The WINTAC currently has Section 511 implementation as a topic area in 11 intensive technical assistance agreements. These include:
- Arizona Combined
- California Combined
- Hawaii Combined
- Idaho General
- Indiana Combined
- Louisiana Combined
- Minnesota Blind
- Minnesota General
- Mississippi Combined
- Nevada Combined
- Rhode Island Combined
Implementation issues: The first year of Section 511 taking effect (July 2016), the VR agencies we were working with were focused on understanding their responsibilities under the law and figuring out how they would be providing career counseling information and referral (CC&I&R) services to large numbers of individuals in subminimum wage (SMW) work in their States. In some States, the demand wasn’t too great because they had low numbers, but in others, it was a major challenge because they had well over 10,000 individuals employed in SMW. The VR agencies were working with the 14c holders to figure out how they would deliver the CC&I&R and complete the required documentation. Some agencies delivered the CC&I&R with redirected staff, others contracted out the delivery of CC&I&R, and others did a hybrid of the two. Some other common first year implementation issues included:
- Understanding the requirements for youth to enter SMW
- Getting documentation of transition or pre-employment transition services from the schools
- Understanding how the consumer’s choice not to pursue competitive integrated employment (CIE) could result in an ineligibility certification
- Understanding how to work through different scenarios
Year 2 Implementation Issues: As of July, 2017, all of the VR agencies we worked with directly had created and implemented systems to ensure that CC&I&R was delivered to the known individuals working in SMW. The challenges moved from creating something new to ensuring ongoing delivery and tracking of semi-annual and annual CC&I&R delivery. The discussion among the VR agencies that we have been working with switched from being solely focused on compliance to examining what effect, if any, the requirements for youth and the CC&I&R were having on helping to move individuals to at least trying for CIE. Compliance with the law and the ongoing tracking and documentation is still a focus, but impact is also being addressed now.
What we know from the data as of January 2018:
The Wage and Hour Division of DOL has been publishing a list of 14c holders by community rehabilitation program (CRPs) approximately every six months. The most recent list was published as of January 2018. When the January 2018 list is compared to the January 2016 list (a 14c certificate is valid for two years), some very clear trends emerge:
The reduction in 14c certificate holders reduced by 580. This means that there were 580 fewer CRP employers that have an active 14c certificate that allows them to pay individuals less than minimum wage. Many of these certificates expired and were not renewed for whatever reason. We are in the process of contacting these employers to find out why they let their certificate lapse and did not renew. We have a very long way to go until we reach enough to know for sure what is going on, but here are the major reasons we have come across so far:
- They have just decided to pay employees minimum wage since the requirements for Section 511 are a burden and they don’t want to deal with the demands of the law
- They have stopped doing work of any kind and have just gone to a day program structure where they don’t do any real or contracted work
- They reduced the number of hours that people work and are just paying minimum wage for the work performed – like number 1, but a reduction in work hours.
We know from the January 2018 Wage and Hour report that there are 96,745 fewer individuals reported as working in SMW work since January 2016. When an employer requests a 14c certificate, they must identify the individuals working in SMW at the time of the application for the certificate. The total number of individuals identified in the 14c certificate applications decreased by over 96,000 from January 2016 to January 2018. Although the data is clearly off in some States, the trend is very clear. There is a major reduction, and the key is to get as clean a data set as possible and find out why the reduction is occurring. We are in the process of doing this now, but it will take at least another year.
Some States like Alaska, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, have passed State laws that have either stopped new individuals from entering SMW, or outlawed it completely. We expect that this movement will continue to grow throughout the country.
Where do we go from here:
The 511 TA has moved from initial implementation (helping to develop CC&I&R materials and P&P) and compliance (especially for youth), to ongoing tracking and impact measurement. We have been helping Blind agencies understand their role in helping to ensure that CC&I&R is accessible, even if the vast majority of it is provided by the General agency. The focus on the responsibilities of Blind VR programs is an outgrowth of the measurement of impact in many ways. The VR programs have been examining how CC&I&R is affecting the pursuit of CIE, and this begins with an honest assessment of whether the CC&I&R is delivered in an understandable format to all individuals. It will be increasingly important for Blind and General agencies to work in partnership to ensure that CC&I&R has the maximum impact for all individuals.
The WINTAC continues to ask questions to RSA for VR programs on a biweekly basis related to 511. The demand for more than this review and ad hoc consultation is quickly diminishing and we do not expect the need for 511 TA will grow much beyond this activity. We will work with agencies to help maximize the impact of their services in response to 511, and provide examples of best practices. We will be focusing on completing the study of 14c holders as noted above, especially related to contacting those employers that let their 14c certificate expire to find out why this occurred.’