NEW INITIATIVE TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS
ginettep at seals.org
Wed Jan 13 16:23:42 PST 1999
PRESIDENT CLINTON AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE UNVEIL NEW INITIATIVE TO IMPROVE
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES
January 13, 1999
Today, President Clinton will unveil a historic new initiative that will
remove significant barriers to work for people with disabilities. This
three-part budget initiative, which invests over $2 billion over five
years, includes: (1) full funding of the Work Incentives Improvement Act
which will be introduced by Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth, and
Moynihan next week; (2) a new $1,000 tax credit to cover work-related
costs for people with disabilities; and (3) expanded access to
information and communications technologies. With these new proposals,
the Administration will have taken action on every recommendation made in
the report of the President's Task Force on the Employment of Adults with
Disabilities, which the Vice President accepted last month. Justin
Dart, one of the foremost leaders of the disability communities, stated
in response to today's proposals: "The Clinton-Gore Administration has a
long history of supporting the disability community. This policy
initiative is one of the boldest since the landmark passage of the ADA."
CRITICAL NEED TO REMOVE BARRIERS TO WORK
Since President Clinton took office, the American economy has added 17.7
million new jobs, and unemployment is at a 29-year low of 4.3 percent.
The unemployment rate among all working-age adults with disabilities,
however, is nearly 75 percent. According to current estimates, about 1.6
million working-age adults have a disability that leads to functional
limitations and 14 million working-age adults have less severe but still
People with disabilities can bring tremendous energy and talent to the
American workforce, but institutional barriers often limit their ability
to work. Most critically, people with disabilities often become
ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare if they work. This means that many
people with disabilities are put in the untenable position of choosing
between health care coverage and work. In addition, advances in
technology and communications are often not accessible to people with
THREE-PART INITIATIVE TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS
* Funding the Work Incentives Improvement Act in the President's budget.
Health care -- particularly prescription drugs and personal assistance --
is essential for people with disabilities to work. Today, the President
is announcing that his FY 2000 budget will fund the full cost of the Work
Incentives Improvement Act. This proposal, which costs $1.2 billion over
5 years, would:
- Improve access to health care by:
-- Expanding states' ability to provide a Medicaid buy-in to people
with disabilities who return to work. This provision would enable states
to offer the buy-in to people whose assets and/or income exceed current
limits. It also would give states the option of offering the buy-in to
people with medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, who do not
meet the current disability standard, but who can work only because of
medical treatment. Finally, this provision would give health care grants
to those that do so.
-- Extending Medicare coverage, for the first time, for people with
disabilities who return to work. Although Medicare does not provide as
comprehensive a benefit as Medicaid, this aspect of the proposal ensures
that all people with disabilities who return to work have access to
health care coverage, even if they live in a state that does not take the
-- Creating a new Medicaid buy-in demonstration to help people with
a specific physical or mental impairment that is not yet severe enough to
qualify for health care assistance, but that is reasonably expected to
lead to a severe disability in the absence of medical treatment. This
demonstration could help people with muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's
Disease, HIV or diabetes who are able to work with appropriate health
- Modernize the employment services system by creating a "ticket"
that will enable SSI or SSDI beneficiaries to go to any of a number of
public or private providers for vocational rehabilitation. If the
beneficiary goes to work and achieves substantial earnings, providers
would be paid a portion of the benefits saved.
- Create a Work Incentive Grant program to provide benefits
planning and assistance, facilitate access to information about work
incentives, and better integrate services to people with disabilities
working or returning to work.
* Providing a $1,000 tax credit for work-related expenses for people with
disabilities. The daily costs of getting to and from work, and being
effective at work, can be high if not prohibitive for people with
disabilities. Under this new proposal, workers with significant
disabilities would receive an annual $1,000 tax credit to help cover the
formal and informal costs that are associated with employment, such as
special transportation and technology. Like the
Jeffords-Kennedy-Roth-Moynihan Work Incentive Act, this tax credit, which
will assist 200,000 to 300,000 Americans, will help ensure that people
with disabilities have the tools they need to return to work. The credit
will cost $700 million over 5 years.
* Improving access to assistive technology. Technology is often not
adapted for people with disabilities and even when it is, people with
disabilities may not be able to afford it. This new initiative would
accelerate the development and adoption of information and communications
technologies that can improve the quality of life for people with
disabilities and enhance their ability to participate in the workplace.
The initiative would: (1) help make the Federal government a "model user"
of assistive technology; (2) support new and expanded state loan programs
to make assistive technology more affordable for Americans with
disabilities; and (3) invest in research and development and technology
transfer in areas such as "text to speech" for people who are blind,
automatic captioning for people who are deaf, and speech recognition and
eye tracking for people who can't use a keyboard. It would cost $35
million in FY 2000, more than double the government's current investment
in deploying assistive technology.
With these steps, the Administration has taken action on all Task Force
Recommendations. In December, the Vice President accepted the report of
the President's Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities,
took action on some of their recommendations, and pledged that the
Administration would review others in the budget process. With the new
steps taken today, as well as an announcement that Mrs. Gore will make
tomorrow, the Administration has taken action on all the Task Force
-- Work to pass the Work Incentive Improvement Act -- included in
-- Work to pass a strong Patients' Bill of Rights -- high
-- Examine tax options to assist with expenses of work -- included
in Administration's budget.
-- Foster interdisciplinary consortia for employment services --
included in Administration's budget.
-- Accelerate development and adoption of assistive technology --
included in Administration's budget.
-- Direct Small Business Administration to expand outreach -- Vice
President announced in December.
-- Remove Federal hiring barriers for people with mental illness --
Mrs. Gore will unveil tomorrow.
-- Direct OPM to develop model plan for Federal hiring of people
with disabilities -- Vice President unveiled in December.
Information & Referral Specialist
Washington Assistive Technology Alliance
1-800-214-8731 (Toll Free)
(509) 328-9350 (V, TTY)
(509) 326-2261 (Fax)
ginettep at seals.org
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