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April 2010
Senate HELP Committee Moving Forward with Reauthorization of Workforce Investment Act & Rehabilitation Act - Advocacy Groups Support Inclusion of Asset Development Services and Expansion of DPN Model in Reauthorization

The Senate HELP Committee is working steadfastly on drafting a reauthorization bill of the Workforce Investment Act, and similarly to the 1998 Act the bill will also attach a reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Services Act.  Introduction of the bill is expected shortly after the Easter Congressional recess.

NDI participated in the development of recommended legislative reforms through its membership in both the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) as well as the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination (CPSD).  As a result, both coalitions of national disability organizations have urged the Committee to include definitions of asset development and asset development services within Section 101 of WIA, and also have urged the addition of asset development services as an eligible category of vocational rehabilitation services under Section 103 of the Rehabilitation Services Act. 

On the heels of the successful Disability Program Navigator (DPN) initiative, both CCD and CPSD also strongly advocated for a permanent corps of expert staff (termed "Disability Resource Coordinators" to be deployed through workforce investment areas across the country to continue to bring the best practices of the DPN initiative to a national scale.  Specifically, both coalitions support inclusion of the following legislative language:

Amend Section 134(a)(2) to specify that:
Statewide employment and training activities shall include, among other things, deployment of an effective and responsive statewide system of full-time Disability Resource Coordinators (DRCs) as defined in Section 101, to serve as dedicated expert staff to navigate a pathway to higher skilled and higher paying jobs and economic security for individuals with disabilities and others with multiple barriers to employment by:
  1. improving meaningful and effective participation in and outside the One-Stop delivery systems including physical, communication and programmatic access;
  2. improving coordination and collaboration among employment and training and asset development programs carried out at a state and local level;
  3. bringing together multiple partners to foster a collaborative effort by building Interagency Action Committees to address systems level barriers and Integrated Resource Teams to address individual level barriers to employment jobseekers with disabilities experience
  4. improving the leveraging of resources to eliminate wasteful spending and duplicative practices; and
  5. improving critical linkages to the business community.
A State may continue current DPNs to be employed as Disability Resource Coordinator to maintain current activities and meet the clearly defined responsibilities listed.

Amend Sections 170 & 171 by inserting the following language: 
The Secretary shall provide, coordinate, and support the development of appropriate training, technical assistance, staff development and other activities including assistance building on lessons learned from the DPNs through deployment of Disability Resource Coordinators, and other programs of demonstrated effectiveness in meeting the needs of hard-to-serve populations, including individuals with disabilities.
Other critical recommendations supported by both groups included an extension of the duration of VR services based upon severity of disability; the addition of other critical services eligible for funding under VR; and expanded emphasis on Supported Employment Services.
NDI Joins National Advocacy Coalition to Support Massive Increases in Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Program in FY2011; Simultaneously Push for Introduction of VITA Act of 2010

NDI has long supported the expanded availability of free tax education & assistance programs in local communities.  VITA programs offer free tax assistance to low-to-moderate income individuals who cannot afford professional assistance.    Currently, the Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is one of three federally-supported taxpayer education & assistance programs funded through the Internal Revenue Service, each program aimed at supporting low-income individuals and targeted subpopulations during the tax preparation process, including citizens with disabilities.  Similar to previous years, NDI has teamed up with the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC), United Way Worldwide, and other national organizations to support increased federal investments in the Community VITA Matching Grant program.
More than 75,000 VITA volunteers prepare basic tax returns for low income taxpayers with a focus on at least one specific underserved group with special needs, including persons with disabilities, non-English speaking persons, Native Americans, rural taxpayers, and the elderly.  Previous federal funding support has enabled community VITA programs to reach more underserved low-income taxpayers, and resulted in more families accessing vital tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).  During the 2009 filing season, VITA centers prepared over 1.2 million tax returns and brought back over $1.6 billion in tax returns to working families.
Despite previous federal investments in the program, demand for grants greatly exceeds available resources.  For instance, in the 2010 filing season, 379 programs applied for over $30 million.  Yet, the VITA program was able to make awards to only 147 of the 379 applications with a median grant size of $56,000.  The reality is that the $12 million allocated in FY2010 is only a fraction of what it costs to operate tax sites nationwide.  Even though VITA centers are staffed mostly by volunteers, the collective operational costs of the 4,500 VITA centers across the country totaled approximately $150 million in 2009.  Additionally, the number of applicants is expected to increase with programs across the country losing state VITA funding while the number of people qualifying for their services is increasing with rising unemployment rates and wage cuts. 
As such, NDI is supporting efforts to solidify an additional $30 million in FY2011 for the Community VITA Matching Grant Assistance Program.  This funding request, which represents an $18 million increase over FY2010's level of $12 million, would significantly boost the program and adequately meet the growing number of requests for federal funding support coming from the field. 
The benefits of VITA's community-based approach are abundant.  First, VITA centers offer taxpayers a free, community-based alternative to commercial tax preparation chains, some which steer low-income taxpayers into Refund Anticipation Loans, essentially borrowing their own money at high interest rates.  Second, considerable evidence demonstrates that VITA centers significantly increase taxpayer compliance.  Finally, VITA centers ensure that taxpayers not only claim the benefits of which they are entitled, but that they are also exposed to a variety of financial literacy tools and savings strategies aimed at helping them build assets for the future.  For these reasons, NDI has been working with NCTC and United Way to encourage the introduction of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Act of 2010,  which is expected to be introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) in mid-April.  The bill would provide a permanent authorization of the Community VITA Matching Grant Assistance program, and also provide support for a national technical assistance center to further support the enhancement of existing practices among local VITA sites across the country.
For more information on how to become involved in supporting the Community VITA program, advocates in the field are encouraged to participate in NCTC's grassroots advocacy efforts at www.tax-coalition.org.
Tsongas introduces the SSI Savers Act of 2010

U.S. Representative Nikki Tsongas introduced the SSI Savers Act of 2010 to address the outdated asset limits in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program which prevent very low-income disabled, blind or elderly individuals from accumulating the savings they need to economically advance and rise out poverty.  The bill, H.R. 4937, was introduced on March 24th and was referred to the House Committee on Ways & Means.
The SSI Savers Act of 2010 increases asset limits from $2,000 (single) and $3,000 (married) to $5,000 and $7,500 respectively, and indexes those limits to inflation.  For recipients younger than 65, the bill excludes retirement accounts, education savings, and individual development accounts from counting against the limit.  For recipients 65 and older, it allows retirement accounts up to $50,000 (single)/$75,000 (married) to reduce SSI benefits accordingly instead of creating an immediate cut off.
H.R. 4937 has been endorsed by both the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), as well as the New America Foundation.  The text of legislation can be reviewed at the following link:
ABLE Act Pushing Ahead - 181 Co-Sponsors in the House

Momentum has never been stronger in support for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act).  In the aftermath of several advocacy conferences of national disability organizations that have included passage of the ABLE Act as a top priority for 2010, H.R. 1205 has received a surge of new cosponsors being added to the legislation, from 158 in February to 181 co-sponsors as of March 23rd.  It is anticipated that the House Committee on Ways and Means will mark-up the legislation by early summer.
Unfortunately, progress in the Senate on S.493 has been slow.  Additionally, there are concerns that efforts made by NDI and others to ensure inclusion of a refundable tax credit within the context of the ABLE Act will be thwarted in the Senate unless the House pushes such a provision forward.
The ABLE Act amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the establishment of ABLE Accounts for the care of family members with disabilities.  Amounts held by or distributed from ABLE accounts are not treated as assets or income when determining eligibility for benefits provided by any federal benefits program.  Accounts are used for qualified expenses, such as; educational expenses; medical and dental care; community based support services; employment training and support; assistive technology; and after age 18, housing and transportation expenses.
Department of Treasury Requests Comments on the Future of the CDFI Fund --  Comments Due May 7th

The U.S. Department of Treasury has invited public comments regarding the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, including the CDFI financial and technical assistance awards, the Native Initiatives and the Bank Enterprise Awards (BEA). In particular,
the CDFI Fund is interested in comments from the public related to an array of statutory requirements, in the interest of determining whether the CDFI Fund should seek technical corrections or substantive revisions to the authorizing statute. All materials submitted will be
available for public inspection and copying.  All comments and submissions must be received by May 7, 2010. More details can be found on the March 8th Federal Register announcement at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-4786.htm.

SPECIAL EVENT: NDI Co-Hosts Upcoming Congressional Briefing entitled, "Innovative Public Policy Strategies aimed at Fostering the Economic Advancement of Individuals with Disabilities" on Friday, April 23

NDI is joining forces with the Congressional Disability Caucus to host an educational briefing for Congressional policymakers and staff entitled, "Innovative Public Policy Strategies aimed at Fostering the Economic Advancement of Individuals with Disabilities".  The briefing will be held on Friday, April 23, 2010 from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. ET.  Lunch will be provided to attendees.
The purpose of the upcoming Congressional briefing is to educate Congressional leaders and staff about various public policy strategies aimed at developing a roadmap out of poverty for individuals with disabilities and their families nationwide.  Some of the nation's key thought leaders in the area of asset development and disability policy will present on the potential impacts of several budgetary and legislative proposals with respect to promoting the economic advancement of citizens with disabilities.  Additionally, participants will also learn about the establishment of an infrastructure at a community level that is changing expectations about the power of human and financial capital with regard to our nation's most undervalued and vulnerable citizens. 
External participants are welcome to attend the briefing, but are encouraged to RSVP soon as space is limited.  For more information, please review the details below or refer to the NDI website at http://www.realeconomicimpact.org/Events.aspx?id=69.

"Innovative Public Policy Strategies Aimed at Fostering the Economic Advancement of Individuals with Disabilities"

Friday, April 23, 2010
11:30-1:00 p.m. ET
121 Cannon House Office Building

Welcome:  U.S. Representative James Langevin (RI-2)
Chairman, Congressional Disabilities Caucus

Facilitator: John Hetterick, Chairman of the Board of Directors, National Disability Institute

  • Rourke O'Brien, New America Foundation
  • Steve Mendelsohn, Burton Blatt Institute
  • Carol Wayman, Corporation for Enterprise Development
  • Steve Beck, Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination


  • Asset Development Proposals in the President's FY2011 Budget : Impacts on Citizens with Disabilities
  • Implications of existing Asset & Income Limits on Citizens with Disabilities
  • Key Legislative Initiatives Focused on Promoting Asset Development Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities
    • Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2010
    • SSI Savers Act of 2010
    • Savings for Working Families Act
    • Assets for Independence


Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination

Consortium on Citizens with Disabilities -- Asset Development Task Force

Corporation for Enterprise Development

National Disability Institute

New America Foundation

For more information please contact Serena Lowe at EwoLAneres@gmail.com





March 2009

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% of population in the labor force





Unemployment rate





Employment-population ratio





As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6
Vol: 2 Issue: 3
In This Issue
1. Senate HELP Committee Moving Forward with Reauthorization of Workforce Investment Act & Rehabilitation Act
2. NDI Joins National Advocacy Coalition to Support Massive Increases in Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
3. Tsongas introduces the SSI Savers Act of 2010
4. ABLE Act Pushing Ahead - 181 Co-Sponsors in the House
5. Department of Treasury Requests Comments on the Future of the CDFI Fund - Comments Due May 7th
6. SPECIAL EVENT...: NDI Co-Hosts Upcoming Congressional Briefing

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