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WIOA Offers Expanded Opportunities for Youth and Adults with Disabilities

September 30, 2014

On July 22, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs, helps workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, provides supports to people with disabilities to enter and remain in competitive, integrated job settings, and fosters the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete. WIOA repeals and supersedes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The new Act will not take effect until July 1, 2015, except the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, which took effect on the date of enactment (July 22).

WIOA maintains a primary focus on assisting job seekers and workers with and without disabilities to succeed in the labor market and match employers with skilled workers who may benefit from education, skills training, employment, and support services. The cornerstone of the public workforce investment systems remains the American Job Center (AJC) system at a community level.

WIOA includes several key provisions that enhance access and service to jobseekers with disabilities. Highlights of these provisions include:

·         Increased physical and programmatic accessibility to employment and training services through American Job Centers (AJCs);

·         A set aside of at least 15% funding to provide pre-employment transition services to youth with disabilities;

·         Creation of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive, Integrated Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities;

·         Clarification that competitive, integrated employment includes self-employment, supported employment, and customized employment strategies;

·         Creation of a single set of common measures for adults across all core programs and a similar set of common measures across all youth serving programs; and

·         Recommendation to states to include financial education and other financial capability strategies as part of provision of services.

Another key provision of the new law is the requirement that states must create a Unified Planincluding Title I Adult Programs, Dislocated Worker and Youth Programs, Wagner-Peyser Employment Services, and Title I of the Rehabilitation Act programs. The Unified Plan must disclose how a state will comply with Section 188 provisions to protect customers with disabilities against discrimination and provide equal access to all WIOA programs and services. Every three years, all One-Stop Centers (American Job Centers) must assess their physical and program accessibility and continue to improve service delivery to meet the needs of job seekers with disabilities.

The new law also reaffirms the eligibility of youth with disabilities for youth workforce investment activities including supporting financial literacy, which is defined as “the ability to manage spending, credit and debt and the ability to understand, evaluate and compare financial products, services and opportunities.”

Finally, the new law places an increased emphasis on career services and career pathways to work with businesses to determine the job skills training needed to fill demand for occupations in growth industries. WIOA requires improved coordination between employment and training activities and programs carried out in the local area for individuals with disabilities, including activities carried out by State Independent Living Councils and agencies serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The Department of Labor WIOA Resource Page offers additional information on the new law and provides updates on implementation. Visit www.leadcenter.org to receive analyses and updates on the impact of WIOA on the employment of people with disabilities.