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Subminimum Wage

The Request for Proposals (RFP) for a statewide contract with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for its PA SWTCIE Grant InVEST Project has been re-issued. Interested parties should access information regarding this opportunity here

The InVEST Project is seeking to increase competitive integrated employment outcomes for individuals who are engaged, or are considering engagement, in subminimum wage employment. The project is funded through the Disability Innovation Fund (DIF) — Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment Grant, a federal model demonstration grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (PR Award # H421D220003).

Please note that the deadline for proposal submission has been extended to Wednesday, August 23, 2023.

Message from the Department of Human Services (DHS):

Harrisburg, PA — Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier and Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead today announced the Wolf Administration’s goal of using a $14 million federal grant to help Pennsylvanians with disabilities earning subminimum wage transition to competitive, integrated employment.

“Individuals with disabilities contribute their valuable skills, talents, time, energy and perspectives to Pennsylvania’s dynamic economy every day in professions and industries as diverse as our population. They deserve the same protections as all other workers, including the right to earn at least minimum wage for their work,” Secretary Berrier said. “The Wolf Administration will use this funding to help individuals with disabilities and their families learn about and take advantage of opportunities in competitive, integrated employment. There can and should be a role for everyone who wants to and is able to work, and we are grateful to those employers who have already committed to providing competitive, integrated employment.”

Pennsylvania is one of 14 states to receive grant awards from the federal Department of Education for the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) demonstration project. L&I’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and DHS’s Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) will use the funding to develop a five-year plan to support Pennsylvanians with disabilities in transitioning out of subminimum-wage employment — including more than 5,400 people who currently work in “sheltered workshops,” most of whom have intellectual disabilities or autism — as well as students and youth with disabilities seeking to enter competitive, integrated employment (CIE).

“There can be an end to the subminimum wage exception for individuals with disabilities, but it is incumbent on all of us to make that happen. Workplaces should examine their policies to see which ones are outdated or intentionally or unintentionally discriminating against individuals with disabilities,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism are vital members of our society and of our workforces, and DHS is proud to support opportunities to help them find gainful competitive integrated employment. We are grateful to the federal government for this grant so we can continue this work.”

The practice of paying individuals with disabilities subminimum wage is legal under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, a federal law. In September 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for an end to subminimum wage in a report, saying that the program has been “inconsistent with the civil rights protections to which people with disabilities are entitled.” To date, several states have, or are in the process of, ending subminimum wage for people with disabilities or are in the process of phasing it out.

The federal grant will fund Pennsylvania’s Integrated Vocational Engagement and Supports Team (InVEST) Project, a wraparound model for assisting individuals with disabilities — including those considering or currently engaged in employment at subminimum wage — their families and employers, to move from subminimum wage employment to competitive, integrated employment.

The project aligns with the commonwealth’s Employment First philosophical approach that CIE be the first and preferred option and will enhance the commonwealth’s existing network of community rehabilitation service providers by allocating additional resources for staff who will work directly with CIE employers proactively engaged in supporting employees with disabilities and creating a culture of accommodation for all employees. These employer liaisons and employment specialists will be embedded with CIE employers to support employees with disabilities, facilitate communication, create a smooth hiring process, and provide on-the-job supports to ensure success. An interdisciplinary and collaborative resource team will anticipate and respond to the SWTCIE participants’ employment-related needs.

The Wolf Administration encourages all employers to consider learning more about this topic and becoming involved in Employment First, which requires any group receiving public funding to ensure that employment is the main focus for education, training, or support services for anyone with a disability who is eligible to work. Employers can explore opportunities to enhance their workforce by hiring people with disabilities who are invaluable members of our communities, workforce, and economy.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) will be hosting two public Listening Sessions to seek input from stakeholders as it prepares to apply to the Rehabilitation Services Administration for a competitive discretionary grant. The public is invited to attend and share comments. CART and ASL services will be available.

Listening Sessions

  1. Wednesday, May 11, 2022, from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm EST
    May 11 Listening Session Zoom Registration
  2. Thursday, May 12, 2022, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST
    May 12 Listening Session Zoom Registration

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Grant Information

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Disability Innovation Fund (DIF) was issued to support innovative activities aimed at increasing Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE), as defined in section 7 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act) (Gov Regs Definitions), for youth and other individuals with disabilities.

The priority of the grant is: Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) Innovative Model Demonstration Project. The project seeks model demonstration projects designed to develop, implement, refine, evaluate, and disseminate, for easy adoption, new or substantially improved model strategies or programs to transition individuals in subminimum wage employment into CIE in any one of the following 6 topic areas:

  1. Essential Workers;
  2. Green Job Workers;
  3. Home and Community-Based Service Workers;
  4. Arts;
  5. Transportation Industry and Related Industry Workers; or
  6. Field-Initiated: Field initiated projects will identify and implement innovative strategies that assist SWTCIE program participants to secure CIE. A field-initiated project may (1) address innovative topic areas not otherwise included in this notice or (2) combine two or more topic areas described in this notice into one application.

The purpose of this competition is to increase competitive-integrated employment opportunities for students, youth, and adults with disabilities contemplating, actively seeking, or engaged in subminimum wage employment. To achieve this purpose, projects funded under this priority will create innovative models, for dissemination and replication, to:

  1. Identify strategies for addressing challenges associated with access to CIE (e.g., transportation, support services);
  2. Provide integrated services that support CIE;
  3. Support integration into the community through CIE;
  4. Identify and coordinate wrap-around services for any individual served by the project who obtains CIE;
  5. Develop evidence-based practices and share those practices with other entities holding 14(c) certificates, State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies, local rehabilitation providers, State and local workforce agencies, and regional and local employers; and
  6. Provide entities holding section 14(c) certificates with readily accessible transformative business models for adoption.

Access the OVR Competitive Discretionary Grant Request for Information (RFI) here. The public is invited to also share written comments if unable to attend a listening session. Written comments should be submitted via email with the subject line “12 OVR SWTCIE Discretionary Grant” before 5/10/2022 at 4:00 pm.

States eligible to compete for Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment Grants totaling $167 million

Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) released the notice inviting applications for the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) demonstration project, which is aimed at increasing access for people with disabilities to jobs that pay good wages.

The SWTCIE project is the largest discretionary grant administered by RSA, with $167 million available to State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners.

“Economic security should be available to all Americans,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Providing individuals with disabilities with a high-quality education and the services that they need to thrive will result in real pay for real jobs, empowering them and leading to greater social and economic inclusion.”

Read the full press release.