SSB 5284 passed out of the Senate on February 18, 2021. There has been much concern expressed by community members and legislators regarding harm that may be caused by this bill. It’s troubling that even when acknowledging harm, legislators still pass a bill without evaluation of the harm already caused the past several years. The specific harm in this situation is the termination of community jobs for people with significant disabilities who may not be able to secure a supported employment position in a competitive market.
As Bill Sponsor Senator Randall pointed out in her testimony on the Senate Floor – “we are not doing enough to support individuals with IDD in Washington State. We are towards the bottom of the barrel in State rankings regarding investments in our disability community.” Senator Randall recognizes that we need to offer more support – especially when we make changes to our safety net that is ALREADY FRAGILE.
These certificates are part of the fragile safety net and are a critical alternative for those with significant support needs who will have employment opportunities terminated due to his bill. There is no offer of more support in this bill and quite frankly this bill is more than a slap in the face to some of our community members with the most significant support needs.
We are not treating our neighbors as “less than” by acknowledging the support needs but we are treating them as “less than” when we pull their supports and safety net without additional resources. There are safeguards in place already within the current RCW and WAC which honor choice and alternative.
While Senator Fortunato’s amendment passed and will track reduction in waiver service hours for those leaving sub-minimum wage jobs, there is no remedy for the termination of jobs. We ALREADY know jobs, supports and engagement have been terminated over the past several years due to the elimination of certificates.
The harm done by passing the “small first step 2 years ago which eliminated the certificates amongst state agencies” is evident. There were 193 employees utilizing these certificates for their employment in 2019. These 193 people had their jobs eliminated by that “small first step.” Has there been any evaluation of how those people are adjusting to the loss of their safety net? Were they harmed by the termination of their employment?
In addition to the jobs terminated within state agencies, reports from those involved in Seattle and the information from King County Department of Community and Human Services are clear that jobs and community engagement were terminated.
- Seattle – 8 people were working with a certificate making $10.-$11.50 an hour. When the law changed, all but 1 person had their hours cut by up to 60% due to the wage increase. The only person who did not have her hours cut only worked 6 hours a week.
- King County – there were 143 people involved in the pre-vocational services which were eliminated in 2015 (over a transition period). As of Sept 2019, only 24 of those were employed but with fewer hours per week. Their average work week went from 15 hours to 7.25 hours per week. What are the other 119 who lost their job and wages doing now? King County is in the process of updating their information on these people and is not ready to view yet.
We need to honor each and every person and allow choices and alternatives for those who may need a different route. These certificates are NOT for any person with a disability but specifically to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment for those whose earning capacity is impaired by age, physical or mental deficiency or injury – This is an agreement entered into by choice on the part of the all involved and specific to employee, employer, job, wage, and is time limited.
Eliminating certificates and paying minimum wage or better does not erase the fact that people have disabilities which require supports in order to find and keep a job. Elimination of certificates does not magically mean that the person does not have a disability and no longer needs supports. The majority of the the employees who choose to utilize the certificates work 20 hours or less a week and if they transition into individual supported employment their work hours will generally be between 0 and 8 hours a week. The termination of certificates will not provide any economic gain for these employees, nor will it make them more independent.
Below is a list of assessments that need to be considered for person-centered planning and budgeting for employment supports. Without these supports, employment will be essentially impossible and how are these supports addressed in SSB 5284? How are these supports addressed in the fiscal note? People with higher support needs may need personal care support while on the job. Job coaches are not allowed to assist with any personal care, transportation or other supports – this means that work hours need to be limited to accommodate personal care assistance or other limitations caused by fragmented support for the person.
· How does DDD determine your employment acuity score?
· DDD determines your employment acuity support score by combining your employment support scores for:
· (1) Activities of daily living (see WAC 388-828-9215);
· (2) Behavioral support (see WAC 388-828-9220);
· (3) Interpersonal support (see WAC 388-828-9225);
· (4) Environmental support (see WAC 388-828-9230);
· (5) Level of monitoring (see WAC 388-828-9240);
· (6) Employment support (see WAC 388-828-9245);
· (7) Completing tasks with acceptable speed (see WAC 388-828-9255);
· (8) Completing tasks with acceptable quality (see WAC 388-828-9260);
· (9) Medical support (see WAC 388-828-9265); and
· (10) Seizure support (see WAC 388-828-9270).
We also acknowledge the issue of possible ADA Violations that the State could face if this bill is passed.
ADA violations – discrimination by curtailing opportunities for employment solely due to the person having a disability
- Eliminating the choice for specific individuals with disabilities the alternative to work in a specific job for a specific wage is discrimination. These alternatives are set up to prevent ”curtailment of opportunities for employment” (RCW 49.46.060) There are safeguards already in place to prevent exploitation and this option is a desired option by many who could benefit using this alternative to individualized competitive employment. We need to honor choice and Person-Centered Planning.
- By nature of having certain intellectual/developmental disabilities (as assessed in the Developmental Disabilities Assessment) people with significant support needs may need extra time and support to learn and maintain skills to complete a job. By eliminating the choice to work under a certificate as an “on-the-job learner, student worker, apprentice or messenger” only due to the fact that the person has a disability may be a violation of the ADA act.
We are asking that you please take a pause on this bill and evaluate what has transpired due to the termination of employment for those who had previously worked under a certificate. We need to ensure that no harm was done before we can move forward. We need to honor and respect every person in our community and providing the choice of certificates for those who need them for their employment and community engagement is one way that we can make a huge difference in a person’s quality of life.
Rather than cut our safety net and curtail choices and alternatives, we need a full array of supports to address the needs of our community members.