More subminimum wage – can we just get real

EHB 1706 sits in the Senate Rules Committee.  As long as it’s in Rules committee there is still some hope that reality will set in that this bill not only short-sighted but harmful.

I am writing with some major concerns regarding issues with EHB 1706. While this bill may have started with good-intentions, it is extremely short sighted regarding the complexity and collaboration needed in any supports addressing the needs of our disabled population affected by significant intellectual and developmental disabilities. Contrary to what has been said in hearings, it is not common practice to pay disabled people less than minimum wage. It is not common practice to use special certificates for a commensurate wage.

Special certificates for a commensurate wage are not the same thing as “warehousing people in sheltered workshops”. Special certificates do allow a choice and alternative for those who may not be able to work independently in a competitive market or for those who enjoy the camaraderie of working with peers.

We no longer have sheltered workshops in our state but these certificates are very much desired by those who chose to work in group integrated employment in community settings. Person-centered planning and adherence to the Olmstead decision regarding choice are issues that would be violated if this alternative was removed from a smorgasbord of opportunities that people with significance disabilities may choose from. Again, the issue is choice. No one is forced to use these and they are not common practice – but for those who do choose to use them, this opportunity can be life saving. Why take this away?

Other concerns regarding the issues of supported employment in our state – if the support is considered only short-term until the employee is able to be independent or the employer builds in enough “natural supports” so that the employee does not need a job coach, this will lead to even more unemployment in this population. Unfortunately, I know this too well given issues with my son who works in supported employment with a 1:1 job coach. This is not something that he will “outgrow” but a support that he will need the rest of his life. Is he going to be the victim of this policy when it is decided that job supports are no longer needed because he’s had enough time to learn the job?

It is not common practice to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage. These special certificates are for specific employers, specific jobs, specific employees and for a specific, limited time. It is common practice to pay people with disabilities minimum wage or higher but their work hours are greatly reduced. For instance, my son works in supported employment in a competitive integrated job – he earns $16.58 an hour – a great wage for him. He only works 7.5 hours a week. This is also great for him because of his disability – working more hours a day would be disastrous for him.

While this bill seemed to have good intentions – it is extremely short sighted. There was a failure to even address the recent JLARC report which addresses how few hours disabled people work and less than 10% make a “living wage.” DDA intends that its services provide quality of life benefits for clients, such as choice, relationships, integration in the community, and competence., however there are no evaluations that are done to measure if this outcome is met.

We hear from an affiliate of the national Arc Agency that Washington ranks highest percentage of “employment and day services clients” enrolled in employment services. (87%) But – “Not all clients who receive employment services have a job” which is very clear when scouring the data reported by the county contracted providers ( https://www.statedata.info/washington-ddd/) When one of the affiliates testified that working under a certificate was something that was forced on them by “well meaning do-gooders”, it inhibits their growth as employees, chances of advancement and their ability to support themselves and live off of public assistance. This person is speaking from a totally different reality and perspective than that of the people who have chosen to work under a certificate or of a person, like my son, who while able to learn and function with appropriate supports, will never be independent, able to support himself or live off of public assistance. We need to face reality and this bill is not the way to do that.
Below are just a few bullet points from the JLARC report that need to be taken into consideration:

JLARC staff analyzed DDA data for the 6,975 clients enrolled in individual supported employment during fiscal year 2018.

• 675 clients (10%) earned more than the federal poverty level ($12,140 per year for a single person).
• Earnings vary by support needs. 2 Clients with lower support needs tend to earn more wages.
• 44% of clients with high support needs were unemployed. This is double the rate for clients with medium support needs and five times the rate for clients with low support needs.
• Clients with high support needs who were employed worked 21 hours per month on average. This is less than half the average hours for clients with medium support needs, and a quarter of the hours for the clients with low support needs.
• 99% of clients with high support needs earned less than the federal poverty level.

Addressing this issue only from the Department of Labor viewpoint totally misses the collaboration needed to provide appropriate supports for our disabled community members and I find this approach extremely harmful to those people it was supposed to help. The misinformation used and biased opinions heard regarding choices and alternatives for those with significant disabilities has been ridiculed and dismissed as “living in fear”. I and others who live this life challenge you to listen to those who are actually affected by these policies – not necessarily the people you are hearing from. We need an opportunity to be heard too but when we are censored and blocked from the affiliate agency, it appears to legislators that we do not exist.

Our hope is that this will change. We are gathering people who have first hand knowledge of the issues and how these policies are actually hurting, rather than helping those we live with, care for and love.
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HB 1706 – another striker bill

 

Change Improvement Development Adjust Transform Concept

Change Improvement Development Adjust Transform Concept

Very interesting hearing today in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee regarding EHB 1706.  A packed house with people from all over the state to testify against the bill as written – self advocates, healthcare professionals, parents, guardians and other advocates.  There were also the usual people/organizations who were there to testify in support of EHB 1706 but their voices have already been heard.  It was refreshing to hear some new perspective on issues that affect us and those we work with, live with and love.

One hour of testimony with 1 minute each, one after the other as fast as could be done.  All people were then asked to leave the room and there was an executive session – The outcome was passing  EHB 1706 striker April 1 2019  with a vote of 5 -1.

Some notes from the Fiscal note which actually does indicate there will be a fiscal impact to this legislation:

Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA)
It is assumed that only individuals eligible to receive Individualized Technical Assistance services under an existing DSHS Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) program will receive Individualized Technical Assistance services due to an expiring Special Certificate. It is estimated that 421 eligible DDA clients will receive the Individualized Technical Assistance specified in this legislation. It is assumed:
•Each client will receive 20 hours of Individualized Technical Assistance
•Individualized Technical Assistance cost is $130 per hour
•The 421 clients will be provided services between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2021

One FTE (WMS Band 1) will be needed between July 1, 2019 and September 30, 2021 to:
•Coordinate with the Department of Labor and Industries
•Prioritize clients for services
•Determine service options for clients
•Track client progress
•Accumulate and organize the data required to be reported in Section 5 of this legislation
•Prepare the required reports
Total cost for this FTE is estimated at:
Fiscal Year 2020: $126,000 ($72,000 GF-State)
Fiscal Year 2021: $120,000 ($68,000 GF-State)
Fiscal Year 2022: $ 30,000 ($17,000 GF-State)
Total Costs:
Fiscal Year 2020: $674,000 ($401,000 GF-State)
Fiscal Year 2021: $668,000 ($397,000 GF-State)
Fiscal Year 2022: $ 30,000 ($17,000 GF-State)

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
The DSHS Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) may see an increase in the number of DDA clients referred for services. However, it is assumed that the increased referrals will not be significant and the related costs can be absorbed within existing resources.

All in all a step in the right direction and some indication that the voices of those actually affected is beginning to be heard – a victory so far in that there have been some crucial corrections made – still some issues to work out.

April 1 testimony opposing HB 1706

Exploitation!

For the many #neurodiversity activists who claim Exploitation! with regards to honoring a person’s choice, we are going to quote some definitions we found for exploitation:

  • The act of using someone unfairly for your own advantage
  • The use of something in order to get an advantage from it
  • The use or development of something for profit or progress in business

(from Cambridge Dictionary.org)

  • unfair treatment of someone, or the use of a situation in a way that is wrong in order to get some benefit for yourself.
  • the process of making use of something so that you gain as much as possible from it

The Macmillion Dictionary.com

  • use or utilization, especially for profit:  the exploitation of newly discovered oil fields.
  • selfish utilization:  he got ahead through the exploitation of his friends.
  • the combined, often varied, use of public-relations and advertising techniques to promote a person, movie, product, etc.

Dictionary.com

Yes, I understand that someone’s making a buck somewhere – that’s business and like it or not, it’s pretty much how things work.

  • Business make decisions on business needs not on vocational rehabilitation needs. Businesses do not necessarily see themselves as employers but as businesses making or producing a product  or service to be sold in the marketplace.
  • We must not convey the notion that business is expected to create a job where one does not exist but we need to look at what tasks they need done and figure out how we can do them to the the business.  This process can serve both the needs of the  individual and the business.

There are new CMS guideline for HCBS waivers – first and foremost Federal policy makers focused the new HCBS regulations on the quality of life of individuals, and emphasized the importance of a person-centered plan and an annual review of that plan in order to make sure their support needs and life goals are being met.

Policy alone will not improve employment outcomes for those with IDD, and in the case of Maine, it can actually decrease employment rates. Across the country, local communities are trying to create employment opportunities that are created around the interests and abilities of those who have not found meaningful work.  These efforts to increase the variety of employment options should not be thwarted by well-intentioned, yet inflexible policy.  One’s choice of where and with whom one would like to work should be guided by the goals, interest, and support needs of each unique individual with IDD as outlined in their person-centered plan.

Also, in case one may not be familiar with person-centered planning – here is a quote taken from the Administration for Community Living website:

Person-centered planning (PCP) allows individuals to be engaged in the decision making process about their options, preferences, values, and financial resources. Individuals in need of services or who are planning for the future have access to one-one-counseling in a variety of settings, including within the home, community residence, acute care hospital, school settings, or several other settings based on the individual’s needs. PCP is a valuable tool for the aging and disability networks that can improve access to care through streamlined partnerships, technology, and resources that put the focus on the needs of people and their caregivers.

The PCP approach identifies the person’s strengths, goals, preferences, needs, and desired outcomes. The role of staff, family, and other team members is to enable and assist the person to identify and access a unique mix of paid and unpaid services to meet their needs, and to provide support during planning and implementation.

When done thoughtfully, PCP creates a space of empowerment—a level playing field—that allows for consideration of personal preferences as well as health and safety needs, without unnecessarily restricting freedoms. The best person-centered planning helps people to live better lives, with support to do the things most important to them.

PCP is a cornerstone of the No Wrong Door systems model.

By the way – advocates – are you being paid for your advocacy work? Is advocacy your employment?   We are a fully volunteer organization doing this work for free on our own time.  We are committed to making services and supports better for each person, as they choose.

Clarification regarding wages

As EHB 1706 goes through the legislative process, we are discovering more and more the various data that is used and how pieces are missing, assumptions are made and reported as facts, and other issues misinterpreted.

 Data The Arc of King County uses is from a taken from a different date cycle than what is reported through the DDA Caseload and Cost Report.  ( which we used to obtain our information).  It is also unclear if The Arc of King County has read or addressed the two recent reports from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). The Review and Analysis of Employment and Community Inclusion Measurement  provides some excellent analysis of the tools used in addition to what needs to be measured and the report below provides information on the people and their jobs.

Legislative Auditor Report on DDA Employment

Depending on if one removes the number of DDA clients using the Community Inclusion services ( 1513 on July 2018) from their data, they could report that that 60% or 75% of those in DDA employment services were “making minimum wage or better”  The BIG problem with this information is that The Arc of King County does not use any data that addresses the wage people are making – this information is totally made up.

DDA does address this in their report and that information is provided here.

DDA caseload and cost report

Representative Noel Frame, prime sponsor of HB  1706 who credits autistic activist Shaun Bickley with introducing her to this issue is unaware of this data from DDA also.  Rep. Frame reports that in 2018 there were only 350 Special Certificates granted by L&I, 60-80 of which are not used any longer due to Entrust in Yakima closing their pre-vocational program.  Rep. Frame could be correct in that number of certificates but that means that all those DDA clients working for less than minimum wage or no wage they may be victims of wage theft.  This opens up a whole new hornets nest that is caused by activists who may only know or understand part of the whole.

There needs to be open discussions and dialogue with hard questions asked and answered before moving forward on this misguided legislation

Eliminating subminimum wage – HB 1706

EHB 1706 passed the House yesterday in a vote of 81-17.  We have many concerns regarding this bill and now after one of our contributors received a response from Representative Noel Frame regarding the number of people who had special certificates, we are more concerned about the lack of information she and other legislators may have regarding the Special Certificates, sub-minimum wage, supported integrated employment and people with disabilities in general.

 

Representative Noel Frame

Below is the conversation from Noel Frame’s Facebook site. Clearly Representative Frame does not understand that there are over 4000 people in the DDA integrated supported employment program that are employed and make less than minimum wage.

It appears that Representative Noel Frame thought the only people earning less than minimum wage were those in sheltered workshops (which are no longer in Washington State anyhow) and totally missed that there are many in our integrated community sites that do not earn minimum wage or maybe do not earn any wage.

Felak and Frame Facebook posts from Noel Frame site

 

DDA caseload and cost report

Cheryl Felak also wrote:

While I understand that you, Noel Frame, were introduced to this issue by your constituent, Shaun Bickley, who is a very hard worker and activist, Bickley is misinformed on some of the information – partly because he blocks people who have a difference of opinion or ask questions for clarification – He blocked me over a year ago so any comments he may post, I will not be able to see.

It appears to not only me but many other advocates that Bickley has a vendetta against parents and allies who do not 100% agree with his position. Given that the MAJORITY of people in DDA continue to live with their families and depend on their families for housing, transportation and other activities of daily living, it is critical that we also listen to families, caregivers and other natural supports in this discussion. Without these people involved who do their best to ensure their family member with IID is integrated in the community people who want to make policies and laws regarding support are missing a huge part by ignoring these very critical partners.  They are a huge part of the discussion. Ridiculing them and stating they are speaking out of fear is a bias that is uncalled for.

As an aside to this – the issue of many, many people with IID being dumped in hospitals for months, chemically and physically restrained because their group homes have refused to care for them any longer is reality for many families now. Families tried to speak up about this in the past but were ridiculed. Families know the reality and they need to be listened to and be a real part of the conversation too.

It will be interesting to see what type of response we receive.  It would would have been best to have been part of the discussion from the beginning rather than mopping up a mess.

HB 1706 Striker and Amendments

We received information this morning that there will be a striker for HB 1706 proposed on the House Floor this morning.  In addition to the striker there are two amendments to be discussed.

HB 1706 – H AMD 323
By Representative Kilduff

1706 AMH YOUN TANG 063

1706 AMH YOUN TANG 060

This striker does not violate the ADA by excluding people with disabilities from being able to work under a special certificate.  Rather than eliminating this option it will still be available and there appears to be better oversight written into the law.

Adding an objective review through utilizing JLARC is important.  The recent JLARC report on Employment and Community Inclusion – Services for People with Developmental Disabilities was very informative and gave excellent guidance to the department on how to improve services.

UPDATE:  It appears HB 1706 Striker was adopted and the amendments were withdrawn.  The bill now goes to the Senate.

 

 

 

Where are the evaluations?

Shaun Bickley “an autistic person who organized a campaign to end subminimum wage in Seattle” turned down the choice to work in a sheltered workshop when he was younger while living in Texas.  It’s great that he had the choice and is employable – he currently works for The Arc of King County in Seattle, WA.

While Bickley flips a page that lists  “over 80 organizations that have signed on in support”  (see link). I am curious if any of them know the full story, have heard of evaluations that have been done in states which have eliminated special certificates or that people in Seattle lost work hours – due to this type of legislation.

There is more to the issue than the wage and the fact that these advocates do not understand or acknowledge that supported employment, while a wonderful opportunity, is costly to sustain.  This is clearly evident in the fact that their Fiscal Note states “No fiscal impact”.  How do they propose employing all these people in supported employment without a fiscal impact?

There needs to be a lot of answers here before moving forward with anymore legislation of this kind.

The following information is taken from Morningside’s Website 

How does Morningside’s Supported Employment Program Work?

After a careful assessment of an individual’s skills and vocational interests, a Morningside job developer will conduct a job search in the community, assisting prospective employers in the identification of appropriate jobs and tasks to meet the needs of their specific businesses. A comprehensive job analysis is conducted to ensure a good employer/employee match. An applicant is referred followed by a job interview, after which the final hiring decision is the employer’s.

How is Morningside Involved After the Placement?

Employment specialists, or job coaches, assist new employees with a comprehensive job orientation, followed by on-going, individualized training and assistance to promote satisfactory work performance on an as-needed basis. They may also provide job modification assistance to employers, disability awareness training for co-workers, or job retention services to the employee and business on a long term basis.

What Reasonable Accommodations will I be Expected to Make for my New Employee and What will They Cost?

The employment specialist may analyze job tasks, restructure how specific job tasks are completed or teach tasks differently to best fit employer/employee needs. Most accommodations cost nothing at all and, in most cases, the employment specialist’s time is free to the employer.

Who pays Morningside (and other agencies? According to the Fiscal note it appears there is no cost.

How can the fiscal note be ZERO?

“Bottom Dollars”, a documentary on sub-minimum wage and sheltered workshops produced by @rootedinrights and Disability Rights Washington, has a statement which tells the truth about the situation –

“If people are given the proper services and supports and proper assistive technology, the sky is the limit for many, many individuals”  – For some reason, this critical statement is not mentioned in any reference to the documentary or supported employment.

Supported employment offers wonderful opportunities to disabled employees and benefits to the employers and our community.  Unfortunately, just as “Bottom Dollars” states, the proper services and supports are needed.  This means FUNDS.  For some reason, advocates, legislators and community members forget about this cornerstone to supported employment  which ensures supported employment to be successful and sustainable.

Microsoft, has developed a “SE -Toolkit” and has a wonderful outlook regarding the benefits to all of hiring people with disabilities. The videos on the site have examples of some wonderful success stories and it is terrific to see disabled people working and enjoying their jobs in the communities.

The information below is from the Microsoft Supported Employment FAQ webpage

Who pays the Supported Employees and their coaches?

Employers do not pay a fee to the coaching agencies. Coaches work for employment coaching agencies, which are usually non-profits funded by government entities. In Washington, the primary government funders are the Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and county Divisions of Developmental Disabilities.
Supported Employees are paid by their employer. The expectation is that vendors will hire Supported Employees within existing labor budgets within the Real Estate and Facilities scope. Vendors hire Supported Employees for roles that they need to fill.

How do job seekers with I/DD find out about Supported Employment opportunities with Microsoft RE&F vendors?

When a vendor has a job opening for a Supported Employee, the program manager notifies the coaching agency partners. The agencies determine which individuals are best suited and qualified for the specific job opening, and assist those individuals with applying, interviewing, onboarding, and ongoing job coaching.
Candidates for employment should contact one of our partner agencies. See the earlier topic, “Who are the primary partners in the Microsoft RE&F Supported Employment Program” for more information, or download our employment agency list.