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Today, President Clinton formally announced that the Jeffords/Kennedy Work Incentives Improvement Act will be part of his FY 2000 budget proposal. In a White House ceremony, the President called on Congress to eliminate the barriers to work in the SSI/SSDI programs that prevent all people with disabilities, including people with serious brain disorders, from reaching their full potential. As readers of the NAMI E-News know, NAMI has been pushing hard for this legislation for many years in order to ensure that consumers do not have to choose between health coverage and work.
Equally as important as the President's endorsement was the agreement by Senators William Roth (R-DE) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) to cosponsor this legislation with Senators James Jeffords (R-VT) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA). Senators Roth and Moynihan are the Chairman and ranking member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. This development is a major boost for the prospects of passage of the Work Incentives Improvement Act in 1999. NAMI advocates are urged to thank all four Senators and President Clinton for agreeing to make this measure a priority this year. Contact numbers can be obtained by going to the NAMI website, www.nami.org, and click on Write to Congress on the policy page.
United States Senate
For Immediate Release January 12, 1999
BIPARTISAN LEADERSHIP TO INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO REMOVE BARRIERS TO WORK FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
In a bipartisan effort to see that people with disabilities have access to the services they need to enter and stay in the workforce, Senators Jeffords (R-VT), Kennedy (D-MA), Roth (R-DE), and Moynihan (D-NY) will introduce the Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999.
"We have a simple goal with this legislation: helping Americans with disabilities go to work. Under current law, individuals with disabilities are actually punished if they want to work. The threat of losing federal health benefits is a powerful disincentive which prevents disabled people who want to work from entering the workforce," the sponsoring Senators said.
The proposed legislation is intended to remove two of the most serious barriers to the employment of people with disabilities by providing adequate and affordable health insurance when a person on SSI or SSDI goes to work, or develops a significant disability while working; and a user-friendly, public-private approach to job training and placement assistance for individuals with disabilities who want to work.
More than 8 million adults from ages 16-64 receive benefits under federal disability programs, and the number continues to grow annually. Fewer than 1/2 of 1% of those on the disability rolls actually work, even though a 1998 Harris survey found that 72% of these Americans want to work.
The sponsoring Senators added, "We intend to make 1999 the year that Congress fulfills the dream of all Americans with disabilities to be a part of our Nation's workforce and growing economy."
The Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 will be introduced in late January, with a mark-up in the Senate Finance Committee targeted for early spring.
Today, President Clinton will unveil a historic new initiative that will remove significant barriers to work for people with disabilities. This three-part budget initiative, which invests over $2 billion over five years, includes: (1) full funding of the Work Incentives Improvement Act which will be introduced by Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth, and Moynihan next week; (2) a new $1,000 tax credit to cover work-related costs for people with disabilities; and (3) expanded access to information and communications technologies. With these new proposals, the Administration will have taken action on every recommendation made in the report of the Presidentís Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities, which the Vice President accepted last month. Justin Dart, one of the foremost leaders of the disability communities, stated in response to todayís proposals: "The Clinton-Gore Administration has a long history of supporting the disability community. This policy initiative is one of the boldest since the landmark passage of the ADA."
CRITICAL NEED TO REMOVE BARRIERS TO WORK
Since President Clinton took office, the American economy has added 17.7 million new jobs, and unemployment is at a 29-year low of 4.3 percent. The unemployment rate among all working-age adults with disabilities, however, is nearly 75 percent. According to current estimates, about 1.6 million working-age adults have a disability that leads to functional limitations and 14 million working-age adults have less severe but still significant disabilities.
People with disabilities can bring tremendous energy and talent to the American workforce, but institutional barriers often limit their ability to work. Most critically, people with disabilities often become ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare if they work. This means that many people with disabilities are put in the untenable position of choosing between health care coverage and work. In addition, advances in technology and communications are often not accessible to people with disabilities.
THREE-PART INITIATIVE TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES
Funding the Work Incentives Improvement Act in the Presidentís budget. Health care -- particularly prescription drugs and personal assistance -- is essential for people with disabilities to work. Today, the President is announcing that his FY 2000 budget will fund the full cost of the Work Incentives Improvement Act. This proposal, which costs $1.2 billion over 5 years, would:
Improve access to health care by:
With these steps, the Administration has taken action on all Task Force Recommendations. In December, the Vice President accepted the report of the Presidentís Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities, took action on some of their recommendations, and pledged that the Administration would review others in the budget process. With the new steps taken today, as well as an announcement that Mrs. Gore will make tomorrow, the Administration has taken action on all the Task Force formal recommendations:
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