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January 2012



A Preview of 2012: 

What's on the Horizon




Legislation to Increase Savings  

(ABLE Act, SSI Savers Act)

Legislation that Increases Spending

Reauthorization of Workforce Incentives

Reauthorization of Workforce Investment Act

Employment First

Education Reform

SSDI Reform

Medicaid Reform

Work Incentives

Workforce Investment Act

Money Follows the Person

Medicaid Infrastructure Grants

Tax Cuts

Tax Increases

Conscientious Spending
(Pay-Fors, Offsets)

Deficit Reduction


As we enter the political mayhem of 2012, many of the policy and legislative reform debates of 2011 will take a back-burner to the whims and ambitions of the political election cycle. NDI reached out to several Congressional staff and Administration officials to get a sense of what may be on the horizon for federal public policy in 2012. Here's a snapshot of what's in and what's out in terms of federal public policy & legislative priorities for 2012:

Raising the Bar: 20 Public Policy Leaders to Watch in 2012


As Washington gears up for this year's national election cycle, one thing is clear: there is a great deal of momentum around public policy reforms that will have a major impact on citizens with disabilities. As we enter 2012, here are twenty federal public policy leaders and/or entities to watch in terms of both opportunities and threats to improving employment and economic advancement outcomes of citizens with disabilities in 2012.


The "Game Changers" - Setting New Expectations in Federal Disability Policy


#20 - US Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31)


BecerraTen-term Democrat Xavier Becerra serves as Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, is a member of the powerful Committee on Ways And Means and is Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. His committee is responsible for formulating our nation's tax, Social Security, Medicare, trade and income security laws. As Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, Rep. Becerra wields a strong voice in House Democratic leadership, helping to set priorities and drive the legislative decision making process. The first Latino to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Becerra has used his position to increase opportunities for working families, to improve the Social Security program for women and minorities, to combat poverty among the working poor, and to strengthen Medicare and ensure its long-term viability. He currently serves on the Oversight and Social Security Subcommittees. And in 2010, Rep. Becerra served on the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and in 2011, held one of three House Democratic seats on Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. In these roles, Becerra and key staff took a strong interest in potential strategies for reforming entitlement programs in order to promote work and economic advancement of people with disabilities.


#19: U.S. Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX-3)


JohnsonAs Chairman of the House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Social Security, U.S. Representative Sam Johnson is now leading a series of hearings to look at the challenges facing the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and to discuss solutions for meeting the growing demand of program recipients while ensuring the program's financial sustainability. While the number of workers paying into the system increased nearly 70 percent between 1970 and 2010, the number of people receiving disability benefits increased by almost 300 percent (from 2.6 million to nearly 10 million). By 2020, the number of beneficiaries will continue to increase by 18 percent to 11.8 million. By then, total benefits paid will reach $188 billion, which represents a 52 percent increase over the $124 billion paid in benefits in 2010. The Committee held its first hearing on December 2, 2011 and examined the history of the SSDI program, the income security it provides and its financing challenges. Future hearings in 2012 will explore the inner workings of the program including its vulnerabilities to fraud, the criteria used to determine benefit eligibility, how decisions are made and the appeals process, and the good thinking that is taking place about possible solutions.


#18: U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)  


MerkleyAs one of the newest members of the Senate, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley has already demonstrated a strong interest in and support of public policy initiatives that improve the employment and economic outcomes of citizens with disabilities. Senator Merkley is a strong supporter of Oregon's Disability Program Navigator (DPN) initiative, and also took a keen interest in concerns raised by disability advocates with respect to the Senate draft reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act in 2011. Senator Merkley also played an important role behind the scenes encouraging DOL to look at revisiting companionship guidelines under the Fair Labor Standards Act to protect direct support workers. Additionally, Merkley will serve as the lead Senate Democratic sponsor in 2012 of legislation to reauthorize and improve the Assets for Independence Act, the largest Federal grant program for individual development accounts (IDAs) and the primary source of funding for the IDA field.


#17: U.S. Representative Nikki Tsongas (D-MA-5)

TsongasA long-term co-chair of the Congressional Savings Caucus, U.S. Representative Nikki Tsongas has demonstrated a deep appreciation for and commitment to addressing the unique challenges that citizens with disabilities - and particularly those who rely on supplemental security income or disability insurance - face in building financial savings for future needs without jeopardizing critically important supports by which they are entitled. Representative Tsongas has championed the SSI Savers Act (H.R. 2103) for the past two Congresses. H.R. 2103 would help low-income seniors and people with disabilities by incenting work, increasing personal savings and help them achieve the financial self-reliance they need to escape poverty and transition off of federal assistance. The bill raises the asset limit to $5,000/single and $7,500/joint filers and index these limits for inflation; excludes $50,000 in retirement savings ($75,000 for a couple) from inclusion in the asset test; excludes savings in qualified retirement accounts below $10,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a couple or household; disregards 1/3 of the funds drawn down from retirement accounts when calculating household income; removes the requirement that SSI recipients, if eligible, must apply for periodic payments from their retirement savings; and excludes Education Savings Accounts and Individual Development Accounts for those under age 65.

#16: U.S. Representative Gregg Harper (R-MS-3)  

HarperWhile only in his second term, U.S. Representative Gregg Harper has let little grass grow under his feet during his first few years in Congress where disability policy is concerned. As a father of a young adult living with intellectual disabilities, Congressman Harper is committed to pushing for public policy reform to improve the outcomes of youth with significant disabilities transitioning into adulthood. In February of 2011, Harper introduced a trio of legislation known as the Transition toward Excellence and Achievement and Mobility package, which seeks to transform and coordinate transition supports for youth with significant disabilities through the education, vocational rehabilitation, and state Medicaid adult services systems. The legislative package, which includes the TEAM-Education Act (H.R. 602), TEAM-Empowerment Act (H.R. 603), and TEAM-Employment Act (H.R. 604), represent the first comprehensive, focused legislative package aimed at cross-systems reform in an attempt to ensure that youth with significant disabilities transition into post-secondary education, integrated employment, economic advancement, and independent living as adults.


Holding the Implementation Strings - Key Administrative Figures/Agencies to Watch in 2012

#15:  Bob Williams, Social Security Administration
WilliamsWilliams was appointed Associate Commissioner for the Office of Employment Support Programs (OESP) at the Social Security Administration in 2011.  In this role, Mr. Williams leads the implementation of the national Ticket to Work and Self Sufficiency Program and related efforts aimed at increasing the employment, economic security and financial independence of Americans with disabilities. With the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance grants up for reauthorization and both SSDI and SSI being under the Congressional microscope with respect to entitlement reform and deficit reduction, Williams will play a pivotal role in leading innovative solution-oriented strategies for modernizing the Social Security programs.  Additionally, Williams has a deep understanding of and appreciation for the connectivity between employment and asset development, and has already used his new office to help elevate awareness around policy barriers that impede the ability of SS beneficiaries from becoming more economically independent.


#14:  Dr. Jonathan Young, National Council on Disability  


YoungAs the current Chairman of the National Council on Disability, Dr. Jonathan Young has been credited for shaking things up in terms of NCD's active engagement on critical public policy issues impacting citizens with disabilities in recent years.  2012 promises to be a significant year for NCD, as the Council releases several publications on policy issues related to the employment and economic advancement of citizens with disabilities and engages in strong policy debates related to disability rights, economic development opportunities, and strategies for ensuring improved employment outcomes for citizens with disabilities.  Under Young's leadership, NCD is also expected to push the envelope in terms of facilitating challenging discussions related to the modernization and transformation of current entitlement programs aimed at supporting individuals with disabilities and their families.


 #13:  Sharon Lewis, Commissioner, Administration on Developmental Disabilities 


LewisSharon Lewis was appointed Commissioner of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) in March 2010. Prior to her appointment as Commissioner, she served as the Senior Disability Policy Advisor to U.S. House Committee on Education & Labor, advising members of the Committee on legislative strategy and disability-related policy issues in education, employment and healthcare, and as a Kennedy Public Policy Fellow for U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children & Families. Under her leadership, ADD underwent a nationwide, comprehensive strategic planning process in 2011. Additionally, despite a 48% cut in budget for FY2012, ADD is investing in the role out of a six-state Partnership in Employment First Systems-Change grant initiatives this year, with the potential of expanding the initiative in the future. The grant initiative is unique in that it requires state VR, education, and DD adult service agencies to work collectively on implementing Employment First policies and strategies at the state level to improve employment outcomes of citizens with significant disabilities.


#12:  Cindy Mann, Director of Medicaid Operations, CMS


MannCindy Mann, J.D. has served as the Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS) within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) since June 2009. As CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of CMCS, Ms. Mann is responsible for the development and implementation of national policies governing Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), including working closely with States. With the anticipated release of new changes to the 2012 technical guide for the Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver program, final rule on implementation of the Community First Option, roll out of new Money Follows the Person grants to states, and final guidance related to the definition of "community", all eyes will be on Mann and her team in 2012. Additionally, disability policy advocates will be closely watching how Mann's team responds to concerns over the impact that the transition of several states from traditional Medicaid reimbursement models to managed care will have on the provision of long-term supports and services of citizens with significant disabilities.


#11:  U.S. Department of Labor's Wage & Hour Division 


The DOL Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for enforcing some of our nation's most comprehensive federal labor laws on topics, including the minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, child labor and special employment, family and medical leave, migrant workers, lie detector tests, worker protections in certain temporary worker programs, and the prevailing wages for government service and construction contracts. Given recent interest in revisiting key provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act related to companionship and in-home support professionals, concerns over the classification of direct support professionals who provide integrated supports to citizens with significant disabilities, and ongoing backlash over the continual payment of some workers with significant disabilities at subminimum wages, the DOL Wage and Hour Division will play a pivotal role in determining what steps and regulatory tools the Department will utilize in addressing these issues in 2012.

The Movers - Key Congressional Leaders Responsible for Agenda Setting and Jurisdiction over Key Employment & Economic Policy Issues

#10: Senate HELP Committee Leadership: U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY)

Harkin and EnziIn perhaps one of the strongest alliances ever seen among Committee leaders, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Mike Enzi have enjoyed a solid partnership in co-leading the Senate HELP Committee in a bipartisan fashion. Overall, their strategy of solidarity has worked well for the Committee, who has jurisdiction over all public health, education, labor and pension issues. Bipartisanship, however, is not always easy, and unfortunately few comprehensive proposals developed by the Committee have been able to successfully pass the finish line in terms of Senate floor passage. It remains to be seen in a year like 2012 how much the Committee will be able to accomplish, but the strong bipartisan leadership, coupled with the long-term commitment to the disability community that Chairman Harkin has displayed, is a good sign that some progress will be made.

#9: Taxation & Revenue Gatekeepers: U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) & U.S. Representative David Camp (R-MI-4)


BaucusCamp With ARRA-era tax credits set to expire 

at the end 

of 2012, the extension of the payroll tax credit and unemployment insurance to be debated again in February, and ongoing pressure for the Committees of jurisdiction to get serious about revenue generation and deficit reduction, both U.S. Senator Max Baucus (Chair of the senate Finance Committee) and U.S. Representative David Camp have much on their minds these days. With entitlement reform, tax credits for low income workers, and savings legislation in play, these will be two critical men to watch.

#8: Education & Workforce Giants: U.S. Representative John Kline (R-MN-2) & Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA-7)


KlineMillerIn complete contrast to the bipartisan airs of the Senate HELP Committee, the House Education & Leadership Committee seems rather polarized in just about every legislative initiative put forth in this Congress. Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is a touchy subject these days on Capitol Hill, and now the House Educaiton & Workforce Committee has shown its cards. In December, with Chairman Kline's support, three senior Republican Members of the Committee reintroduced a trio of controversial bills that would significantly reduce the current slew of workforce investment programs available to at-risk workers, including workers with disabilities. A recent draft reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) introduced by the Chairman has only reinforced the toxic partisan energy of the Committee. It is unclear what lies ahead for these critically important legislative initiatives, but one thing is certain - the disability policy community will need to keep a close eye on the work of this Committee in 2012.

#7: U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) 


Van HollenFortunately, U.S. Representative Van Hollen is no stranger to the importance of bipartisanship. As the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, Van Hollen brings a rich, intellectual perspective to many of the conversations on Capitol Hill with respect to deficit reduction, spending cuts, and revenue generation. Van Hollen's role on the Joint Select Committee on Fiscal Deficit Reduction led to an escalated interest among the Congressman with respect to disincentives in current public entitlement programs that discourage individuals with disabilities from working. As an original cosponsor of the ABLE Act and a long-term advocate for an array of disability policy issues, Representative Van Hollen will continue to evolve as a leading champion for major public policy issues impacting the disability community.

#6: U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI-6)

UptonU.S. Representative Fred Upton, Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, possesses a strong record in supporting an array of disability policy issues. As the former Co-Chair of the Congressional Disabilities Caucus, Upton will be a key figure in future discussions related to Medicaid reform and the future provision of long term supports and services by which citizens with significant disabilities rely. While Medicaid reform is certainly off the table in terms of movement in 2012, Upton's Committee staff will use this year to flesh out its proposals and overall strategy.


The Shakers - Key Congressional Members Shaking Things Up by Pushing for the Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities

#5: U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6) & Tim Bishop (D-NY-1)

StearnsBishopIn late 2011, U.S. Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6) and Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) introduced the Fair wages for Workers with Disabilities Act (H.R. 3086), and thus jumped head first into one of the most controversial disability rights debates of our time. H.R. 3086 seeks to repeal section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and thus eliminate the right of employers to pay workers with significant disabilities below the Federal minimum wage. So far, the legislation has 22 cosponsors, and over 33 national organizations have endorsed the legislation. The introduction of the legislation was bold and will force a larger national dialogue on the issue of subminimum wage practices in the future. 


#4: U.S. Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI-2) 


LangevinU.S. Representative Jim Langevin has been the long-term co-leader of the Congressional Disabilities Caucus. 2012 presents a tremendous opportunity for the Congressional Disabilities Caucus to promote greater awareness about federal policy strategies for improving employment opportunities and the economic advancement of the citizens with disabilities. Under Langevin's leadership, the Caucus may also be in a role of putting out fires in the future, as the disability community will require a strong caucus to help defend and push the policy reforms necessary to ensure that citizens with disabilities are not left behind during some of the monumental debates around reformation of the nation's entitlement systems, tax code, educational systems, and workforce investment programs.

#3: U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA)

GrassleyU.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) is a seasoned leader of the U.S. Senate, and continues to play a critical role in the affairs of the Senate Finance Committee even though he relinquished his long-term position of Ranking Member over to U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) at the beginning of the 112th Congress. Grassley makes our list because of his consistent, genuine interest in thinking outside the box in terms of creating innovative solutions-oriented strategies with respect to the future construct, provision, and preservation of long-term supports of citizens with significant disabilities. More exciting things are predicted in 2012 from this Senator, and we look forward to seeing what he brings to the table as entitlement reform continues to require thoughtful, comprehensive dialogue and consideration.

#2: ABLE Act Champions: U.S. Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-FL-4) and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) 


CrenshawCaseyFor three Congressional sessions, U.S. Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) have worked tirelessly to move legislation that would authorize the creation of tax-advantaged savings accounts specifically for citizens with disabilities and their families that will be exempt from asset resource limits tied to eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid and other federal programs. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 3423/S. 1872) was reintroduced on November 15th, 2011 and thus far has 77 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 8 cosponsors in the Senate. The ABLE Act has been endorsed by over forty national organizations, and a major push to see the bill passed and signed into law in 2012 is underway.

#1: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) 


RodgersU.S. Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers has become one of the greatest champions of citizens with disabilities, and in addition to recognizing her progress as an up-and-coming leader in the Republican party, the Congresswoman has displayed an unfettered and uncompromising loyalty to disability advocacy efforts aimed at high-impact transformation of publicly-financed supports. Her many efforts in the 112th Congress thus far include co-chairing the Congressional Disabilities Caucus; co-chairing the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus; becoming an original cosponsor of the reintroduced ABLE Act; serving as an original cosponsor on the TEAM legislation; sponsoring the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act; and providing feedback to leadership on both ways to reform the Workforce Investment Act, Elementary & Secondary Education Act, and federal Medicaid statute so as to prioritize supports that promote optimal self-sufficiency among citizens with significant disabilities. For her ongoing commitment to various disability policy reform initiatives as well as her tremendous impact in influencing colleagues across the aisle to prioritize these issues, NDI awards Representative McMorris-Rodgers as the number one federal policy leader to watch in 2012! 



Will 2012 be the Year for Passage of the ABLE Act?


Reintroduction of the ABLE Act on November 15, 2011 has generated a great deal of excitement among disability advocates who are optimistic that 2012 may be the year the legislation is passed into law. U.S. Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) took great effort to work closely with the leadership of the key Committees of Jurisdiction to craft a version of the legislation that could be moved in the 112th Congress. Disability advocates are now working hard to secure the same level of cosponsors from previous years. In only eight weeks, H.R. 3423 has gained 77 cosponsors and S. 1872 has secured 8 cosponsors (compared to 220 and 25 respectively in the 111th Congress).


To increase awareness about the new version of the ABLE Act among Congressional leaders and staff, Congressional champions of the legislation and disability policy organizations are hosting an educational briefing on Thursday, February 16th from 12:00 noon -1:30 p.m. ET in Room B-339 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Representatives Ander Crenshaw, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and Chris Van Hollen will be making remarks at the briefing. For more information, please contact Serena Lowe at ewolaneres@gmail.com.

House Education & Workforce Committee Republicans introduce Legislative Package to Reauthorize Workforce Investment Act


In early December 2011, Republican members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced two additional proposals to reform the nation's workforce investment system. The federal government currently administers at least 47 separate job training and employment programs, representing an annual taxpayer investment of $18 billion. Given this backdrop, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) praised these legislative efforts by his Republicans colleagues to introduce a series of legislation intended to reduce waste, improve accountability, and ensure services are meeting the needs of today's workers and employers. as the next step in the committee's efforts to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.

  • Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), former chairman of the E&W Committee, authored the Workforce Investment Improvement Act (H.R. 2295). The legislation, introduced in June, will increase flexibility in the services offered to job seekers and eliminate arbitrary barriers that prevent workers from accessing training immediately. 
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, introduced the Streamlining Workforce Development Programs Act (H.R. 3610). The legislation consolidates 33 of the 47 job training programs identified in a 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office. H.R. 3610 attempts to offer greater clarity to local workforce leaders, provide better accountability, and foster an out-come driven job training system.
  • The third part of the committee's reform effort is championed by Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), who introduced the Local Job Opportunities and Business Success Act (or Local JOBS Act, H.R. 3611). Rep. Heck's proposal attempts to strengthen the role of America's job creators in workforce investment decisions and help workers receive training for jobs that are in demand.  

These three proposals are expected to serve as the Republican framework for the House Education & Workforce Committee's efforts to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act in the months ahead. 


Meanwhile, Senate HELP Committee leadership have shifted gears and have not committed to any strategy for Senate floor consideration of any reauthorization package of the Workforce Investment Act in 2012, but are predicted to release a report outlining bipartisan recommendations for reforming the workforce investment sector in the near future.




RSA Commissioner Lynnae Ruttledge Resigns from Department of Education 


Disability policy advocates were stunned and saddened by the recent announcement of Lynnae Ruttledge that she will be leaving her position as Commissioner of the Rehabilitative Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Education's Office on Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). Ruttledge is seen as a major force in the push for Employment First strategies within the vocational rehabilitation sector. Prior to becoming the Commissioner of RSA, Ruttledge was a significant leader in the vision and implementation of Washington state's Employment First initiative, which continues to be considered the flagship leader throughout the country in demonstrating consistently high employment outcomes for citizens with significant disabilities. Ruttledge is leaving the post after two years as leader of the RSA, citing desires to reconnect with family back in Washington state. The Administration has not issued any information on possible candidates to replace Ruttledge at RSA as of yet.

95 Disability Advocacy Organizations Urge CMS to Release Final HCBS Regulations


In late 2011, 95 disability advocacy organizations sent a letter to CMS to urge the agency to release the Final Rule clarifying that Home and Community Based Services must not be delivered on the grounds of an institution, in a housing complex designed expressly around an individual's diagnosis or disability, or in a setting that has the characteristics of an institution. The National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA), a coalition of 14 leading national disability organizations led by individuals living with disabilities themselves and supported by grassroots constituencies living with disabilities in all states and the District of Columbia, led the letter campaign. NDLA's Steering Committee is comprised of the following organizations:


ADAPTNational Coalition for Mental Health Recovery
American Association of People with DisabilitiesNational Council on Independent Living
American Council of the BlindNational Federation of the Blind
Association of Programs for Rural Independent LivingSelf Advocates Becoming Empowered
Autistic Self Advocacy NetworkNot Dead Yet
Little People of America
United Spinal Association
National Association of the Deaf 

In April 2011, CMS published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (CMS-2296-P) clarifying the types of settings for which Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver funding could be utilized. The proposed regulation would have clarified that a HCBS setting "must be integrated in the community; must not be located in a building that is also a publicly or privately operated facility that provides institutional treatment or custodial care; must not be located in a building on the grounds of, or immediately adjacent to, a public institution; or, must not be a housing complex designed expressly around an individual's diagnosis or disability, as determined by the Secretary...[and] must not have qualities of an institution, as determined by the Secretary. Such qualities may include regimented meal and sleep times, limitations on visitors, lack of privacy and other attributes that limit individual's ability to engage freely in the community."


Frustrated with delays in the process, NDLA and its partners urged CMS to move swiftly to issue a Final Rule in line with CMS' stated policy positions and the clear intent of the Medicaid HCBS program. Read the full text of the letter and the names of the 95 signatory organizations.

DOL Issues NPRM to amend FLSA Regulations pertaining to Companionship and Live-in Workers


On December 27, 2011 the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage & Hour Division published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The proposed revisions of the companionship and live-in worker regulations are intended to:

  • more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion; and
  • limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services [Third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the exemption, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household].

While Congress expanded protections to "domestic service" workers in 1974, these Amendments also created a limited exemption from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the Act for casual babysitters and companions for the aged and infirm, and created an exemption from the overtime pay requirement only for live-in domestic workers.

Although the regulations governing exemptions have been substantially unchanged since they were promulgated in 1975, the in-home care industry has undergone a dramatic transformation. There has been a growing demand for long-term in-home care, and as a result the in-home care services industry has grown substantially. However, the earnings of in-home care employees remain among the lowest in the service industry, impeding efforts to improve both jobs and care. Moreover, the workers that are employed by in-home care staffing agencies are not the workers that Congress envisioned when it enacted the companionship exemption (i.e., neighbors performing elder sitting), but instead are professional caregivers entitled to FLSA protections. In view of these changes, the Department believes it is appropriate to reconsider whether the scope of the regulations are now too broad and not in harmony with Congressional intent. Interested parties are invited to submit written comments on the proposed rule on or before February 27, 2012 at www.regulations.gov.

OFCCP Proposes Rule to Require 7% Disability Employee Hiring Goal for all Federal Subcontractors - Public Comments on Proposed Rule due February 7th


On December 9, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a proposal to strengthen the affirmative action requirements of federal contractors to improve employment for individuals with disabilities.

The Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has proposed a rule that would require federal contractors to establish a hiring goal of 7 percent of the employer's workforce for persons with disabilities. The proposal represents a change from over forty years of OFCCP policy requiring contractors to make a "good faith effort" to recruit and hire people with disabilities. The rule would strengthen affirmative action requirements under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal contractors and subcontractors to provide equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

The proposed rule is intended to provide the clearest possible guidance for employers seeking to comply with the law and increase accountability to ensure that federal contractors are hiring citizens with disabilities. The 7 percent goal is not a hiring quota or a restrictive ceiling under the proposed rule; it is merely an EEO objective.

The proposed rule is in line with the Obama Administration's effort to improve the lives of disabled persons. It also revises key terms (such as "substantially limits," "disability," and "major life activity") under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act to conform to the ADA Amendments Act. The proposed rule also includes a provision that would invite job applicants to self-identify as disabled and also would require federal contractors to survey their current employees annually to provide employees with the opportunity to self-identify as disabled. Voluntary self-identification will allow contractors to compile data to assess the effectiveness of recruitment efforts. Pursuant to the proposed rule, contractors also would be required to perform an annual review assessing their recruitment and hiring efforts. Finally, the rule would require federal contractors to collaborate with state vocational rehabilitation agencies or local organizations to help with recruitment and training of persons with disabilities.

This historic effort to revise and update Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act has generated considerable interest from workers, advocates, employers and other stakeholders as evidenced by the high participation rates of three informational Webinars sponsored by OFCCP's policy division over the past six weeks. To read the notice of proposed rulemaking or submit a comment, visit the federal e-rulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov. Comments also can be submitted by mail to Debra Carr, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, U.S. Department of Labor, Room C-3325, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. All comments must be received by Feb. 7, 2012, and should include identification number (RIN) 1250-AA02.

Department of Labor Launches Employment First State Leaders Mentoring Initiative in 2012


In an attempt to provide further support to states interested in implementing Employment First strategies in their states, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office on Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has recently announced an exciting new initiative to help states through the development of a strategic policy framework, provision of technical assistance from experts in the field, and access to mentors from other states who have already demonstrated success in implementing Employment First strategies in their states. A solicitation will be issued during the first quarter of 2012 to allow interested states the opportunity to apply to be a protégé state.





Dec 2010

Dec 2011

Dec 2010

Dec  2011

% of population in the labor force






Employment-population ratio 






Unemployment Rate





As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6


Vol: 4 Issue: 1
In This Issue
1. A Preview of 2012: What's on the Horizon
2. Raising the Bar: 20 Public Policy Leaders to Watch in 2012
3. Will 2012 be the Year for Passage of the ABLE Act?
4. House Education & Workforce Committee Republicans introduce Legislative Package to Reauthorize Workforce Investment Act
5. RSA Commissioner Lynnae Ruttledge Resigns from Department of Education
6. 95 Disability Advocacy Organizations Urge CMS to Release Final HCBS Regulations
7. DOL Issues NPRM to amend FLSA Regulations pertaining to Companionship and Live-in Workers
8. OFCCP Proposes Rule to Require 7% Disability Employee Hiring Goal for all Federal Subcontractors
9. Department of Labor Launches Employment First State Leaders Mentoring Initiative in 2012

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