NDSS supports the following federal legislation that aims to improve employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome.
ABLE TO WORK ACT
The National Down Syndrome Society is thrilled that in December 2017 Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the ABLE to Work Act and the ABLE Financial Planning Act.
The ABLE to Work Act will allow an ABLE account’s designated beneficiary to contribute an additional amount beyond the current limitation on contributions ($15,000 for 2018), up to the lesser of the Federal poverty line for a one-person household (currently $12,060); or the individual’s compensation for the taxable year. In addition, the legislation allows a designated beneficiary of an ABLE account to claim the saver’s credit (a nonrefundable tax credit for eligible taxpayers for qualified retirement savings contributions) for contributions made to his or her ABLE account. As a result, the ABLE to Work Act will bring more people with disabilities out of poverty and incentivize them to work by permitting them to save their earnings in an ABLE account, and ultimately becoming less dependent on government supports.
The ABLE Financial Planning Act will allow ABLE beneficiaries to roll over regular 529 accounts to 529A (ABLE) accounts up to the annual maximum contribution. This new law will be particularly helpful for families who set up 529 accounts before receiving a child’s diagnosis, or for teenagers who incur life-changing events that render them unable to go to college and use their 529 funds for their original purpose.
NDSS also looks forward to working with Congress to pass the ABLE Age Adjustment Act in the near future. This legislation would increase from 26 to 46 the age of onset of disability to be eligible for an ABLE account. In addition to helping individuals that incur disabilities later in life, increasing the age limit would also increase participation in state ABLE programs, which would increase efficiencies and lower the administrative costs that are passed on to beneficiaries.
Congratulations to the self-advocates, DS-Ambassadors, affiliate leaders and families across the country who educated their members of Congress on the need for the ABLE to Work Act. This was a collective effort and a significant accomplishment.
For more information about the ABLE to Work Act and other legislation in ABLE 2.0, click the link below.
TRANSITION TO INDEPENDENCE ACT
NDSS supports the passage of the Transition to Independence Act. The Senate version (S 1604) was introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley in June 2015 and a House version (HR 5903) was introduced by Representative Chris Van Hollen in July 2016. The bill has not been introduced in the 115th Congress.
This bill would create a five-year Medicaid demonstration program in ten states. The program would give bonuses to the states for helping individuals with disabilities obtain integrated employment and for reducing subminimum wage work. For decades, individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities have been segregated in sheltered workshops and paid far below the minimum wage for performing rote tasks, without access to non-disabled peers or training for competitive employment. The Transition to Independence Act would increase opportunities for people with Down syndrome to obtain employment in inclusive, integrated community settings and would help them to move closer to achieving equality, full participation in society, independent living and economic self-sufficiency.
TRANSITION TO INTEGRATED, MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT (TIME) ACT
NDSS supports the passage of the Transition to Integrated, Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act (H.R.1377). It has not been introduced in the Senate. The TIME Act would phase out the Fair Labor Standards Act section 14(c), passed in 1938, which authorizes the Secretary of Labor to issue Special Wage Certificates to certain entities, permitting them to pay workers with disabilities subminimum wage (less than minimum wage). Most of these 14(c) certificate-holding entities are nonprofit “sheltered workshops” (segregated work environments) that pay workers with disabilities just pennies per hour. Legislation like the TIME Act recognizes that workers with disabilities have the potential to succeed in integrated, meaningful, competitive employment settings and will get paid real wages for real pay.
WORKFORCE INNOVATION AND OPPORTUNITY ACT
Signed into law in July 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (Public Law 113-128) is designed to strengthen and improve the public workforce system and help get Americans, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers and help employers hire and retain skilled workers. As part of the implementation of WIOA, new restrictions on payment of subminimum wage to youth with disabilities went into effect in July 2016.
In August 2016, the final rules for WIOA, developed jointly by the US Department of Education and US Department of Labor, were published in the Federal Register. Links to specific parts of the final rules are provided below:
- WIOA: Joint Rule for Unified and Combined State Plans, Performance Accountability, and the One-Stop System Joint Provisions – Final Rule
- State Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program; State Supported Employment Services Program; Limitations on Use of Subminimum Wage – Final Rule
- WIOA: Miscellaneous Program Changes – Final Rule
- Programs and Activities Authorized by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (Title II of WIOA) – Final Rule
- WIOA: Department of Labor-Only – Final Rule