Recent Report Highlights State Efforts to Become a Model Employer of People with Disabilities 

By Rachel Wright, Policy Analyst 

State governments have increasingly recognized the advantages of proactively recruiting and hiring people with disabilities. As such, many states have pursued “state as a model employer” policies and practices to increase the number of people with disabilities employed in the public sector. 

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States Address Mental Health Stigma and Employability 

By Sean Slone, Senior Policy Analyst

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on mental health. According to a 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association, psychologists reported significant increases in demand for treatment of anxiety, depression and trauma since 2020. For every person who seeks help however, there may be many more who do not due to concerns about stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental health conditions.  

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States Address Mental Health of Public Health Workforce and First Responders 

By Sean Slone, Senior Policy Analyst

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on the mental health of many people living in the U.S., but perhaps none more so than those who have been on the frontlines of protecting the public’s health—first responders, law enforcement officers and the nation’s health care workforce.  

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New Federal Guidance for Healthcare Providers on Civil Rights Protections for Individuals with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

By Sean Slone, Senior Policy Analyst

“Our civil rights laws stand no matter what, including during disasters or emergencies, and it is critical that we work together to ensure equity in all that we do for all patients,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement.

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U.S. Department of Labor Announces Rule to Increase Minimum Wage for Federal Contract Employees

By Abeer Sikder, Policy Analyst

On November 24, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor published a final rule that increases the hourly minimum wage to $15 for federal contract employees beginning January 30, 2022, up from the current rate of $10.95 per hour. The rule also eliminates the exemption for federal contractors with disabilities to be paid less than the minimum wage.

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Federal and State Subminimum Wage Legal and Policy Framework

State Exchange on Employment & Disability

Federal Legal and Policy Framework

Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are authorized, after receiving a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division, to pay subminimum wages (SMWs)—wages less than the federal minimum wage—to workers who have disabilities “for the job  being performed.” The certificate also allows the payment of wages that are less than the prevailing wage to workers who have disabilities for the work being performed on contracts subject to the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA) and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA).

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Engaging the Private Sector: States Employ Tax Incentives to Support Hiring of People with Disabilities 

By Anna Lucchese, Policy Fellow and Dalton Goble, Policy Fellow

In this rapidly changing world of workforce development, businesses are seeking to diversify their staff through a variety of ways. Hiring people with disabilities is a beneficial option for organizations to achieve this goal while addressing labor needs and obtaining competitive advantages. Studies have indicated that hiring individuals with disabilities improves profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction and inclusive work culture. To encourage these positive outcomes, state governments have worked closely to construct policies that engage the private sector and provide meaningful job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

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Order of Selection: How Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies Prioritize Service to Individuals with Disabilities 

By Anna Lucchese, Policy Fellow

State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies assist individuals with disabilities to prepare for, secure, retain, advance in, or regain employment that is consistent with the individual’s unique strengths, abilities, interests, and informed choice. Due to limited funding, State VR agencies do not always have the capacity to serve everyone eligible for VR services. Order of Selection (OOS) was therefore included in Title I of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to prioritize individuals already receiving assistance from these agencies. OOS requires that during times when resources are scarce, VR agencies must create “the order to be followed in selecting eligible individuals to be provided vocational rehabilitation services.” As of April 2022, there are 41 VR agencies that use the OOS system and 37 VR agencies that do not.

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Upcoming Webinar to Highlight State Efforts to Increase Inclusive Apprenticeships

By Sean Slone, Senior Policy Analyst

States are moving forward in a variety of ways to ensure a future for apprenticeships that expands into new fields and offers greater inclusion for individuals with disabilities. A February 24 webinar from The Council of State Governments (CSG) will highlight the efforts of three states and the findings of a recent report from CSG and the State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED), “The Future of Apprenticeship: Inclusion, Expansion, and the Post-Pandemic World of Work.” 

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The American Rescue Plan Act: State Recovery Plans Outline Intent to Support Workers with Disabilities

By Rachel Wright, Policy Analyst

In March 2021, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The $1.9 trillion package is intended to combat the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARPA established the State Fiscal Recovery Fund (SFRF), allocating $195.3 billion to the states, District of Columbia and U.S. territories for COVID-19 relief and recovery. SFRF funds are intended to support government programs that respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its negative economic impacts.

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The American Rescue Plan Act: Utilization of Federal Funds to Bolster Employment Supports for Persons with Disabilities

By Rachel Wright, Policy Analyst

Despite earlier evidence of higher unemployment rates among persons with disabilities compared to those without a disability, more recent employment data shows that two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, employment rates among people with disabilities have rebounded faster.  

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