the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Employment & Social Security

NDEAM at NCIL

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which is an opportunity for the US to recognize the vital role disabled people play in the workforce, kicked off earlier this month with the signing of a proclamation by President Joe Biden.  This year’s theme, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” rings especially true as the Independent Living (IL) network continues to engage in conversations regarding inclusion gaps in our own spaces.  We at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) appreciate that the White House has an awareness of the challenges multiply-marginalized disabled people experience as members of the workforce:

Despite the progress our Nation has made in recent decades, people with disabilities are still too often marginalized and denied access to the American dream.  Americans with disabilities — particularly women and people of color — have faced long-standing gaps in employment, advancement, and income.  The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these inequities, as people with disabilities have faced heightened risks — particularly the disproportionate share of people with disabilities employed in the hardest-hit industries.  Our Nation will never fully recover and rebuild unless every single community — including disabled Americans — is fully included.

NCIL’s commitment to inclusion with an intersectional lens continues into NDEAM in a few exciting ways: this month, our executive director will speak to 1,000 Microsoft employees about her nearly twenty years of experience as first a participant-in-then-provider-of competitive integrated employment supports to disabled jobseekers.

NCIL continues to advocate at the federal level for Better Care Better Jobs Act, which would permanently reauthorize Money Follows the Person (MFP) and address systemic gaps in Home and Community Based Services (HCBS).  HCBS funds many services that support community living for people with disabilities, including competitive and integrated employment supports for countless jobseekers in the US. See our latest Advocacy Monitor post on the Reconciliation Package for more information.

And, to wrap up NDEAM at NCIL, we will be holding a panel feature three prominent employment experts from IL and beyond. The panelists will use their experiences and knowledge to discuss tips and tricks on getting the job and maintaining employment as a person with a disability. This intersectional and intergenerational panel will feature Moderator, Antoine Hunter, and Panelists, Bronna Crase, Brian Dennis, and Marie Dagenais-Lewis.  More details, including how to sign up for the panel, will be released soon.

Employment is essential to living independently- for everyone, including people with disabilities.  IL can play a pivotal role in the lives of those who are seeking to attain- and maintain- employment.  If your and/or your Center for Independent Living (CIL) have an IL-specific success story pertaining to disability and employment then we would love to share it!  Email us at ncil@ncil.org to share your story or for more information.

Action Alert: Submit Your Comments on SSI to the Senate!

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy held a hearing on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The purpose of the hearing was to focus on ways to improve the SSI program. See more information about the hearing, “Policy Options for Improving SSI”

The SSI program is meant to provide financial help to disabled people and older adults to meet their basic needs. However, many of the program rules haven’t been changed in decades, and they do not reflect the cost of living in 2021. Because of this, a majority of people on SSI are living in poverty. The SSI program needs to be updated, and we are hopeful that Congress will take this opportunity to make real change.

The Senate Subcommittee is allowing the public to submit “statements for the record” about this hearing and the SSI program. These statements will let Congress know there is strong support for making improvements to SSI. The statements will help them understand how badly these changes are needed. Statements must be submitted by Tuesday, October 5, 2021. It is important for Congress to hear from all of us, so please share this with your networks, and CILs, please share this with your consumers!

Social Security Works has put together a website with sample statements you can personalize. We have also included sample talking points and information about how to submit a statement below.

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A Win for Many SSI Recipients: Automatic Economic Impact Payments!

Last week we sent an alert about the Economic Impact Payments in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. We noted that for many people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Veterans Affairs (VA) Disability Compensation or Veterans Pension, there was not a clear or easy process to receive economic impact payments. Commissioner Saul’s previous statement clarified that the Social Security Administration (SSA) was working with the Treasury Department to address questions regarding SSI recipients and other people who are not required to file taxes but do not receive SSA-1099s.

Yesterday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Treasury Department, and SSA announced that SSI recipients will automatically receive their payments. Payments will be received by the same method they usually receive their SSI benefits, and they should be received by early May. This is a big victory that will ensure millions of people can access much-needed payments to help during this crisis.

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An Update About Economic Impact Payments

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act authorized payments to be made to many people. These are referred to as “economic impact payments”.

There has been a lot of confusion about exactly how this will work. Because people with disabilities are facing increased costs during the pandemic and because our community is disproportionately poor to start with, NCIL and other advocacy organizations have been working to ensure that the confusion is cleared up and that everyone who is entitled to a payment can access it.

Last Friday, the Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul released a statement. He has cleared up some of our questions, but not all of them.

We have created a web page with everything we know so far. Please visit advocacymonitor.com/eip to read the full update on this important topic.

NCIL is following this all closely, and we will send an updated alert when we have additional information. The Commissioner has indicated that the IRS will provide additional information at www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

Keyword: COVID-19

Two Weeks Left to Apply for the Inclusive Pipeline Challenge

The Administration for Community Living invites businesses to expand inclusion of people with disabilities in their workforce.

Community-based organizations serving people with disabilities are encouraged to partner with local businesses to develop innovative models that can be replicated to help businesses across the country reach a wider talent pool and to create more opportunities for employment for people with disabilities.

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Take Action to Protect Social Security Benefits!

The Social Security Administration has proposed a new rule for people who get disability benefits. The proposed rule would apply to both SSDI and SSI and would change the number and frequency of Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs). If this rule is finalized, over 2 million people could be at risk of losing their disability benefits over the next 10 years.

Social Security is a lifeline that so many people with disabilities depend on. We need to fight this proposed rule!

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Today: Call-In Day for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act!

This December will mark five years since the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which started to allow disabled people to create tax-free savings accounts (“ABLE Accounts”). Over the past five years, ABLE Accounts have helped over 50,000 people with disabilities save money and pay for things like housing, transportation, and healthcare costs without jeopardizing their access to Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS) and other needed supports. Learn more about ABLE accounts at www.ablenrc.org.

Unfortunately, millions of people don’t have access to ABLE Accounts, because a person is only eligible if they acquired their disability before the age of 26. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651 / H.R. 1814) has the potential to change that. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would dramatically expand eligibility for ABLE Accounts by allowing people who acquired their disability before the age of 46 to become eligible. If the ABLE Age Adjustment Act is passed into law, approximately six million more disabled people will be eligible for an ABLE Account!

Take Action Now!

Today, Thursday, November 14, there is a National Call-In Day for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. 

  1. RSVP, Share, and Participate in today’s National Call-In Day! Find more information, including sample talking points, at the Facebook event. RSVP and share widely!
  2. Boost the event on social media! Use the handle #ABLEAgeNow
  3. Call your Representative and Senators! Tell them to support the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651 / H.R. 1814) and pass it immediately! Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY). You can find your Senators’ direct phone number and contact form at senate.gov and your Representative’s direct number and contact form at house.gov/representatives.

Call-In Day for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act!

This December will mark five years since the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which started to allow disabled people to create tax-free savings accounts (“ABLE Accounts”). Over the past five years, ABLE Accounts have helped over 50,000 people with disabilities save money and pay for things like housing, transportation, and healthcare costs without jeopardizing their access to Medicaid home and community based services (HCBS) and other needed supports. Learn more about ABLE accounts at www.ablenrc.org.

Unfortunately, millions of people don’t have access to ABLE Accounts, because a person is only eligible if they acquired their disability before the age of 26. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651 / H.R. 1814) has the potential to change that. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would dramatically expand eligibility for ABLE Accounts by allowing people who acquired their disability before the age of 46 to become eligible. If the ABLE Age Adjustment Act is passed into law, approximately six million more disabled people will be eligible for an ABLE Account!

Take Action Now!

On Thursday, November 14 there is a National Call-In Day for the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. 

  1. RSVP, Share, and Participate in Thursday’s National Call-In Day! Find more information, including sample talking points, at Thursday’s Facebook event . RSVP and share widely!
  2. Boost the event on social media! Use the handle #ABLEAgeNow
  3. On Thursday, call your Representative and Senators! Tell them to support the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 651 / H.R. 1814) and pass it immediately! Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY). You can find your Senators’ direct phone number and contact form at senate.gov and your Representative’s direct number and contact form at house.gov/representatives.

Sign-On Opportunity for Competitive Integrated Employment!

NCIL is part of a national coalition working to advance competitive integrated employment. Among other efforts, the coalition has strongly opposed opening the regulations implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014. The WIOA regulations, issued in 2016, focus on competitive integrated employment (CIE) as a national priority.

In the past three Unified Agendas from the Department of Education Secretary (which list the agency’s key priorities and regulatory actions the agency is considering), Secretary DeVos has notified the public that they may reconsider these regulations. This may include amending the regulatory definitions, where CIE is defined.

The coalition has consistently opposed this, including in multiple letters to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. View the most recent letter (PDF). The regulations, including the definition of CIE, are critical. Opening the regulations risks undermining progress toward expanding competitive integrated employment.

TAKE ACTION – Sign on!

The new Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Commissioner, Mark Schultz, is now serving as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). It is important that we reinforce our message to him and tell him that the regulations implementing the WIOA must not be opened!

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Final Reminder: Comments on Subminimum Wage Due This Friday!

Updated: The Department of Labor has extended the deadline for comments for the National Online Dialogue about Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Comments are now due Friday, June 21, 2019. The sheltered workshop industry and 14(c) supporters are flooding the dialogue, so it is critical that we submit comments! Please see below for additional information, resources, and talking points.

As you know, the Independent Living community has long opposed the use of Section 14(c) certificates to pay disabled people subminimum wages. Employers use 14(c) certificates to pay disabled employees lower than the minimum wage – sometimes just pennies per hour. Paying people lower wages on the basis of their disability is discrimination, and this is one of the factors that have contributed to disproportionate rates of poverty among disabled people. This online dialogue provides us with an opportunity to share stories and information about our position, experiences, and ideas on this discriminatory and harmful practice. It is critical that our input be heard.

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