News from LINC
Having a job that makes us happy (or at least not miserable) with a fair wage is an aspiration we all have – disability or not. But with a disability, finding and securing work is hard, sometimes near impossible. Funding for programs and services that help folks get jobs is limited, so it’s important to make sure resources that do exist are impactful.
Idaho has the Extended Employment Services (EES) program for people with disabilities. This program has $6 million in state funds to pay private providers to provide job training services to folks with disabilities. Some services include helping a person find competitive, integrated employment in their community. Others include “sheltered workshops”. These workshops employ people with disabilities, separating them from non-disabled workers and paying sub minimum wage.
What do we know about EES providers in Idaho? The average length a participant stays in training is 12.9 years, the average wage is $3.75 per hour. We know we can and MUST do better!
This past July, disability advocates across Idaho had a chance to tell the Idaho Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (IDVR) to do just that. To draft rules that ensure training is person-centered, to have greater accountability of the state and providers, and that participant outcomes are improved.
Advocates call for rules language that strengthen requirements for participants to be directly involved in their own goals, plans and reviews. Participants must know their rights, and how to contact staff to request changes or address problems. Advocates call for providers to report basic data regularly on an online dashboard capturing data points like average participant length of stay, average wage earned, program dropout rates, staff to participant ratios, and program satisfaction. Calls were made to require progress reviews by both providers and staff to ensure participants don’t linger in programs, but actually move forward with their goals.
Let’s also address 14c Certification. This federal certification allows for the payment of sub minimum wage. There has been talk of eliminating it and some states like Oregon have already done so. If an employee can work for years in a workshop, at some point they stop being a trainee and become an employee. In the U.S. we should pay all employees at least minimum wage. Anything else is wrong.
The IDVR will take public comment, write a revised draft, and the public will have a second opportunity to review and comment in October. Then the Idaho Legislature will take action on the rules in the 2022 Session.
To get involved, contact Lana Gonzales, Director of IL Innovation at LINC: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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