|December 2009 - January 2010|
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Raise the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level under
SSI and SSDI by 100 percent.
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).
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
- Individuals &
Consumers: Youth and adults with
disabilities, parents and caregivers
Employers: Public and private
& Advocacy Organizations (such as Employment Services and Partners)
sessions are scheduled for the following dates and locations:
January 21, 2010
January 27, 2010
February 11, 2010
February 16, 2010
San Francisco, CA
February 24, 2010
March 3, 2010
To obtain additional
information on the upcoming regional listening sessions, or to register, please
refer to the following website at:
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
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:
- Making Ends Meet. Nearly half of survey
respondents reported facing difficulties in covering monthly expenses and paying
- 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.
- Managing Financial
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.
- 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
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
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.
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
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
An estimated 7.7
percent of U.S. households, approximately 9 million, are unbanked. At least 17 million adults reside in these
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
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,
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
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.
results of the study can be found at www.economicinclusion.gov
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of
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