Changes are coming to the disability field thanks to the Workforce Incentive and Opportunity Act, as interpreted by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the Settings Rules guidelines from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMMS). As a result, Adelante hosted a parent meeting January 12, 2017 to inform families of new requirements and the potential impact of the changes to our field in the next few years. Over 80 people attended to educate themselves, and to make sure they could protect their choices.
The locations for employment and day services may be restricted due to new Settings Rules from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMMS). Depending how the State of New Mexico decides to implement these new federal rules, the changes may eliminate some of the settings you have selected at Adelante. At Adelante, we have a preference and priority for individualized, integrated employment, and we have been helping people with disabilities be part of the community for nearly 40 years, so we appreciate the spirit of these changes. But we know that “one size does not fit all,” and people deserve a full array of choices, not just one or two.
Adelante feels it is important to offer a full range of options because competitive employment and/or being out in the community in fully “on-the-go” programs for 6+ hours a day may not be the best choice for everyone. The State of New Mexico has leeway in how these changes are rolled out, and individuals and families, not to mention case managers and therapists and other team members, need to speak up about keeping options and choices open to the disability community. The state MUST ensure that competitive, integrated employment is available (we strongly support this requirement), but it can choose whether to permit or eliminate other choices.
The other main topic at the parent meeting was the Workforce Incentive and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which is intended to improve workforce development and training services for various groups, including workers with disabilities. Again, Adelante appreciates the spirit of the legislation. However, a portion of this federal act, administrated by Department of Labor and being handed down to the Division of Vocational Rehab (DVR), requires a series of new steps that workers with disabilities must complete. Specifically, workers with disabilities who are age 24 years of age or younger must complete transition services, vocational rehabilitation and career counseling services, before they are employed at a subminimum wage. WIOA also requires that all workers with disabilities, regardless of their age, who are paid a subminimum wage, receive career counseling and information about self-advocacy, self-determination, and peer mentoring training opportunities in their local area, every six months during the first year of employment and annually thereafter.
Adelante is the largest Ticket to Work provider in New Mexico, and has the longest standing and one of the most successful Supported Employment programs in the state, too. Our organization feels it is important to offer a full range of employment services, so Adelante also holds a 14c certificate through Department of Labor to guide us in determining fair pay for people who have not been successful at finding jobs in the community due to their level of disability or who choose to work in a more supportive environment. A 14c certificate is also known as a commensurate wage certificate or subminimum wage certificate, and that is what this legislation is targeting. Keep in mind that those wages are based on the prevailing wage for each job, so people may be paid more than minimum wage under these certificates, and many are. However, the legislation has already added more requirements for people who have chosen to work for 14c certificate holders, including Adelante, and those requirements will be ongoing, at least annually. One requirement is essentially that individuals try, and fail at, a competitive job before they can be paid through 14C. We feel that a requirement to fail is not in everyone’s best interest, and will be a damaging experience for many workers.
Here are the key things about WIOA you need to know if you are a person with a disability who works at Adelante’s Affirmative Enterprises (Mailing Fulfillment Center, Bargain Square, Document Imaging, or Document Destruction Services), if you serve on a team that supports an individual working for these businesses, or if you are a transition teacher offering referrals to these employment sites:
· Adelante can no longer hire anyone 24 or under unless they have been to the NM Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) for career counseling and met these new requirements.
· New hires 25 years of age and older must sign an agreement with Adelante and complete this DVR requirement within the first 6 months.
· If you already work for Adelante, regardless of your age, you must go to DVR and complete career counseling and other WIOA requirements on or before July 22, 2017.
· Everyone will have to complete these requirements annually.
Adelante is mailing an instruction letter, DVR referral form, and WIOA fact sheet to everyone affected by the WIOA legislation to assist in this process. We are also trying to work with DVR to provide some of the requirements at our existing work sites to help our employees and their families.
Participants and their families and representatives have indicated that they would like Adelante to continue to host informational sessions and make families aware of opportunities to learn more about WIOA and CMS Settings Rules, and to assist them to provide input to state and federal authorities on these important issues. Fact sheets on both of these topics are posted on our website under recent publications. The full presentation from the parent meeting can also be found there.
If you would like to be included in upcoming parent meetings or be updated on opportunities to voice your opinions on CMS settings rules and other issues affecting disability services in New Mexico, please contact Jill Beets at JBeets@GoAdelante.org.