July 10, 2014
Independent living leaders in Vermont are praising the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. After 18 months of tough negotiations, the legislation passed the U.S. Senate on June 25 by a vote of 95-3, and the U.S. House passed WIOA by a vote of 415-6 on July 9.
Sam Liss of Sunderland, chairman of the Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council, said, “The SILC applauds the bicameral and bipartisan effort that led to passage of WIOA, in which is embedded a six-year reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act. We are gratified that Congress considered independent living such a high priority!”
The Rehabilitation Act is contained in WIOA. Improvements to independent living in the bill include the fact that a fifth core service — transition — will be added to the services that independent living centers provide.
Since 1979, the Vermont Center for Independent Living has made it a priority to help relocate people out of nursing homes and back into their own homes. Now, as part of this legislation nursing home transition is a core service of centers for independent living, as well as transition services for youth from high school to post-secondary education.
Sarah Launderville, executive director of VCIL, said, “Many students with disabilities want to see the dream of completing college a reality and they should. Every young student should be given an opportunity to go to college, expand their knowledge and find a job they can connect to and be paid for that employment. This expanded core service will allow for us to focus specifically on barriers to reaching that goal and work towards a solution.”
Another positive about WIOA is that independent living programs will move from the Rehabilitation Services Administration to the Administration for Community Living within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Launderville said, “We are pleased to be moving to the Administration for Community Living which aligns more closely with the values of our work as a Center for Independent Living.”
Liss said, “The changes to the Rehab Act will allow statewide independent living councils greater autonomy and to engage in a broader scope of work within the state — all directed toward allowing people with disabilities to live independently and be productive citizens. Such work will encompass education about and encouragement for constructive employment for people with disabilities, as well as many other relevant areas. In addition, SILCs will be able to fund-raise more efficiently, with the potential of significant savings for the taxpayer. The Vermont SILC looks forward to its new, expanded responsibilities in the best interest of people with disabilities and all of Vermont society.”