We are a few weeks away from the November elections, mere days from determining the future direction of both the federal and state government’s approach to the blending and braiding of public and private resources to support improved employment and economic status for millions of American with disabilities.
As you are likely aware, October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. President Obama in a recent proclamation challenged “all Americans to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces and communities.”
In that spirit, Washington Insider offers you an election checklist to help inform you, coworkers, family members, friends and the general public about the policy direction and priorities of candidates seeking your vote. Please consider the following questions to ask at town hall events or write to the candidates and ask for a response in writing.
Election 2014 Checklist
Questions about Policy Direction and Priorities
- People with disabilities in our state are 2.5 times more likely to be living at or below the poverty level as compared to their nondisabled peers. What policies would you change and priority actions would you take to improve the economic stability of working age adults with disabilities?
- Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act at the federal level sets affirmative obligations on federal contractors to proactively reach out and recruit, hire, accommodate and build career pathways for workers with disabilities. Section 503 rules propose a 7 percent benchmark for an inclusive workforce for federal contractors. Would you adopt a similar stand and create obligations for state contractors with annual reporting requirements to document progress being made?
- A number of states have created an Office of Financial Empowerment to better coordinate across state agencies the availability and integration of financial education and counseling on coaching services within social and human service delivery systems (TANF, Medicaid, Workforce Investment, Education). Would you establish an Office of Financial Empowerment, and what is your plan to improve the financial capability of low-income residents of the state to better manage debt and credit, take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit and other favorable tax provisions and be protected against predatory lenders?
- As part of meeting the intent of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) have asked all states to rebalance their use of public resources to improve the availability of affordable community housing and long-term support services as well as needed services and supports to advance competitive integrated employment options and a better economic future. What are your plans to accelerate needed system changes to meet the Olmstead mandate for greater community supports and inclusion? What are your top three priorities for implementing an “Employment First platform?”
Senate and Congressional Candidates
- Do you support the passage of the Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act? Why has the bill not come to a vote on the House or Senate Floor despite overwhelming bipartisan support?
- Asset limits for eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid, Food Assistance and other public benefits is the equivalent of a life sentence to poverty. Would you support federal legislation to raise these asset limit tests for eligibility to public benefits to at least $10,000, so that economically vulnerable populations can at least have an emergency safety net for unexpected expenses related to housing, health care and other needs?
- Do you support continuation of subminimum wage labor rates currently allowed under Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act? How would you join with other Members of Congress to end this policy and push for reforms?
- What other policies impacting people with disabilities and their families would be on your short list for reform?
- One in five families have a member with a disability. Disability cuts across race, gender, ethnicity, and age. Despite the diversity of the disability population, all have one characteristic in common: they are struggling with financial insecurity. How can the federal government government do better and achieve improved outcomes regarding participation in the economic mainstream for the disability community?
Knowledge about your candidates’ priorities should help you decide who deserves your vote in November. If you receive responses to this sample list of questions, please share them with us. We will publicize the results.