Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Moves Forward

A bill that would significantly limit young people with disabilities from entering sheltered workshop programs has been signed by President Barack Obama, following a U.S. House of Representatives vote of 415 to six to approve the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Included in the bill, signed yesterday, are major changes to the path from school to work for people with disabilities.

The legislation updates the Workforce Investment Act, enacted in 1998 and up for reauthorization for more than a decade, and earned overwhelming support from both houses of Congress. The WIOA seeks to update and improve the nation’s workforce development system and streamlines federal workforce development programs, while providing supports to people with disabilities to enter and remain in competitive, integrated job settings.

Highlights of the streamlined approach include:

  • Applying a single set of outcome metrics to every federal workforce program under the Act
  • Creating smaller and more strategic state and local workforce development boards
  • Integrating intake, case management and reporting systems while strengthening evaluations
  • Allowing local areas to better meet the unique needs of individuals

The legislation will help prepare job seekers for in-demand occupations in their communities through relevant skills training and job placement services. Specifically, the measure would prohibit individuals age 24 and younger from working in jobs that pay less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, unless they first try vocational rehabilitation services. There are exceptions for those deemed ineligible for vocational rehabilitation, as well as to allow individuals already earning a subminimum wage to continue to do so.

In addition, the legislation would require state vocational rehabilitation agencies, such as Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), to work with schools to provide pre-employment transition services to all students with disabilities. Such agencies must allocate a minimum of 15 percent of their federal funding to help individuals with disabilities in transition. DODD and OOD have been working in partnership to meet these anticipated needs.

See Pipeline July 31, 2013, “DODD and RSC Partner to Improve Employment Options.”