A proposed federal bill with bipartisan support would “support employers transitioning to paying competitive, fair wages to people with disabilities,” according to one of its sponsors, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act is co-sponsored by Sen. Steven Daines (R-MT). Casey discussed it last week at a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which he chairs.

This bill makes it so people with disabilities who want to work will be able to work,” he said, adding that his home state of Pennsylvania has developed “the standard for disability employment.”

The legislation would phase out wages lower than minimum wage for workers who are living with disabilities. Casey noted that progress has been made in employment of people living with disabilities in recent years but that many people with disabilities are working at almost half the rate of their non-disabled peers.

“It’s shameful that in some places, people with disabilities are still being paid a subminimum wage. We have to phase out this discriminatory practice and provide people with disabilities the opportunity to work and advance in their jobs,” he said.

The act would enable the Department of Labor to award grants to states and “certain eligible entities” to help them transform their businesses and program models to support people living with disabilities. Grant recipients would:

  • Provide competitive integrated employment;
  • Assist disabled individuals in finding and retaining such jobs;
  • Provide integrated employment and integrated community participation and wraparound services for such individuals; and
  • Ensure that such services comply with federal regulations for people receiving home and community-based services.

An unrelated report issued in September by the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability noted that the employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities has never been better.