set aside for unanticipated financial emergencies and similarly do not plan for predictable life events, such as their children's college education or their own retirement.
  3. Managing Financial Products. More than one in five Americans reported engaging in non-bank, alternative borrowing methods (such as payday loans, advances on tax refunds or pawn shops). And few appear to be knowledgeable about the financial products they own.
  4. Financial Knowledge and Decision-Making. While many American adults believed they were adept at dealing with day-to-day financial matters, they nevertheless engaged in financial behaviors that generated expenses and fees and exhibited a marked inability to do basic interest calculations and other math-oriented tasks. In addition, few compared the terms of financial products or shopped around before making financial decisions.
In general, measures of financial capability are much lower among adults with no post-secondary educational experience and those with household incomes below

$25,000 per year, indicating that those populations are most vulnerable. Hispanics and African-Americans, who are disproportionately represented in these education and income segments, also face higher levels of exposure. When available, data from the larger State-by-State Survey will allow for a more in-depth analysis of the statistical relationships between ethnicity, income, education and financial capability.

The Executive Summary of the National Financial Capability Study can be found here.
FDIC Releases Economic Inclusion Report which Provides New Compelling Data Demonstrating Trends among Unbanked and Underbanked in U.S.

The recently published FDIC report was a result of a special supplement to the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS) sponsored by FDIC in January of 2009 to collect national, state, and metropolitan statistical area (MSA) data on the number of U.S. households that are unbanked and underbanked, their demographic characteristics, and their reasons for being unbanked and underbanked.  
The Census Bureau surveyed approximately 54,000 households, and about 47,000 (86 percent) participated in the FDIC's supplement survey. The FDIC undertook this effort to address a gap in reliable data on the number of unbanked and underbanked households in the United States. The FDIC also conducted the survey to comply with a statutory mandate that requires it to conduct ongoing surveys of banks on their efforts to serve the unbanked.
The supplement survey complements the FDIC Survey on Banks' Efforts to Serve the Unbanked and Underbanked, published in February 2009, and provides insights into the
size of the unbanked and underbanked markets. It also presents a wealth of previously unavailable data regarding households' banking status and related issues. Teamed
with the rich demographic and geographic data available through the CPS, the supplement survey represents the first time such data on unbanked and underbanked households are available at the national, state, and large MSA levels. It is hoped that these survey results will help better inform the industry and policymakers about economic inclusion issues, and promote the goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to basic, safe, and affordable bank services.
The report paints a very clear picture of the America's unbanked and underbanked households, including the following key findings:

  • An estimated 7.7 percent of U.S. households, approximately 9 million, are unbanked.  At least 17 million adults reside in these unbanked households.
  • The proportion of U.S. households that are unbanked varies considerably among different racial and ethnic groups, with certain racial and ethnic minorities more likely to be unbanked than the population as a whole. Minorities more likely to be unbanked includeblacks (an estimated 21.7 percent of black households are unbanked), Hispanics (19.3 percent), and American Indian/Alaskans (15.6 percent). Racial groups less likely to be unbanked are Asians (3.5 percent) and whites (3.3  percent).
  • In addition to the unbanked households, an estimated 17.9 percent of U.S. households, roughly 21 million, are underbanked. The number of adults that reside in these underbanked households is about 43 million.
  • Certain racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to be underbanked than the population as a whole. Minorities more likely to be underbanked include blacks (an estimated 31.6 percent), American Indian/Alaskans (28.9 percent), and Hispanics (24.0 percent). Asians and whites are less likely to be underbanked (7.2 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively).
  • Taken together, at least 25.6 percent of U.S. households, close to 30 million, are either unbanked or underbanked. Approximately 60 million adults reside in these households.
  • Overall, almost 54 percent of black households, 44.5 percent of American Indian/Alaskan households, and 43.3 percent of Hispanic households are either unbanked or underbanked.
  • While 17.9 percent of U.S. households are known to be underbanked, another 4.1 percent of U.S. households, or roughly 5 million, are banked and may also be underbanked, but their use of AFS could not be determined because of missing data. The number of adults that reside in these households is estimated to be 11 million.
  • The proportion of unbanked and underbanked households varies across  different regions of the country, with the highest incidence in the Southern
  • Region. In addition, the proportion of unbanked households varies considerably among certain racial and ethnic minorities across states and MSAs.
Additional results of the study can be found at www.economicinclusion.gov.
Dec 2009 Employment

As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics
December, 2009
Vol: 2 Issue: 1
In This Issue
1. NDI Celebrates 2009 Outcomes & Prepares for Ambitious Year in 2010
2. Amidst Skyrocketing Unemployment, House Passes Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010
3. Consolidated FY 2010 Appropriations Act Protects Continued Funding of DPN Initiative
4. Future of WIA Reauthorization is Questionable in 2010
5. SPECIAL IN-FOCUS: Innovations in Employment Strategies
6. SPECIAL EVENTS: ODEP Announces Six Upcoming Regional Listening Sessions
7. U.S. Department of Treasury & FINRA Investor Education Foundation Release First Comprehensive National Studies Assessing Financial Capability of Adults in the US
8. FDIC Releases Economic Inclusion Report
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The National Disability Institute (NDI) is a not-for-profit research and community development organization and creators of the Real Economic Impact Tour, dedicated to promoting work, saving, and asset building for persons with disabilities and their families nationwide.