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SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS (FROM A DISABILITY PERSPECTIVE) OF S. 1021, THE WORKFORCE INVESTMENT ACT AMENDMENTS OF 2005

July 11, 2006

Prepared for

The National Center on Workforce and Disability/Adult
Institute for Community Inclusion
University of Massachusetts, Boston
www.onestops.info

Prepared By:

Robert (Bobby) Silverstein
Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy
Bobby@CSADP.org
www.disabilitypolicycenter.org

This document was developed by the National Center on Workforce and Disability/Adult. The Center is based at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and funded through the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) grant number E-9-4-1-0071. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Labor, nor does mention of tradenames, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor. Read our accessibility statement.

Background

This memorandum highlights the key disability-related provisions in S. 1021, the Workforce Investment Act Amendments of 2005. Disability-related changes to current law proposed in the Senate bill are highlighted in italics.

Definitions

Section 101(19) of The Workforce Investment Act (WIA), as amended by S. 1021, defines the term "hard-to-serve" populations to include individuals with disabilities. The term "individuals with disabilities" is defined in Section 101(17) of WIA. The term "disability" means with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual, a record of such impairment, or regarded as having such an impairment (the same definition used for purposes of the ADA).

Purposes

WIA was enacted in 1998 to unify a fragmented employment and training system into a more comprehensive workforce investment system that better serves job seekers (enhances self-sufficiency) and employers. Section 106 of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, sets out thirteen purposes of the legislation. In addition to the general purposes of the legislation (e.g., provide workforce investment activities through statewide and local workforce investment systems that increase employment, retention, self-sufficiency, and earnings of participants, and increase occupational skill attainment by individuals), WIA, as amended by S. 1021, includes three purposes particularly relevant to persons with disabilities:

The Senate report (pages 11-12) includes extensive expressions of congressional intent regarding the purpose of increasing the employment, retention, and earnings of individuals with disabilities:

"One of the purposes of the bill is to increase the employment, retention, and earnings of individuals with disabilities. The committee intends that the Vocational Rehabilitation System and the one-stops work together appropriately to meet the employment needs of all people with disabilities. The committee notes that only 30 percent of people with disabilities are employed compared to 82 percent of those without disabilities, and approximately 79 percent of people with disabilities who are not working want to work. The committee strongly believes that the WIA one-stops should play a vital role helping to increase employment and training opportunities for individuals with disabilities. According to the Department of Labor, "in strengthening the ability of the One-Stops to mainstream employment systems to serve people with disabilities, there are multiple challenges relating to physical and programmatic accessibility, customer relations, and access to knowledge about accommodations and effective service strategies."

"In recognition of these challenges, the committee has included numerous provisions designed to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. To ensure successful employment outcomes the one-stop system must be accessible to people with disabilities both physically and programmatically, as section 188 requires. The term programmatic access means policies, practices, and procedures providing effective and meaningful opportunity for persons with disabilities to participate in or benefit from core, intensive, training, and support services."

"Programmatic access includes providing reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, making reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures, administering programs in the most integrated setting appropriate, communicating with persons with disabilities as effectively as with others, and providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including assistive technology devices and services, where necessary to afford individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, the program or activity. Key aspects of the "program" include registration, customer outreach, service delivery and coordination, and performance measures and outcome data collection."

"The committee intends one-stops to be both physically and programmatically accessible to all participants and commends the Civil Rights Center (CRC) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, the Assistant Secretary of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), and the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training (ETA) for their efforts to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities by working together to issue the WIA Section 188 Disability Checklist and awarding numerous grant as part of the New Freedom Initiative. The committee expects that ODEP, working in conjunction with ETA, CRC and other program operating components within DOL and other agencies and departments, will continue to enhance meaningful and effective employment opportunities for persons with disabilities consistent with the disability-related amendments included in S. 1021. The committee also expects that ETA and CRC will carry out their responsibilities under Section 183 for the various disability-related amendments included in S. 1021."

State Workforce Investment Boards

Membership. Section 111(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies the membership of the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB). The SWIB must include representatives appointed by the Governor who are the lead State agency officials with responsibility for specified programs and activities and carried out by one-stop partners except in the case of the programs authorized under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the representative shall be the director of the designated State unit, as defined in Section 7 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. According to the Senate Report (page 12) "If a state has established a separate agency or unit to provide VR services to individuals who are blind, the Governor may appoint this person to the State Board as well as the head of the State VR agency." In addition, Section 111(b) is amended by deleting "representatives of individuals and organizations that have experience and expertise in the delivery of workforce investment activities, including community-based organizations within the state.

Functions. Section 111(d) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies the general functions the SWIB is expected to perform e.g., develop guidance for the allocation of one-stop center infrastructure funds and the development of statewide policies related to the appropriate roles and contributions of one-stop partner programs and develop objective criteria for use by local boards in determining one-stop effectiveness and continuous improvement.

Specific functions related to persons with disabilities include the following:

State Plan

Section 112(a) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that the State must develop a four-year strategy for the statewide workforce investment system (the State plan). The State plan should be reviewed, updated, and modified as needed at the end of 2 years, to accurately reflect the labor market and economic conditions of the State.

Section 112(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that the State plan must include, among other things, a description of the procedures that will be taken by the State to assure coordination of and avoid duplication between the vocational rehabilitation program as well as the following programs: the SSDI program, the SSI program, the Medicaid program, the Social Services Block Grant program, independent living programs, and programs carried out by State agencies relating to mental retardation and developmental disabilities programs.

To reflect the purposes of WIA, the provisions of the State plan include, among other things:

More specifically, Section 112(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that the State plan must describe how the State will serve the employment and training needs of individuals with disabilities, consistent with Section 188 [nondiscrimination/equal opportunity] and Executive Order 13217 (relating to community based alternatives for individuals with disabilities), including the provision of outreach, intake, the conduct of assessments, service delivery, the development of adjustments to performance measures established under Section 136, and the training of staff.

Section 112(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, also specifies that the State plan must include a description of how the State will assist local areas in assuring physical and programmatic accessibility for individuals with disabilities in one-stop centers. The Senate report (page 15) suggests "that the WIA Section 188 Disability Checklist provides useful information to states in meeting this requirement."

Further, Section 112(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, also specifies that the State plan must include a description and methodology that will be used by the state board to establish, in consultation with chief elected officials and local boards, objective criteria and procedures for use by local boards in periodically assessing the effectiveness, physical and programmatic accessibility, and continuous improvement of one-stop centers and the one-stop delivery system.

Local Workforce Investment Boards

Composition. Section 117(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that each local workforce investment area must establish a local workforce investment board (LWIB). LWIBs must include representatives of business and others. With the exception of the Wagner-Peyser program, LWIBS are no longer required to include as members mandatory partners such as the vocational rehabilitation program. The LWIB may establish or continue councils to provide information and advice. Such councils may include a council composed of one-stop partners and a youth council.

Functions. Section 117(d) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies the functions of the LWIB. Among other specified functions, the LWIB must work to ensure that there are sufficient providers of intensive services and training services serving the local area in a manner that maximizes consumer choice, including providers with expertise in assisting individuals with disabilities. The Senate Report language (page 17) states that "the committee believes that participants in the workforce investment system should be able to choose among qualified training providers that best meet their individual needs. To enhance consumer choice and integration of individuals with disabilities, the local workforce board must ensure that there are sufficient providers of intensive and training services in a manner that maximizes local choice, including providers with expertise in assisting individuals with disabilities. The committee believes that community providers often have creative and innovative approaches for addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities, particularly those with the most significant disabilities."

Local Plan

Section 118(a) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that consistent with the State plan, the LWIB must develop and submit to the Governor a four-year local plan, in partnership with the appropriate chief elected official. At the end of year 2, the LWIB must review and amend the plan as needed to reflect labor market and economic conditions.

Section 118(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that the local plan must include, among other things, a description of how the LWIB will ensure physical and programmatic accessibility for individuals with disabilities at one-stop centers, how the local board will promote entrepreneurial skills training and micro-enterprise services, how the board will expand access to education and training services through, among other things, the increased leveraging of resources that are brokered through the one-stop centers for training services and how the local board will coordinate workforce investment activities carried out in the local area with the provision of transportation, including public transportation in the local area.

Establishment of One-Stop Delivery System

Mandatory Partners. Section 121(b)(1) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021specifies that TANF agencies are included as mandatory partners unless the Governor provides notice not to include such agencies to the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. .

Roles and responsibilities of mandatory partners. Section 121(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, retains the provision that the LWIB must develop and enter into memorandum of understanding (MOU) with one-stop partners e.g., the State vocational rehabilitation program. Specifically, Section 121(b), as amended, specifies, among other things, that each partner must use a portion of its funds to maintain the one-stop delivery system, including payment of the infrastructure costs of one-stop centers and enter into memorandum of understanding with the local board related to the operation of the one-stop center.

MOUs. WIA, as amended by S. 1021, provides for continued use of MOUs to establish partner contributions at the local level. Section 121(c) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that the MOU must, among other things, describe:

Additional Partners.Section 121(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, authorizes LWIBs and the chief elected official to expand the one-stop partners to include employment and training programs administered by the Social Security Administration, including the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency program.

Continuous Improvement of Centers. Section 121 of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, adds a new subsection (g) that specifies, among other things, that the State Board, in consultation with chief local elected officials and local boards shall establish objective criteria and procedures for use by local boards in periodically assessing the effectiveness, physical and programmatic accessibility, and continuous improvement of one-stop centers and one-stop delivery systems. The procedures and criteria must include minimum standards relating to, among other things, accessibility. The Senate report (page 21) explains that "physical and programmatic accessibility applies to all populations listed in the hard-to-serve population definition, including individuals with disabilities and individuals with limited English speaking proficiency." The Senate Report (page 21) also explains that the "committee suggests that the WIA Section 188 Disability Checklist is a very useful tool to assist State boards with respect to assessing physical and programmatic accessibility for people with disabilities."

Funding of One-Stop Centers. As explained above, WIA, as amended by S. 1021, provides for continued use of MOUs to establish partner contributions at the local level. Section 121(h) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021 specifies that LWIBs are encouraged to develop local memoranda of understanding so that the infrastructure funding of one-stops is accomplished with the cooperation and participation of one-stop program partners while minimizing any disruption of program partners' ability to meet the service needs of their target populations. However, if a local area fails to successfully negotiate MOUs, the Governor is given the authority to require and determine the amount of contributions from partner programs. In States where a State government official other than the Governor has authority over the administration of a program, such as VR, the bill allows the State official to determine the infrastructure costs for that program, in consultation with the Governor.

Section 121(h) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, also provides a phase-in for contributions by vocational rehabilitation programs administered under the Rehabilitation Act. The legislation places special limitations on infrastructure contributions from VR programs administered under the Rehabilitation Act. In cases where the Governor must determine infrastructure contributions, a VR program will not be required to provide more than .75 percent of the amount it receives in the second program year beginning after the date of enactment of WIA, as amended; more than 1 percent of the amount it receives in the third program year; more than 1.25 percent of the amount it receives in the fourth program year; and more than 1.5 percent of what it receives in the fifth and each succeeding program year. In addition, the VR program would be subject to the Governor's determination only in cases when partners in a local area cannot agree on a MOU.

The term "costs of infrastructure" means the nonpersonnel costs that are necessary for the general operation of a one-stop center, including the rental costs of the facilities, the costs of utilities and maintenance, equipment (including assessment-related products and adaptive technology for individuals with disabilities), and technology to facilitate remote access to the one-stop center's strategic planning activities, and common outreach activities.

The Senate report (page 20) explains that "the committee believes that this provision will result in a fair and equitable determination of infrastructure costs for VR programs. In addition, the committee emphasizes that VR programs would be subject to the Governor's determination only in cases when partners in a local area cannot agree on a Memorandum of Understanding. In addition, the committee does not intend that solely referring an individual with a disability to the Vocational Rehabilitation Agency be considered "proportionate use" for purposes of calculating infrastructure support."

Section 121(i) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that in addition to funds used to support the infrastructure costs, a portion of funds made available under partner programs (e.g., the funds made available to support the state VR program under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act) and administered by one-stop partners or the noncash resources made available under such programs, must be used to pay the additional costs relating to the operation of the one-stop delivery system that are not paid from infrastructure funds, to the extent not inconsistent with the Federal law involved. These costs must include the costs of the provision of core services applicable to each program and may include common costs not paid from funds supporting infrastructure costs. The method for determining the appropriate portion of funds and noncash resources to be provided by each program shall be determined as part of the development of the memorandum of understanding. The State board must provide guidance to facilitate the determination of appropriate allocation of funds and noncash resources in local areas.

Eligible Providers of Training Services

Section 122 of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies criteria used to identify eligible providers of training services and supports. The criteria established by the Governor, after consultation with the SWIB, must take into account the performance of providers of training services with respect to performance measures described in section 136 or other appropriate measures of performance outcomes for those individuals receiving training services (taking into consideration the characteristics of the population served) and relevant economic conditions and taking into account the ability to provide training services to hard-to-serve populations, including individuals with disabilities. In addition, the criteria established by the Governor shall take into account such other factors as the Governor determines appropriate to ensure, among other things, the quality of services, the accountability of providers, and the informed choice of participants. The Senate report (page 22) explains that the "committee also determined that the ability to provide training services to hard-to-serve populations, including individuals with disabilities, must be a criterion." The provider must provide verifiable program-specific performance information supporting the provider's ability to serve participants. In order to facilitate and assist participants in choosing providers, the Governor shall establish a list of providers, accompanied by appropriate information. The list and accompanying information must be available to participants and members of the public.

Statewide Employment and Training Activities for Adults and Dislocated Workers

With respect to core services, the provision of accurate information, in formats that are usable and understandable to all one-stop customers, relating to the availability of supportive services...and other supportive services and transportation.

With respect to intensive services, interpretations by DOL implementing WIA, as originally enacted, required sequencing of services e.g., only persons unable to obtain employment through core services were eligible for intensive services and only persons unable to obtain employment through intensive services were eligible for training services. Section 134(d)(3) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, provides that if an individual were unlikely or unable to obtain employment that leads to self-sufficiency or wages comparable to or higher than previous employment (with respect to unemployed individuals) through cores services, and is in need of intensive services, the individual would be eligible for intensive services.

Eligibility for training services is also changed to require a determination that an individual is unlikely or unable to obtain or retain employment that leads to self-sufficiency wages comparable to or higher than previous employment through intensive services (Section 134(d)(4) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021).

Section 134(a)(2) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that statewide employment and training activities shall include, among other things, disseminating information on physical and programmatic accessibility for individuals with disabilities and providing technical assistance and capacity building, which may include development and training of staff to provide opportunities for hard-to-serve populations to enter high-wage, high-skilled, and nontraditional occupations.

Statewide employment and training activities may include implementing innovative programs and strategies such as micro-enterprises and developing strategies for effectively serving hard-to-serve populations and for coordinating programs and services among one-stop partners. In addition, statewide employment training activities may include activities to improve coordination between employment and training assistance and programs carried out in the local area for individuals with disabilities, including programs carried out by State agencies relating to mental retardation and developmental disabilities, Statewide Independent Living Councils, and centers for independent living.

Career Scholarship Accounts (formerly Individual Training Accounts)

Section 134(d)(4) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that each LWIB may, through one-stop centers, coordinate career scholarship accounts with other Federal, State, local or private job training programs or sources to assist the individual in obtaining training services. Section 134(d)(4), as amended by S. 1021, also specifies that training services may be provided pursuant to a contract for services in lieu of a Career Scholarship Account to serve hard-to-serve populations. The phrase "special participant population that faces multiple barriers to employment" [which was deleted by the bill] is nevertheless amended to include individuals with disabilities.

Local Employment and Training Activities

Section 134(e) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, permits local employment and training activities to include:

  1. Customer support to enable members of hard-to-serve populations, including individuals with disabilities, to navigate among multiple services and activities for such populations,
  2. Technical assistance and capacity building for serving individuals with disabilities, including the development and training of staff, the provision of outreach, intake, assessments, and service delivery, and the development of performance measures, and
  3. Improved coordination between employment and training assistance and programs carried out in the local area for individuals with disabilities, including programs carried out by State agencies relating to mental retardation and developmental disabilities, Statewide Independent Living Councils, and center for independent living.

Performance Accountability System

In General. With respect to performance accountability measures, the Senate report (page 27) explains that "Congress passed WIA to better serve our Nation's job seekers and employers. The committee strongly believes that States and local workforce areas must be held accountable for their performance. However, the committee is concerned that WIA's performance measures do not provide a complete and accurate assessment of how well States and local workforce areas are serving the needs of workers and employers. The committee is also concerned that the current performance measures are discouraging States and local workforce areas from serving job seekers who face greater difficulty in finding employment or increasing their earnings." The committee then quotes from a recent GAO study that found that "the performance measurement system under WIA may be causing some clients to be denied services ...First, the need to meet performance levels may be the driving factor in deciding who receives WIA-funded services at the local level. Officials in all five States we visited for one study told us that local areas are not registering many WIA participants, largely because local staffs are reluctant to provide WIA-funded services to job seekers who may be less likely to find employment or experience earnings increases when they are placed in a job."

The committee then explains that "after extensive deliberation over performance measures in WIA, the committee determined not to include an efficiency measure due to concerns that such a measure may lead to creaming (serving only those workers who are most job-ready) and to a lessening of more costly services, including training, for individuals who face serious barriers to employment (i.e., individuals with disabilities, individuals with low education and skills levels, individuals with limited English speaking proficiency, etc.)"

State Performance Measures. Section 136(b) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, retains customer satisfaction and skills attainment as core indicators of performance. The Senate Committee Report (page 27) explains that "customer satisfaction is essential in determining whether or not the system is meeting the needs of its customers, employers, and program participants, alike. However, the Committee recognizes the difficulty of measuring customer satisfaction in a uniform and comprehensive manner. Therefore, the Committee determined that state and local workforce areas should not be subject to sanctions based on the customer satisfaction. In addition, the third core indicator (which currently reads "earnings received in unsubsidized employment 6 months after entry into the employment") is modified to read as follows "increases in earnings from unsubsidized employment."

Further, agreements on levels of performance for each of the core indicators of performance covered by the State plan must ensure that the levels involved are adjusted, using objective statistical methods based on, among other things, disability status. The Senate report (page 27) explains that "the Committee also provides for the use of a regression model for further adjustment of performance measures to reflect the local economy and characteristics of population receiving services. Such a model ensures that local areas are not penalized for serving people with multiple barriers to employment and takes into account changes in local economic conditions when evaluating performance outcomes."

Finally, the agreement must take into account the extent to which the levels involved will assist the State in meeting national goals. The Secretary is directed to establish long-term national goals for the adjusted levels of performance for that systemwide performance to be achieved by the programs on the core indicators of performance, consistent with the Government Performance and Results Act (GEPR).

Local Performance Measures. Section 136(c) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that in determining local levels of performance, the local board, the chief elected official, and the Governor must ensure that the levels are adjusted, using objective statistical methods, based on, among other things, characteristics such as disability status.

Report. Section 136(d) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, strikes the exclusion for reporting participants who received only self-service and informational activities. In addition, the bill adds the following requirements regarding the inclusion of information on participation in workforce investment activities relating to:

In preparing reports, the States must ensure that the information contained in the reports is valid and reliable.

Incentive Grants for Local Areas

Section 136 (i) of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that the Governor shall award incentive grants to local areas on the basis of, among other things, exemplary performance of the local areas in serving hard-to-serve populations; coordinating multiple systems into a comprehensive workforce development system, including coordination with partner programs [such as programs under the Rehabilitation Act]; expanding access to training, including increased leveraging of resources; and alignment of information management systems.

Incentive grant funds awarded by the Governor to local areas may be used for innovative projects or programs under Title I of WIA and the Rehabilitation Act that increase participants, particularly hard-to-serve populations. The Governor must reserve 4 percent of the funds available for incentive grants to provide technical assistance to local areas to replicate best practices, to develop integrated performance information systems for the one-stop partner programs, and to strengthen coordination between workforce and education programs and other education programs, and to strengthen regional economic development.

National Incentive Grants. Section 503 of WIA, as amended by S. 1021, specifies that the Secretary shall award national incentive grants on the basis of, among other things, exemplary performance in serving hard-to-serve populations, coordination of multiple systems into a comprehensive workforce investment system, and expansion of access to training, including through increased leveraging of resources.


AMENDMENTS TO THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973

Title IV of S.1021 includes amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and may be cited to as the "Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 2005." This section of the policy brief includes summaries of selected amendments to Title I (vocational rehabilitation services) and selected amendments to Title VII (independent living services and centers) that are of particular relevance to a general audience. Amendments to other sections of the Rehabilitation Act are not included in this policy brief.

Findings

S. 1021 adds the following new finding to Section 2(a) of the Rehabilitation Act related to transition: "a high proportion of youth who are individuals with disabilities is leaving special education without being employed or being enrolled in continuing education and there is a substantial need to support those youth as the youth transition from school to postsecondary life."

Purpose

S. 1021 amends the purpose section by adding a new purpose to Section 2(b) of the Rehabilitation Act related to meaningful input by employers and rehabilitation service providers to read as follows: "to provide opportunities for employers and vocational rehabilitation service providers to provide meaningful input at all levels of government to ensure successful employment of individuals with disabilities."

Rehabilitation Services Administration

S. 1021 amends Section 3 of the Rehabilitation Act (Rehabilitation Services Administration) to specify that the Secretary must ensure that RSA has sufficient staff to provide oversight of, conduct auditing of, and provide technical assistance to the designated state agencies and such staff must include individuals who have training in and experience with the provision of vocational rehabilitation services.

Definitions

S. 1021 amends Section 7 of the Rehabilitation Act to add a definition of the term "consumer organization" to mean a membership organization, or disability advocacy group, for which a majority of the members of the board of directors of the organization or group are individuals with disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities.

The bill also modifies the definition of the term "independent living core services" by adding the following: "facilitating transitions of youth who are individuals with significant disabilities and have completed individualized education programs to postsecondary life, including employment; and assisting individuals with significant disabilities at risk of entering institutions to remain in the community."

The bill also includes a definition of the term "post-employment services" to mean a vocational rehabilitation service (Section 103) "that is provided subsequent to the achievement of an employment outcome and necessary for an individual to maintain, regain, or advance in employment, consistent with the individual's strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice."

The bill also includes a definition for the term "student with a disability" to mean an individual with a disability who attends an elementary school or secondary school and who--is not younger than 16 and not older than 21; has been determined to be eligible [for vocational rehabilitation services]; and is eligible for, and is receiving special education under part B of IDEA or is an individual with a disability for purposes of

Section 504.The Senate report (pages 50-51) explains that "While the definition of student with a disability refers to youth ages 16 to 22, the committee does not intend that this definition create a mandate for State vocational rehabilitation agencies to serve students as young as 16 years of age or prevent such agencies from serving students who are younger than age 16 if the State vocational rehabilitation agency has the fiscal and personnel resources to do so."

S. 1021 also amends Section 7 of the Rehabilitation Act to include a definition for the term "transition services expansion year" to mean the first fiscal year for which the amount appropriated [for Title I of the Rehabilitation Act] exceeds the amount appropriated for fiscal year 2006 by not less than $100,000,000 and for each fiscal year subsequent to that first fiscal year.

Administration of the Act

S. 1021 amends Section 12 of the Rehabilitation Act (Administration of the Act) to expand the Commissioner's authority to provide technical assistance to the designated state units on developing successful partnerships with local and multi-state businesses in an effort to employ individuals with disabilities and provide technical assistance on developing self-employment opportunities and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

Reports

S. 1021 amends Section 13 of the Rehabilitation Act (Reports) pertaining to the contents of reports, information and data to be collected by designated state units and directs the Commissioner to include and then post specified information and data on the Department of Education's website, including, among other things, monitoring reports.

State Plan

S. 1021 amends Section 101(a) of the Rehabilitation Act pertaining to the State plan in several respects. The amendments include, among other things:

  1. With respect to employment of persons with disabilities, add "recruit" to the current obligation related to "employ and advance in employment." The Senate report (page 49) explains that "The committee believes that people with disabilities are uniquely qualified to provide assistance and guidance to consumers of vocational rehabilitation services."
  2. With respect to a system of continuing education of rehabilitation professionals and paraprofessionals within the designated State unit, specify that the continuing education must include rehabilitation technology and training implemented in coordination with State programs carried out under the Assistive Technology Act of 1988.
  3. With respect to reporting data, require reporting of information on individuals receiving services that is needed to assess performance on the core indicators of performance under Section 136 of WIA; include data on the number of individuals with significant disabilities exiting the program and the number achieving employment outcomes after receiving vocational rehabilitation services; and include the number of individuals who received vocational rehabilitation services and who entered and retained employment and earnings, as such entry, retention, and earnings are defined under Section 136 of Title I of WIA.
  4. With respect interagency cooperation with other agencies, include:
    • Descriptions of interagency cooperation with, and utilization of the services and facilities of Federal, State, and local agencies and programs, including state programs carried out under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, programs carried out by the Under Secretary of Rural Development in the Department of Agriculture, and State use contracting programs, to the extent these agencies and programs are not carrying out activities through the statewide workforce investment system.
    • A specific assurance related to coordination with Assistive Technology programs. The designated State unit and the lead agency responsible for carrying out duties under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended, must develop working relationships and coordinate their activities.
    • Transition planning by personnel of the designated State agency and the State educational agency that will facilitate the development and completion of the individualized education programs and, as appropriate, the development and completion of the individualized plan for employment, in order to achieve post-school employment outcomes of students with disabilities.
  5. With respect to coordination with the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program, include an assurance that the designated State unit will coordinate activities with any other State agency that is functioning as an employment network under the Ticket to Work program.
  6. With respect to annual State goals and reports of progress, the bill adds the following to the provision relating to the comprehensive, statewide assessment describing the rehabilitation needs of individuals with disabilities, particularly the vocational rehabilitation services needs of..."for purposes of addressing needs in a transition services expansion year, students with disabilities, including their need for transition services." In addition, the annual state goals and reports of progress must include an assessment of the needs of individuals with disabilities for transition services, and coordinated with transition services provided under IDEA, and an assessment as to whether the transition services meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. With respect to strategies the State will use to address the needs identified in the assessment, for use in a transition services expansion year, the methods to be used to improve and expand vocational rehabilitation services for students with disabilities, including the coordination of services designed to facilitate the transition of such students from the receipt of educational services in school to postsecondary life, including the receipt of vocational rehabilitation services, postsecondary education or employment.
  7. With respect to programs under the Social Security Act, include an assurance that the designated State unit will make available information related to cash assistance and health care benefits and benefits planning and options for using the Ticket.
  8. With respect to transition planning, the Senate report (page 50) explains that "the committee intends to coordinate the activities and objectives of the Rehabilitation Act with IDEA. To this end, section 412 requires transition planning for each student in order to align the IPE with the individualized education plan (IEP) to ensure that the IPE integrates planning, information, and assessments from the IEP process for students age 16 and older." The Senate report (page 50) also explains that the committee recognizes that State vocational rehabilitation agencies currently have an affirmative obligation to provide transition services to students with disabilities as they prepare to leave secondary education and move on to post-secondary education, employment, and independent living. To improve and expand the provision of vocational rehabilitation services to students with disabilities, the committee makes several improvement to the Rehabilitation Act." These improvements are described below.
    • For a transition services expansion year, provide an assurance that the state:
      • Has developed and must implement strategies to address the needs identified in the assessment and achieve the goals and priorities identified by the State, to improve and expand vocational rehabilitation services for students with disabilities on a statewide basis;
      • Shall not use more than 5 percent of funds reserved under Section 110A to pay for administrative costs;
      • Shall use the remaining funds to carry out programs or activities designed to improve and expand vocational rehabilitation services for students with disabilities through partnerships that
        • Facilitate the transition of students with disabilities from the receipt of educational services in school, to the receipt of vocational rehabilitation services under the Rehabilitation Act, including services specified in interagency agreements,
        • Improve the achievement of post-school goals of students with disabilities through the provision of transition services, including through participation in IEP meetings,
        • Provide vocational guidance, career exploration services, and job search skills and strategies and technical assistance to students with disabilities,
        • Support the provision of training and technical assistance to local educational agency personnel responsible for the planning and provision of services to students with disabilities, and
        • Support outreach activities to students with disabilities who are eligible for, and need, services under the Rehabilitation Act.
      • In each transition services expansion year, ensure that funds are awarded only to partnerships that must include local vocational rehabilitation services providers and local educational agencies and may include other agencies.
      • With respect the obligation to provide or pay for transition services, nothing in the Rehabilitation Act shall be construed to reduce the obligation of a local educational agency or any other agency to provide or pay for any transition services that are also considered special education or related services and that are necessary for ensuring a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities within the State involved.
      • The Senate report (page 51) also explains that "the committee intends that at no time should State vocational rehabilitation agencies' involvement with an individual student supplant the services being provided under IDEA. The committee intends that representatives of special education and State vocational rehabilitation agencies work together in close partnership to identify the appropriate role that State vocational rehabilitation agencies should play in providing services while a student is still receiving special education services."

Eligibility and Individualized Plan for Employment

With respect to options for developing an IPE, S. 1021 adds a requirement that the information and technical assistance provided to the eligible individual or his/her representative must include a listing of all community resources (including resources from consumer organizations (including advocacy organizations)), to the maximum extent possible, to assist in the development of the IPE to enable the individual to make informed and effective choices. In addition, the individual must be provided information on the availability of cash benefits and Medicaid and Medicare, information on the availability of benefits planning and services provided by the State Protection and Advocacy System, and information about the Ticket program.

The IPE shall be amended, as necessary, to include post-employment services and service providers that are necessary for the individual to maintain, regain, or advance in employment, consistent with the individual's strength, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice. With respect to mandatory components of the IPE, S. 1021 retains references to personal assistance services but adds a reference to mentoring services and referrals to assistive technology device reutilization programs and device demonstrations described in the Assistive Technology Act if 1998.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

S. 1021 amends Section 103(a) of the Rehabilitation Act pertaining to scope of vocational rehabilitation services for individuals by adding transition services for students with disabilities that facilitate the transition from school to postsecondary life (including employment through the achievement of the employment outcome identified in the individualized plan for employment (IPE), including in a transition services expansion year, services described above). The bill also includes "mentoring services."

With respect to the scope of vocational rehabilitation services for groups of individuals, S. 1021 includes the following additions: consultation and technical assistance services to assist state and local educational agencies in planning for the transition of students with disabilities from school to post-school activities, including employment. In a transition services expansion year, specified training and technical assistance. In a transition services expansion year, services for groups of individuals with disabilities, including services in specified categories.

State Rehabilitation Council

S. 1021 amends Section 105 (State Rehabilitation Council) by, among other things, adding to the Council the director of each State's Assistive Technology program and by specifying that the Council must select a chairperson from among voting membership of the Council.

Standards and Indicators

S. 1021 amends Section 106(a) of the Rehabilitation Act by adding the following specifications: the standards and indicators shall include outcome and related measures of program performance that include measures of the program's performance with respect to transition from school to postsecondary life, including employment, and achievement of the postsecondary vocational goals of students with disabilities served under the Rehabilitation program. The bill also provides that the Commissioner must take specific actions when a State has not improved its performance to acceptable levels, including directing the state to make further revisions to the plan to improve performance and directing the state to allocate a higher proportion of the State's resources for services to individuals with disabilities.

Monitoring and Review

S. 1021 amends Section 107(b)(1) of the Rehabilitation Act relating to providing technical assistance, by including consulting with the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, other appropriate federal agencies, and businesses or business-led intermediaries and based on information obtained through the consultations, providing technical assistance that improves that quality enabling designated State units to develop successful partnerships with local and multi-state businesses in an effort to employ individuals with disabilities, and technical assistance on developing self-employment opportunities and improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

State Allotments

S. 1021 modifies the provisions in current law with respect to reallotments.

Reservation for Expanded Transition Services

S. 1021 adds a new section 110A to the Rehabilitation Act specifying that from the State's allotment under Section 110 in a transition services expansion year, each State must reserve an amount calculated by the Commissioner to carrying out expanded transition services programs and activities. The Commissioner shall calculate the amount to be reserved by each State by multiplying $50,000,000 by the percentage determined by dividing the amount allotted to that State under Section 110 for the prior fiscal year by the total amount allotted to all States under Section 110 for that prior fiscal year.

GAO Studies

S. 1021 directs the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the interaction of programs carried out under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act and the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program, including the impact on the interaction of beneficiaries, community rehabilitation programs, and State vocational rehabilitation agencies. In addition, the Comptroller General of the United States is directed to conduct a study on the relationship between the State allotment formula under Section 110 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ability of States to provide vocational rehabilitation services in accordance with the States' plans.

Independent Living Services and Centers for Independent Living

S. 1021 would amend Title VII in several respects. First, the State plan must describe how the State will providing independent living services that promote full access to community life for individuals with significant disabilities. The services must include, as appropriate, facilitating transitions of youth who are individuals with significant disabilities and have completed IEPs to postsecondary life, including employment and facilitating transition of individuals with significant disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions, including institutions serving individuals with cognitive disabilities, to community-based residences; assisting individuals with significant disabilities at risk of entering institutions to remain in the community; and promoting home ownership among individuals with significant disabilities.

Second, S. 1021 would amend Section 705(a) of the Rehabilitation Act to specify that the Council shall not be established as an entity within a State agency, and shall not provide independent living services directly to individual with significant disabilities or manage such services. Third, S. 1021 amends Section 705(b) by clarifying that the Statewide Independent Living Council shall select a chairperson from among the voting membership of the Council. The bill also specifies permissible functions that may be performed unless prohibited by state law.

Authorization of Appropriations

S. 1021 provides that the authorization period shall be for fiscal year 2006 through 2011.