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Category: Employment

New Small Business Administration Equity Action Plan Overlooks Unique Challenges Faced By Disabled Entrepreneurs

Washington, D.C., May 3 – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced a new equity action plan, focusing on strengthening entrepreneurs from underserved communities. The action plan addresses barriers to diversity and inclusion for small business owners, in conjunction with the executive order EO (13985), “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” The new SBA initiative aims to facilitate access to financial resources, products, and consultation services for underserved populations so that they can start, run, and grow their own businesses. However, people with disabilities face unique challenges with starting their own business, raising capital, dealing with technology, managing credit, and approaching business counseling, and unfortunately, the SBA’s Equity Action Plan does not fully take these challenges into account.

Facilitating Access to Capital

The SBA action plan discussed the gap in capital access for business owners who are seeking less than $150K in funding, and especially loans under $10,000. The SBA plans to bridge this gap by launching smart e-loan programs, such as the “Community Advantage” and “Lenders Match,” to become more inclusive. These integrated online platforms will target the credit and technical assistance needs of small businesses in underserved markets. However, the plan did not speak to the accessibility of using such online platforms, nor the potential effect on matching borrowers with disabilities and their organizations with potential lenders.

New State Bill Promises Californians with Disabilities Unconditional Healthcare

Sacramento, CA, March 18 – The new California state budget contains a major piece of good news for Californians with disabilities. By 2024, the asset limit for older adults and people with disabilities to access Medi-Cal programs will be removed, achieving a long-standing policy goal for advocates and agencies based in California. 

In 1965, the Social Services created Medi-Cal as a welfare program along with Head Start, Jobs Corps, and the Food Stamp Act. Fifty years later, Medi-Cal has grown more substantial and more powerful in securing affordable medical care for disabled and older Californians. Older and disabled Californians rely on Medi-Cal to cover pricey medication, nursing home expenses, in-home healthcare, and other costs not fully covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

Almost one in three Californians are Medi-Cal beneficiaries. But as it stands today, the program only covers a small segment of low-income individuals and families. This is because eligible individuals must not have a monthly income of more than $1200 or $2000 in savings. This is an exceptionally low rate, well below California’s definition of a low-income person. According to Covered California income guidelines and salary restrictions, if an individual makes less than $47,520 per year, they are considered low-income. This disadvantages many seniors and individuals with disabilities, jeopardizing their financial stability and preventing them from having any extra income, any savings, a house, or even a car.

Advancing Opportunities in Texas

RespectAbility Testimony in 2022

Austin, Texas, March 15 – This week, the Texas Workforce Commission met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Lone Star State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 1,809,900 working age (18-64) Texans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, 40.6 percent of the working age population of people with disabilities were employed. It is critical that Texas’ Workforce Commission listen to the individuals with disabilities and advocates impacted by these unemployment rates. In order to make the workforce more inclusive, and to find practical ways to make the workforce more accessible for the entire population, RespectAbility collects, summarizes, and publicizes ideas on key workforce solutions. To learn more about RespectAbility’s advocacy work, please visit our Policy website.

Implementing the American Rescue Plan – What It Means for Marylanders with Disabilities

Annapolis, MD, March 15 – Using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and allocated via a bipartisan agreement, Governor Larry Hogan and the General Assembly of Maryland are prioritizing Marylanders severely impacted by the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maryland’s piece of a $1.9 trillion federal spending package is being directed to address existing inequities in the Old Line State. The goals of the spending are to support impacted businesses, struggling industries, and specifically Marylanders with disabilities.

The first and most direct form of support in the past year was the Temporary Cash Assistance program, which specifically included the payment of short term disabilities benefits to Marylanders in need. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have deeply felt the ravages of the past two years. As noted in an early report from the Arc of the US, people with I/DD “are more likely to have underlying health conditions that leave them more susceptible to the pandemic.” Further, because people with I/DD are often placed into customer facing job roles, many experienced COVID related furloughs or job losses during 2020. In total, there are 335,712 working-age Marylanders living with some form of disability. In 2020, prior to the pandemic, only 40.2 percent of them had jobs.

National Urban League and Microsoft at the 2022 National Skills Summit

Washington, D.C., March 9 – The 2022 National Skills Summit shined a spotlight on several signature initiatives that are working to close the digital skill divide and advance greater equity in the workforce.  This included the work of the National Urban League and Microsoft.  

Showcasing the work of the National Urban League was Executive VP & COO Donald R. Cravins, Jr., who spoke about the Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion. Prior to the pandemic, families and individuals relied on public spaces like libraries and schools to access the internet. Due to the pandemic, access to these spaces disappeared right when people needed them more than ever, as essential functions of life began operating remotely. Mr. Cravins called for centering black and brown workers in the work of closing the digital divide “as part of a new industrial revolution that benefits people of color and women owned businesses.” 

Sen. Tim Kaine at the 2022 National Skills Summit

Washington, D.C., March 8 – Last week, the National Skills Coalition hosted their annual Skills Summit, featuring a keynote speech by Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) discussing impactful strategies to close the digital skills divide in America.  

In his opening remarks, Sen. Kaine said the COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the importance of “ensuring that all workers are empowered with the skills needed to thrive in today’s economy.” Furthermore, as “technology advances, workers need to have opportunities to continuously up-skill, to adjust or move up in their careers.”  

Answering the call of the present moment, Sen. Kaine argued that Congress should provide funding and establish programs that specifically focus on bridging the digital divide. Recently, the Digital Equity Act was passed as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand broadband access and provide digital technologies. Sen. Kaine called for establishing new and existing worker “baseline digital competencies to support industry and sector level workforce partnerships in developing digital skills training programs.” 

Workforce Issues at the 2022 National Skills Coalition Conference

Washington, D.C. March 1 – Last week, the National Skills Coalition hosted their annual Skills Summit, where Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh discussed issues facing the American workforce. Moderated by Andy Van Kluenen, CEO of the National Skills Coalition, the panel discussion centered around how agencies will design, implement, and evaluate skills training programs outlined by the Build Back Better program. 

Centering Equity in the Workforce

This panel discussion featured a special focus on the unique issues faced by workers of color and strategies to serve these job seekers in an equitable manner. Further, the panel underscored the critical need for local communities to effectively engage in the job development process, address job quality challenges, and make the most of educational investments being offered by the federal Department of Education.

First, when each Secretary was asked what their department’s primary mission was under the Biden Administration, Secretary Walsh was quick to point out job creation, noting that “since President Biden has taken office, there have been a historic number of 6.7 million new jobs.” Secretary Raimondo emphasized that there is inherent teamwork between their three departments, saying that “Education teaches the future workforce, Labor helps those that fall through the cracks with further vocational training, and Commerce creates the job opportunities for American employees.”

Digital Equity at the 2022 National Skills Coalition Conference

Washington, D.C., February 24 – With the touch of a button and thanks to the flexibility of Zoom, the 2022 National Skills Coalition virtual conference welcomed geographically diverse attendees from across the country. This three-day event is one of the nation’s best workforce development-focused conferences and features many important sessions.…

New Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Support Older Americans and Empower People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., February 22 – Last month, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV-01) introduced a new, bipartisan bill intended to address the direct care workers shortage. This new bill, entitled the Improving Care for Vulnerable Older Citizens and People with Disabilities through Workforce Advancement Act, would amend the Public Health Service Act to develop an expanded role for direct care workers who provide long-term services that help older Americans, and help people with disabilities enter the workforce.

Direct care workers are a proven lifeline for those they serve, as well as for families and friends struggling to provide high-quality care. Currently, many direct care workers fail to earn a living wage and almost none have opportunities for career advancement. Reports show low job satisfaction with a very high turn over rates. The expense to replace each Direct Care Worker can be costly and detrimental to the health care of a patient. 

Gov. Hochul pushes New York to Become Model on Disability Employment

Albany, NY, February 10 – This past week, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York announced new plans to create a comprehensive design for workforce development strategies in the Empire State. Gov. Hochul has launched a seven-pronged initiative that will establish New York as a national model for the employment of individuals with disabilities and protection for all working New Yorkers. This initiative comes as part of her “State of the State 2022 Agenda” to upscale the local economy and labor force in New York state. 

The pandemic hit New York hard. As of fall 2021, the Empire State’s job deficit far exceeded that of every other state. Currently in New York, the unemployment rate is three times higher than the national average. 

“In order to come back stronger, we must be creative with our approach and work directly with regional partners who have been on the ground helping connect New Yorkers with employment,” Gov. Hochul said. “New York State is committed to ensuring its disabled workers have equal opportunities and are supported in the workplace and beyond. We are committed to making sure those with disabilities have fair and quality employment options in this state.”

RespectAbility Advocates for Colorado to Close Labor Force Gaps for People with Disabilities

Denver, CO, September 23 – This week, the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) met to discuss the status of workforce practices of the Centennial State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in Colorado’s workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, a native Coloradan and RespectAbility’s Policy and Practices Director. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

RespectAbility Advocates for Oregon to Close Labor Force Gaps for People with Disabilities

Phoenix, AZ, September 15 – This week, Oregon’s Workforce and Talent Development Board  met to discuss the status of workforce practices of the Beaver State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion, and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 303,000 working-age Oregonians living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, Oregon boasted a 44 percent disability employment rate for its citizens with disabilities. However, thousands of workers with disabilities have been negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic and are looking for new opportunities to develop their skills.

RespectAbility Advocates for Wyoming to Close Labor Force Gaps for People with Disabilities

Cheyanne, WY, September 8 – This week, the Wyoming Workforce Development Council (WWDC) met to discuss the status of workforce practices of the Equality State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in Wyoming’s workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 39,349 working-age Wyomingites living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, Wyoming boasted a 52.6 percent disability employment rate for its citizens with disabilities. However, thousands of workers with disabilities have been negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic and are looking for new opportunities to develop their skills. 

RespectAbility Advocates for Arizona to Close Labor Force Gaps for People with Disabilities

Phoenix, AZ, September 8 – This week, the Workforce Arizona Council (WAC) met to discuss the status of workforce practices in the Grand Canyon State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in Arizona’s workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

There are more than 449,000 working-age Arizonans living with some form of disability. Before the pandemic, Arizona boasted a 39.6 percent disability employment rate for its citizens with disabilities. However, thousands of workers with disabilities have been negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic and are looking for new opportunities to develop their skills. 

New Program for Workers with Disabilities in Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, PA, August 31 – Pennsylvanians with disabilities who want to earn an income and become independent have new options for doing so, thanks to a new program signed into law on July 1 by Governor Tom Wolf. Pennsylvania Act 69 means more workers with disabilities in Pennsylvania will be able to pursue employment and earn money without risking the loss of potentially life-saving benefits. 

This is important news for the nearly 1 million working-age people living with disabilities in the Keystone State. In the economic expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania had a 38.8 percent disability employment rate. However, hundreds of thousands of workers with disabilities lost their jobs due to the pandemic and they are now navigating a radically different labor force. 

“After the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, Chairman of the national disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. “Pennsylvania has just expanded the type of program that directly helps people with disabilities enter the workforce without fear of losing the benefits that help them manage their disability. This is a win-win-win for Pennsylvania itself, Pennsylvania-based employers, and people with disabilities.”

RespectAbility Advocates for California to Close Labor Force Gaps for People with Disabilities

Sacramento, CA, August 11 – This week, the California Workforce Development Board’s Executive Committee met to discuss the status of workforce practices of the Golden State. In response to this meeting, RespectAbility, a national, non-partisan nonprofit organization, submitted testimony on how to implement best practices, advocate for greater inclusion and improve the standing of people with disabilities in the workforce.

“When it was passed with broad, bipartisan support in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) invested unprecedented resources into efforts to get people with barriers to employment into the labor force,” said Olegario “Ollie” Cantos VII, RespectAbility’s new Chairman. “Now, after the pandemic that has reshaped our economy, it is time to devote significant attention to supporting the economic advancement of students, job-seekers, and entrepreneurs with disabilities.”

RespectAbility Advises the National Council on Disability on the Imperative of Fighting Stigmas that Hold Back People with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., August 3 – RespectAbility recently submitted comments to the National Council on Disability (NCD) discussing ways to improve our education system and expand opportunities in the entertainment industry for people with disabilities.

In the comments, RespectAbility recognizes the gaps in our education system which have been widened by the pandemic. RespectAbility called for a specific focus on black, indigenous and students of color with disabilities, who disproportionally face greater challenges in receiving an education. Additionally, RespectAbility proposed the addition of a 13th year in secondary education to provide a fluid transition for students before entering the workforce.

Bipartisan Bill Helps Americans with Disabilities Seek Work without Losing Benefits

Washington D.C, July 9 – On June 17, 2021, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Work Without Worry Act. This piece of legislation would allow Americans with disabilities to take on employment opportunities without the fear of losing higher Social Security benefits. 

Currently, if an adult has a disability that began before the age of 22, they may be eligible for Social Security’s Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit. This benefit considers these adults to be dependents on their parent(s) and as such their benefits, like any child under the age of 18, rely on their parent’s Social Security contributions and earnings.

Alabama Passes $5,000 Deductible for ABLE Account Holders

Washington, D.C., July 9 – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed Act 2021-514 allowing ABLE Savings account holders to deduct up to $5,000 per year per taxpayer on State Income Taxes. The plan, announced by Alabama State Treasurer John McMillian, aims to make saving achievable for people with disabilities by allowing ABLE account holders to save without losing the public benefits which many individuals with disabilities depend on. 

What are ABLE Accounts?

In 2014, the 113th Congress passed H.R. 647, the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), which established tax-advantaged savings accounts for people with disabilities and their families. The ABLE Act was designed to support people with disabilities who are required to meet means/resource tests to continue receiving potential life-saving benefits. Members of the disability community who are on benefits are restricted to having less than $2,000 in liquid resources. Millions of people with disabilities rely on public programs for income, health care, housing assistance and food security. ABLE Accounts allows people with disabilities to accumulate savings that do not affect their eligibility for these benefits.