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May 02, 2019

King Working To Help People with Disabilities Transition to Competitive Employment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced his support for the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, bicameral legislation that would provide states, service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other entities with the resources to help workers with disabilities transition into competitive, integrated employment. Currently, employers that obtain the appropriate certificate are permitted to hire people with disabilities at less than minimum wage. The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act aims to phase out subminimum wage certificates over the next six years, support people with disabilities as they enter the workforce, and provide grant funding to employers as they navigate the new labor market.

“Every American determined to work hard and get ahead deserves a fair opportunity to do so,” Senator King said. “A competitive job helps further an individual sense of purpose, encourages self-sufficiency, and strengthens the economy at the same time. By expanding disability employment services, we can help people get ahead and grow the workforce – a win-win.”

“Disability Rights Maine is thrilled with the idea of increasing access to competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities and phasing out the payment of subminimum wage to workers with disabilities,” said Kim Moody, Executive Director of Disability Rights Maine.  “We are proud that Senator King is cosponsoring this important legislation.  People with disabilities have a great deal to contribute to our society and we want to work, to work hard, and to be paid fairly for our work.”

Senator King has made workforce development central to his rural economic agenda, and has focused on removing barriers so people with disabilities can reenter the workforce. The legislation Senator King is supporting both provides financial stability to people with disabilities, and also helps address Maine’s aging workforce. Senator King also supports helping other workers who are currently sidelined to get back on the economic ladder, including older workers, people receiving public assistance, and new parents struggling with the costs of childcare.

The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act is designed to strengthen and enhance the disability employment service delivery systems throughout states while subminimum wages, which are currently allowed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, are phased out over a six-year period.

Specifically the legislation would:

  • Create a competitive state grant program to assist states to transition all 14(c) certificate holders to models that support competitive, integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. States will be able to apply for these transformation grants and must establish an advisory committee that includes employers, organizations specializing in employment for individuals with disabilities, Medicaid agencies, AbilityOne contractors, individuals with disabilities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies.
  • Create a competitive grant program for current 14(c) certificate holders, located in states that do not apply for the state grant, to transition their business models to support individuals with disabilities in competitive, integrated employment.
  • Immediately freeze the issuance of any new 14(c) certificates by the Department of Labor (DOL) and phase out the use of existing 14(c) certificates over 6 years until employees are paid the federal minimum wage.
  • Establish a technical assistance (TA) center to support all entities, even those not receiving the transformation grants, to transition to competitive integrated employment. The TA center, which will be funded by DOL, is tasked with disseminating information about best practices, lessons learned, and models for transition to all entities transitioning to competitive, integrated employment.
  • Require reporting and evaluation on the progress of creating and expanding the service delivery structure to support workers with disabilities in competitive integrated settings and the inclusive wraparound services they receive when not working. States and 14(c) certificate holders will also be required to report on their grant activities, evaluate changes in employment for individuals with disabilities, report average wage information, and evaluate employer actions taken to comply with the phase out of 14(c) and transformation grants.

To read the section-by-section of the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, click here

To read a fact sheet on Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, click here.

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