Association of University Centers on Disabilities Applauds Senate HELP Committee for Passing the Bipartisan Work Incentives Improvement Act

April 18, 2005

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy


SILVER SPRING, MD (April 18, 2005) - The Association of University Centers on Disabilities applauds Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Ranking Minority Member Ted Kennedy (D-MA) for working together in a bipartisan fashion to introduce and pass the "Workforce Investment Act Amendments of 2005" (S. 1021). The bill, unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee yesterday, is the product of an extensive bipartisan effort and input from the major stakeholders in job training, adult basic education, and vocational rehabilitation. The bill reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

"The HELP Committee produced a bill that represents good public policy and demonstrates what can be accomplished when both sides of the aisle work together," stated AUCD Executive Director George Jesien. "This bill will enhance employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities and allow them to increasingly move into the economic mainstream of this country. Provisions of the law will provide for the necessary supports to overcome historical barriers to full employment for people with disabilities. AUCD urges the Congress to accept these positive amendments in a final bill and urges the President to sign it."

The Senate bill improves services for people with disabilities by increasing physical and programmatic access to the workforce system's one-stop centers; improves transition services; and maximizes the use of technology to increase access to services. The bill also makes the following improvements to Title IV, the Rehabilitation Act. The bill:

o Strengthens individual choice and transition planning for individuals with disabilities;
o Creates a stronger link between state and local workforce development activities, the President's New Freedom Initiative and the Olmstead Executive Order (13217: Community-Based Alternatives for Individuals with Disabilities);
o Increases the opportunity to expand Vocational Rehabilitation and National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research partnerships with business/employers, school systems, technology researchers, manufacturers and developers; and
o Improves coordination among employment, education, and technology based programs such as the Workforce Investment Act, Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Act, Individual's with Disabilities Education Act, and Assistive Technology Act.

AUCD commends the Senate Committee for its continued support of the Supported Employment State Grant program, Projects with Industries, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers, and Recreation Projects by rejecting a proposal to consolidate these programs into a single funding stream. AUCD supports the Senate Committee in excluding a proposal that would give governors authority to consolidate additional employment programs through broad waiver authority, including the Vocational Rehabilitation program. The so-called "WIA Plus" proposal could eliminate specialized assistance to people with disabilities and would force individuals with disabilities to compete for a share of declining resources without the protections and requirements under current law.

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities, located in Silver Spring, MD, is a national, non-profit organization that promotes and supports the national network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practices through research, education and services for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities.