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August 2010
Community VITA Grant Assistance Program gets Funding Boost by Senate for FY2011; VITA Act of 2010 Forthcoming

After receiving a letter signed by 23 Senators supporting a significant increase in the federal funding stream for the Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant program, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $14 million appropriation to the program in Fiscal Year 2011 (FY2011) through passage of the FY2011 Appropriations Act for Financial Services & General Government Operations on July 29, 2010 by a vote of 18-12.  This amount represents a $2 million increase over FY2010 and a $6 million increase over the President's FY2011 budgetary request.  In its Committee report, the Senate Appropriations Committee reiterated a strong directive to the Internal Revenue Service to continue to prioritize grant applications that possess a strong emphasis on reaching taxpayers with disabilities:
"The Committee strongly urges the IRS to make every effort to expand the quantity and funding level of VITA grants focused on serving persons with disabilities proportional to the growing disability population requiring tax assistance......The Committee understands that entities that are currently increasing their outreach efforts to better serve the needs of the disability population have experienced difficulty in applying for Federal grant assistance due to a lack of resources at the local level needed to complete the application. The Committee urges the IRS to allow national coalitions responsible for the coordination of local community partnerships focused specifically on the expanded provision of tax services for individuals with disabilities to compete in future VITA community matching grant processes."
The House Appropriations Committee has yet to mark up its version of the appropriations legislation, but is predicted to follow suit with the Senate's recommended funding level.  This is a tremendous victory for the volunteer tax preparation community, especially in light of the current fiscal crisis the government is facing.
On the heels of this positive news, efforts continue to move forward in preparation for the introduction of the VITA Act of 2010.  Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is working to solidify a Republican counterpart to cosponsor the legislation in the Senate, and NDI is working with the National Community Tax Coalition and United Way to solidify champions in the House of Representatives to introduce a companion bill.  Introduction is expected in mid-September.
U.S. Department of Labor releases Solicitation for Applications for $22 million Disability Employment Initiative

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a solicitation for grant applications for approximately $22 million to fund programs that will improve educational, training and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  This grant solicitation is a direct result of Congress appropriating $22 million in FY2010 to continue and further the promising practices implemented by disability program navigators over the previous eight years.
The redesigned Disability Employment initiative is a joint project of the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration and its Office of Disability Employment Policy. Programs will serve eligible individuals who are unemployed or underemployed, including those receiving Social Security disability benefits. Funds will be awarded to state workforce agencies, which will collaborate with workforce investment boards and local areas.  Grant awards will range from $1.5 to $6 million each to be spent over a three-year period. Cooperative agreements will be used to foster service delivery through the public workforce investment system for job seekers with disabilities.  Programs will build upon the Labor Department's Disability Program Navigator initiative and other model service delivery strategies.
In its official solicitation for applications, the U.S. Department of Labor reiterated its commitment to workers with disabilities: "These grants align with the department's goal of helping workers in low-wage jobs, or those out of the labor market, find pathways into the middle class. Improvements in employment services for people with disabilities through these grants will help combat the unacceptably low employment rates experienced by this group."
The complete solicitation for grant applications is available at http://www.doleta.gov/grants.  Additionally, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently passed its FY2011 appropriations legislation for the U.S. Department of Labor, and awarded an additional $34 million ($17 million at ETA and $17 million at ODEP) to continue the program in FY2011.  In its Committee report, the Senate Appropriations Committee reasserts its expectations that the funds are to be used to continue the promising practices implemented by disability program navigators, including the effective deployment of staff in selected States to "improve coordination among employment, training, and asset development programs carried out at the State and local level such as the Ticket to Work program; and build effective community partnerships that leverage public and private resources to improve services and employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities".  The Committee also directs ETA and ODEP to develop appropriate objectives and performance measures by which the Disability Employment initiative will be evaluated.
NIDRR Also Receives Strong Support in FY2011 Senate Appropriations Process

A $2.7 million funding increase for NIDRR (from $109,241,000 in FY 2010 to $111,919,000 in FY 2011) is included in the FY 2011 appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and related agencies (S. 3686). In addition, the report accompanying the bill has favorable language, which reaffirms NIDRR's focus on employment, health and function, and participation and community living. The report also directs the Interagency Committee on Disability Research to develop a comprehensive disability and rehabilitation strategic plan by April 1, 2011.
Excerpts from the Senate Appropriations Committee report is below:
The Committee strongly supports the mission of NIDRR, which includes research in the interrelated domains of health and function, employment, and participation and community living. NIDRR's resources should focus on each of these statutory research priorities to ensure the advancement of economic and social self-sufficiency and full community inclusion and participation. Future Rehabilitation Research Training Centers' priorities should advance knowledge of effective strategies to reduce the impact of poverty, promote affordable housing and independent living with improved access to long-term supports, and facilitate greater individual choice and control of individualized plans under the Rehabilitation and Social Security Laws.  

The Committee believes the Interagency Committee on Disability Research, currently led by NIDRR, needs to more effectively carry out its mission, including coordinating research and assessing research gaps as well as meeting required reporting requirements in a timely manner. Therefore, the Committee urges the administration, through the Interagency Committee on Disability Research [ICDR], to facilitate the development and implementation of a comprehensive Government-wide long-term strategic plan for disability and rehabilitation research by the spring of 2011. The strategic plan should reflect the active involvement of disability senior policy advisors, program directors and other staff from NIDRR and the Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with stakeholders conducting disability and rehabilitation research. The plan should be submitted to the Committee by April 1, 2011. The Committee further requests that the annual report prepared by ICDR should include an accounting of the progress made in implementing the long-term strategic plan.

The Committee notes that the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 and related regulations will require sustained training and technical resources from the disability and business technical assistance center program. The Committee believes the additional funds it provides will help meet the information and training needs related to the legislation.

Savings & Tax Legislative Objectives Face Grim Outlook in Remainder of 2010

With only four weeks of official business remaining in the 2010 Congressional schedule, the chances of several critical legislative priorities aimed at improving the financial stability of low- and moderate-income families moving through the legislative process are looking dim.  Much ambiguity exists on how the Congressional Democratic leadership plans to handle the Bush tax credits (which include both tax credits for America's wealthiest 2% of the population to several tax credits which low- and moderate-income taxpayers rely heavily, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit), which are all up for expiration.  If the tax credits targeted at low and moderate income workers and families are not extended at post-ARRA levels, taxpayers with disabilities will face a tremendous increase in their tax liability for 2011.
Additionally, despite having 197 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 23 cosponsors in the Senate, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE Act) still faces several hurdles in terms of moving through the legislative process in 2010. House Ways & Means Committee staff are reluctant to move on any additional legislation that could add to the deficit, although disability advocacy organizations have been working with Congressional champions of the ABLE Act to identify possible pay-fors.  A rigorous, intensive advocacy campaign across multiple national disability organizations is being launched in the following weeks during the Congressional recess.  For more information on how to engage in these efforts, please continue to check the National Disability Institute's website for ongoing updates at www.realeconomicimpact.org.
National Council on Disability Hosts Disability Summit

On July 27th, the National Council on Disability and its partners hosted the first-ever National Summit on Disability Policy. The event marked the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming law.

Senior government officials and more than 500 disability leaders from across the country gathered in Washington DC to discuss the history of the ADA, and the future of disability policy at the Federal, state and local level. The event's theme was Living, Learning and Earning, and focused on the development of new strategies for enhancing collaboration and coordination among various government and non-governmental entities to improve the advancement of citizens with disabilities.

Featured speakers included:
  • Chairman Jonathan Young, National Council on Disability
  • Secretary Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation  
  • General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff, USAF 
  • Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, Department of Justice  
  • Administrator Craig Fugate, FEMA  
  • Under Secretary Martha Kanter, Department of Education
  • Commissioner Michael Astrue, Social Security Administration
  • Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Dept of Labor
  • Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy 
As well as key leadership from the following agencies:
  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • U.S. Federal Communications Commission
  • U.S. Health and Human Services
  • U.S. State Department
  • U.S. Department of Justice
Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination Hosts Congressional Briefing on Innovative Strategies for Fostering Integrated Employment Opportunities for Citizens with Significant Disabilities

NDI joined TASH and fourteen other partners of the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination in sponsoring an educational briefing on July 29th for Congressional leaders and staff entitled, "Promoting Employment First:  Innovations in Policy & Practice to Achieve Integrated Employment for Citizens with Significant Disabilities." The purpose of the Congressional briefing was to educate Congressional leaders and staff about what is possible In terms of innovative approaches that are leading to successful placements of citizens with significant disabilities into integrated employment settings at livable wages.  Additionally, the briefing will include a discussion of various public policy strategies aimed at bringing these innovative practices to scale and to improving the federal government's response to the desires of citizens with significant disabilities to work in integrated settings at minimum and prevailing wages.

Some of the nation's key thought leaders in the area of integrated employment and disability policy presented on the need to foster integrated work for people with disabilities, and the potential strategies for policy makers to do so.  The agenda included the following presentations:
Breaking Down the Barriers toward Integration for Citizens with Significant Disabilities
Barb Trader, Executive Director, TASH
A Personal Quest for Real Work for Real Wages in Real Community Settings - A Self-Advocate's Perspective
Nancy Ward, Self-Advocate
What is Really Possible -An Overview of Evidence Based Practices Resulting in Integrated Employment for Citizens with Significant Disabilities
Michael Callahan, Marc Gold & Associates
Promoting Universal Design in the Recruitment and Hiring Process: An Employer's Perspective
Keith Wiedenkeller, Senior Vice President of Human Resources & Chief People Officer
AMC Entertainment Inc.
Bringing Practice to Scale - Holding the Government Accountable in Promoting Integrated Employment for Citizens with Significant Disabilities
Curt Decker, National Disability Rights Network
The briefing was well attended, with over 40 Congressional staff, federal employees and disability policy specialists participating.
Mathematica Publishes USDOL-funded Study Showing Positive Impacts of Generic Workforce Development Initiatives on Citizens with Disabilities over Vocational Rehabilitation and Ticket to Work

Mathematica Policy Research Inc recently published a study funded by the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Employment and Training Administration that provides an in-depth evaluation of the workforce investment programs on individuals with disabilities receiving SSI or SSDI.  The purpose of the study was to complete a quantitative evaluation of the Disability Program Navigator (DPN) Initiative through the use of the One-Stop Career Center system by SSI and SSDI beneficiaries.  WIA and W-P data from four states who were early adopters of the DPN initiative (including CO, IA, MD and OR) were used in the assessment to look at the following four issues:
  • Extent to which One-Stop Career Centers are serving persons who are SSA disability beneficiaries;
  • Characteristics of SSI/SSDI beneficiaries receiving services;
  • Nature of the services received; and
  • How services and outcomes for beneficiaries compared with SSI/SSDI beneficiaries nationally.
The results of this study negate criticism about the lack of impact of the generic workforce development system in helping individuals with disabilities, and provide very timely data for use in the ongoing WIA reauthorization efforts and in future federal disability employment policy initiatives.  For example, the study confirms that One Stop Career Centers are serving a very large share of persons receiving SSA disability benefits and the public workforce system is providing important support for SSA disability beneficiaries who want to work.  Some key findings that are particularly noteworthy include:
  • The numbers of SSA disability beneficiaries receiving support through the public workforce system greatly exceed participation levels of beneficiaries in other programs including VR.  When former SSA beneficiaries are counted along with current SSA beneficiaries, the number and % accessing WIA and W-P nearly doubled in each of the four states.
  • Employment retention rates ranged from 73-80% for three of the four states.
  • Of SSA beneficiaries who became employed after using One-Stop services, roughly 35-50% had earnings above the equivalent of the SSA substantial gainful activity (SGA) level.  Additionally, during a 12-month period after exit, 11-24% of SSA cash benefits were reduced to zero compared to the national average of 6%.
  • While the study determined that the completion of a rigorous quantitative evaluation of the DPN initiative was impossible and thus non-conclusive, the research team did state that "The steady and increasing trend....suggests that the DPN might have facilitated the collection of disability information, possibly by raising awareness of disability issues among staff and improving administrative processes". 
A summary of the report can be found here (pdf).





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As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6
Vol: 2 Issue: 6
In This Issue
1. Community VITA Grant Assistance Program gets Funding Boost by Senate for FY2011
2. U.S. Department of Labor releases Solicitation for Applications for $22 million Disability Employment Initiative
3. NIDRR Also Receives Strong Support in FY2011 Senate Appropriations Process
4. Savings & Tax Legislative Objectives Face Grim Outlook in Remainder of 2010
5. National Council on Disability Hosts Disability Summit
6. Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination Hosts Congressional Briefing
7. Mathematica Publishes USDOL-funded Study Showing Positive Impacts of Generic Workforce Development Initiatives

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