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May 2010
NDI hosts Congressional Briefing to Stimulate the Advancement of Public Policy aimed at Improving Economic Outlook for Citizens with Disabilities

On Friday, April 23rd, NDI hosted an educational program on Capitol Hill entitled, "Innovative Public Policy Strategies aimed at Promoting the Economic Advancement of Individuals with Disabilities."  The briefing included the following speakers:  Rourke O'Brien of the New America Foundation; Steve Mendelsohn of Burton Blatt Institute; Steve Beck of the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination; Carol Wayman of the Corporation for Enterprise Development; and John Hetterick of the National Disability Institute.  Over 75 participants attended the briefing, which included an overview of an array of legislative proposals currently before Congress, including the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (H.R. 1205/S.493), the SSI Savers Act (H.R. 4937), Savings for Working Families Act (H.R. 2277/S.985), and the Savings for American Families' Future Act (H.R. 1961/S.3090).  The briefing also highlighted concerns about the archaic asset and income limits tied to eligibility of critical federal programs upon which many low-income workers with disabilities rely, including SSI and Medicaid.
Among the 75 participants attending the briefing were representatives from five federal agencies, twelve Congressional offices, and two state government offices. For more information and to access a copy of materials released at the briefing, please visit the Capitol Hill Briefings Page on the NDI Website.
NDI Board of Directors Head to Capitol Hill to Push for Legislative Proposals aimed at promoting Economic Advancement of Citizens with Disabilities

On the heels of the successful Congressional briefing held on April 23rd, NDI's Board of Directors spent the day on Capitol Hill on May 9th, meeting with over 23 Congressional offices to educate policymakers and staff on several legislative proposals that would impact the economic advancement of individuals with disabilities, including:  the recent introduction of the SSI Savers Act of 2010 (H.R. 4937); efforts to introduce legislation that would codify the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program; benefits of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2010 (H.R. 1205/S.493); and the needed expansion of IDAs and financial literacy initiatives as outlined in the Savings for Working Families Act (H.R. 2277/S. 985).  The results of the meetings were overall fairly positive, though it was quite clear that there is a high learning curve and need for additional education among the majority of Congressional leaders and staff on policy issues related to the economic advancement of individuals with disabilities.
Introduction of VITA Act of 2010 Anticipated in June

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is moving forward in introducing legislation that would codify the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Community Matching Grant program.  The VITA Act of 2010 would authorize $30 million annually for the program's continuation.  Specifically, VITA grantees would be allowed to use the funds for covering the ordinary and necessary costs associated with program operation; outreach and educational activities relating to eligibility and availability of income supports available through the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; and services related to financial literacy, asset development and lowering Federal income taxes.
Additionally, the VITA Act of 2010 would establish a National Center to Promote Quality, Excellence, and Evaluation in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, which will be tasked with promoting the adoption of a universally accessible volunteer training platform for the preparation of Federal income tax returns; providing capacity-building technical assistance to qualified return preparation program managers; identifying and disseminating best practices related to tax site management emerging from states, community-based organizations, non-profit provider and local government entities; and supporting outreach and marketing efforts to encourage the use of qualified return preparation programs receiving funds through the VITA Community Matching Grant program.  Furthermore, the National Center must also subcontract with national entities who possess specific expertise in the delivery of technical assistance to the field on effectively reaching and serving taxpayers with disabilities.
NDI worked closely with Senator Brown's legislative team and a national coalition of VITA partners, including the United Way and the National Community Tax Coalition, on the draft legislation, which is expected to be introduced by early June.

NDI Offers Comments on the Future of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund for Individuals with Disabilities

NDI submitted comments to the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund on ways the fund could strengthen the capacity of CDFIs to respond to the underserved community of individuals with disabilities.  NDI's submission was in response to a Request for Public Comments released by the agency on March 2nd, in conjunction with the 15th anniversary of passage of the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994, the CDFI Fund's authorizing statute. NDI's comments included the following proposed recommendations aimed at improving the response of CDFI's in serving citizens with disabilities:
  1. Representation of Disability Perspective on Community Development Advisory Board:  The Advisory Board should include, at a minimum, a private citizen leader from the disability community as part of a commitment to diversity.  Public agency representation should be expanded to include the Office on Disability at the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Office on Disability Employment Policy at the US Department of Labor to provide needed advice on opportunities for collaboration with multiple federal agencies invested in advancing the economic self sufficiency of persons with disabilities.
  2. Inclusion of Disability in CDFI Definition of Low Income:  The definition of low income should explicitly include persons with disabilities who lack adequate access to loans or equity investments.  All CDFI Awards across program authorities should require applicants to "identify activities that will market and outreach to low income individuals with disabilities, increase access to capital to this target population, and provide effective and meaningful participation in loan or investment products."  Such a change to the definition of targeted population should be added consistently across all IDFI Fund programs.
  3. Reporting Requirements on Activities and Results in Reaching Disability Community during Recertification Process:  CDFIs should be recertified on a regular basis at least every two years and be required to document their activities and results related to low income persons with disabilities.  Social performance reporting annually should document number of loans and investments in the disability community, nature, size, terms and conditions of such investments, and current status as well as type and results of technical assistance activities.
  4. Provision of Financial Assistance to Eligible Entities who Focus on Underserved Markets:  CDFIs should create a category of eligible entities that serve a national market or are the intermediaries.  Such entities might focus on persons with disabilities, women, Native Americans, or other minorities.  Fifteen percent of the appropriation should be allocated for such applicants.  Match requirements should not be reduced for any applicant as part of the public-private leveraging of resources.
  5. Expansion of CDFI Training & Technical Assistance specific to Serving the Needs of Citizens with Disabilities:  CDFI should expand its training and technical assistance activities to increase the capacity of all CDFI funded entities to understand the needs of and market and outreach to persons with disabilities and related organizations.
NDI will continue to work with CDFI Fund's leadership to ensure that citizens with disabilities are prioritized in the systemic reform efforts of the Fund.
WIA Reauthorization Dying on the Vine for 2010; New Employment Bill Contains No Emphasis on Disability

With fewer than 50 official days of Congressional business left between now and the election, the prospects for the Congress to move reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act in 2010 appear to be dim.  Sources in the Senate have predicted that if legislation is not introduced by the Memorial Day recess, that consideration of the bill will be tabled until the next Congress.
Speculations about the future of the WIA reauthorization efforts came into question approximately six weeks ago, when staff from both sides of the aisle suggested that both the House and Senate Education & Labor Committees had other priorities (including reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act) would take precedent over moving WIA before the end of the year.
Additionally, this week, House Ways & Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) released the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, legislation to provide additional tax cuts and support for American workers through the end of this year.  While there are several provisions that will arguably impact individuals with disabilities who are currently participating in the labor force, the legislation lacked any emphasis or prioritization of funding or tax incentives targeted solely at improving the abysmal employment rates of citizens with disabilities.  This falls in the face of a report released earlier this year by Dr. Stephen Kaye from the University of California-San Francisco, which shows how over a one-year period (January-December of 2009), the number of employed workers with disabilities declined at a rate more than three times that of workers without disabilities, and the unemployment rate rose dramatically to levels far exceeding that of other workers.

NDI is currently participating in a national public policy discussion about strategies for reforming the current federal infrastructure that exists to ensure a more coordinated, effective approach at providing services and supports to citizens with disabilities. We are looking for your ideas and suggestions with respect to the potential consolidation and reformation of specific federal entities responsible for the delivery of services and supports for individuals with disabilities.  Please send your comments to Serena Lowe at EwolAneres@gmail.com.





April 2010

April 2009

April 2010

April 2009

% 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: 4
In This Issue
1. NDI hosts Congressional Briefing
2. NDI Board of Directors Head to Capitol Hill to Push for Legislative Proposals
3. Introduction of VITA Act of 2010 Anticipated in June
4. NDI Offers Comments on the Future of the CDFI Fund
5. WIA Reauthorization Dying on the Vine for 2010; New Employment Bill Contains No Emphasis on Disabilities

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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.