Seattle minimum wage law causes loss of jobs for people with IDD

Last year, the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities, decided that Seattle needed to eliminate the special certificates that employers could utilize that would allow them to pay specific employees with specific disabilities a wage less than the minimum wage for specific jobs.  Typically, these jobs are based on productivity.  Many times people with profound intellectual and complex disabilities are not as productive as a non-disabled peer.  This is not an ableist comment but one of fact.  It’s not a matter of just teaching someone a skill but one of providing appropriate supports to enable integration for those who need support.

Then Mayor Ed Murray, stated ““The point of our historic $15 minimum wage law was to build universal equity in Seattle,” said Murray, according to a press release. “A loophole allowing subminimum wages for disabled workers has undermined that goal. We are correcting that error to make good on our promise and our values.” (Seattle Weekly, August 18, 2017.)

It’s unfortunate that this population already is greatly under-employed and also unfortunately, legislating higher pay for less productive work, will only make the unemployment rate for this population higher.  This decision lacked understanding of the support needs and various services utilized by this population, disregarded research done on the national level for well planned and funded transition plans which could provide stable and sustainable employment for people with complex disabilities.

Typically, for jobs under these certificates, the employees work 10 hours or less a week.  Many times there is a job coach involved – anywhere from 1:1 at all times to just checking in “once and awhile”. (The job coach is not paid by the employer but usually through public funds or grants through the Medicaid services or waivers) The wages the employee earns are reported to Social Security Administration and their monthly SSI check is reduced based on a formula and their earned wages.  These people live in poverty.

I contacted the employers and employees in Seattle who were affected by this law.

One employee did have her hours cut from 15 to 12 hours a week.  The employer believed that this employee was only about 75% as productive as her non-disabled peers and it was not fair to the other employees to pay the same rate.  So the employer did raise the wage to minimum wage but reduced her hours.  She is now looking for another job to replace the hours she is missing.  This employee has a job coach who checks in occasionally or when needed but is not on site for her regular hours at work.

Another employer stated that they did raise the wage to the minimum wage but it is a hardship.  This employee works 6 hours a week and has a job coach that is occasionally on site.  The employee’s hours were not cut but the employer did say that they would not be able to hire other employees with complex disabilities due to this new law and therefore it is harmful for the future by limiting options.

I am still in the process of interviewing employers and employees regarding this law and how it has affected them and what they think the future may look like. So far, it appears this law was more harmful than beneficial.

It is often believed that the people who work these jobs are working full time and toiling away for pennies an hour.  This is far from the real situation.  The special certificates allow choice and options for both employees and employers.  They are not intended to be used to hire disabled people in order to pay them less but used to encourage integration and employment of people with complex and intellectual disabilities.

This is social justice gone awry .

 

 

 

 

Pilot Program Promising

Comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective care – this is not impossible!

Children’s Comprehensive Care Clinic is a pilot program in Texas which is showing promise.  In Washington, we could expand on this by utilizing the campus communities at the Residential Habilitation Centers to become “Comprehensive Care Clinics” for our citizens with developmental disabilities.  The report, Medical Care Task Force Jan 2002,  outlines a process to establish comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective care.

When looking at cost of care for residents in the supportive communities or dispersed communities, some of the major costs that are not included in the dispersed community costs are medical, psychological, and therapeutic costs.  Removing these costs from the cost analysis does not mean they are free – it means they are not available or accessible or not provided.  Of the many, many studies that have been done this issue of not including medical costs is a problem.  What is interesting though is that the studies that have been conducted in the UK are more accurate – different funding and different agendas.  The UK studies have consistently found that dispersed community services are more expensive than institutional services.

Another interesting issue is “quality of care” and “quality of life”.  The Arc and other DD Advocates do not look at issues that are outside the personal outcome measures, such as choice and community involvement.  They are missing a huge part of “quality of care” issues by their narrow focus and do not realize that “quality of care” influences “quality of life”.

Quality of care (health and safety outcomes) can be measured objectively where as “quality of life” is more subjective.  We meed to include measurements of quality of care into our assessments and cost analysis.  Below are some examples of areas needing evaluation.

a..  access to comprehensive health care services (primary, psychiatric and dental care as well as ancillary services, including care coordination)
b.  rates and status of abuse/neglect reports and investigations (including victimization in the community)
c.  mortality review
d.  access and utilization of behavioral services and
e.  similar direct measures.

When people who require complex care from a variety of professional services receive all their care in a “medical home” model, such as the ICF/ID, dispersing these people  will make access to healthcare, therapies, nursing, recreation and more unavailable. It is well documented that people with ID have higher rates of chronic medical and psychiatric illness than the general population.   It is also well documented that people with ID have an increased incidence of medical illnesses and have need for comprehensive, coordinated medical services. (Kaye McGivney, 2008)  For the best care it is critical to maintain the same providers over time and to avoid disruption of services. (Kaye McGivney, 2008) No longer will services be accessible or able to be shared.    This means that either the cost of care will greatly increase or that the person will not receive care.

Research also shows that those with DD, when admitted to the hospital, stay longer than those without a developmental disability.  People with DD are also less likely to be discharged to their pre-hospitalization living arrangement due to the fact that the needed supports were not accessible.  This fact highlights the importance of having specialized residential centers (ICF/IDs) to help alleviate the cost of care, crisis care and hospitalizations.  Having such centers increases stability is cost effective and provides stability to the citizens.  (Haier Saied, 2003)

Developmental Disabilities are not only experienced by the person but by the family.  We need to look at not only individual quality of life but the families’ experience and quality of life too. (Colvin, 2006) It is critical to the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens and  a responsibility of our communities and government to realize that we need supportive communities such as the ICF/ID to best care for some of our citizens in the most cost effective, stable, reliable and safe method.

To do otherwise, is negligent.

Works Cited

Colvin, A. D. (2006). Variables Influencing Family Members’ Decisions Regarding Continued Placement of Family Members with Mental Disabilties in One State Operated Institution.

Haider Saeed, H. O.-J. (2003). Length of Stay for Psychiatric Inpatient Services: A Comparison of Admissions of People with and without Developmental Disabilities. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 30(4), 406-417.

Kaye McGinty, R. W. (2008). Patient and Family Advocacy: Working with Individuals with Comorbid Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities and their Families. Psychiatric Quarterly, 193-203.