I had an interesting discussion with one of the DDA agency contacts regarding data on employment for DDA clients. It was very enlightening and also very concerning at the same time.
The fact that there really is no accurate, up-to-date information is cause for concern. The data on the 2018 DDA Caseload and Cost report is incorrect – but at the same time, data that other organizations are regurgitating are also incorrect. In fact, Washington State Labor & Industries, which apparently does not communicate with DDA is providing information to legislators (Representative Noel Frame and Senator Emily Randall, maybe others too) stating there are less than 350 people with special certificates in the state and one reason that the fiscal note for HB 1706 is that it apparently is a fiscal note for Labor & Industries. That makes sense it would be zero because not needing to review and approve certificates means less work and no funds will be needed.
The US Dept. of Labor lists 1051 federal special certificates for Washington. The DDA representative said that there may be around 500-600 people who are earning less than minimum wage and that not all have special certificates through L&I for various reasons. Also, some of these DDA clients may be self employed and that adds another piece to the puzzle.
Now, if L&I communicated with DDA or other organizations and agencies, there would be a different bill and a different fiscal note. But until the silos are broken down, things will not improve.
What I did learn tough is that the contracted providers with the counties upload their data every month to the website. DDA checks it to ensure data is being uploaded correctly – corrections are to be made but the providers can only access the website once a month so corrections need to wait until the next month when the provider uploads again and at the same time they should go through and make all the needed corrections. Information is constantly changing but the further out one is from a point in time, the chances are that the information will be more accurate.
It was good to get validation that the information as shared on the DDA State Data website which has the category “gross wages > Zero” should not be translated as “wages minimum or greater” as they have been translated somewhere along the line from DDA to The Arc of King County who shared their data. Hopefully this will be corrected and that will be a start.
But, no matter how many people are actually earning a subminimum wage, taking away that choice of theirs, if it is their choice, is a violation of their civil rights. No one knows unless those affected people are asked and I would like to see the information regarding the choices of those actually affected now and also I would like to hear from the people who have been forced from their jobs in the past two years during this transition. Those are the voices that matter.