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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

On July 22, 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), was signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014. The law reauthorized programs contained in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, and made some important changes, most notably the addition of new restrictuions on the use of Section 14(c) subminimum wage certificates. In August 2016, new rules were released implementing the provisions of WIOA. Some of the notable provisions in the law are:

Restrictions on Use of Subminimum Wage: WIOA adds Section 511 to the Rehabilitation Act, which requires, starting in 2016, additional criteria that must be met before an individual under the age of 24 may be employed at a subminimum wage. Criteria include ongoing career counseling and monitoring, with regularly-scheduled reassessments. Additionally, there is a new prohibition on educational agencies from contracting with sheltered work providers. Full discussion of the section begins on page 6 of this document.

Realignment of Federal Programs: Several federal agencies have been relocated under WIOA. Notably, The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation (formerly “NIDRR”) and the Independent Living Program will now be housed at the Administration on Community Living (ACL) within the Department of Health and Human Services. The final law does not move the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), which houses Vocational Rehabilitation. The RSA will remain under the Department of Education umbrella. 

Definitions of Supported and Competitive Employment: The new law changes the definition of supported employment to clarify that when the term is used, it refers to “competitive integrated employment.” Customized employment, which is “designed to meet the specific abilities of the individual with a significant disability and the business needs of the employer,” falls under the definition of supported employment.

WIOA explicitly defines competitive employment as well. To be considered “competitive,” the employment must pay at least minimum wage and include benefits and wages similar to those without disabilities performing the same work. Additionally, the job must afford people with disabilities the same opportunity to interact with non-disabled workers, just as workers without a disabilities might experience.

Allocation of State VR Funds to Transition Services: WIOA requires that state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies allocate at least 15% of their VR funds to pre-employment transition services to assist youths transitioning to adulthood. Additionally, state public VR agencies must have formal cooperative agreements with the state Medicaid plan administrative agency that specify how VR services will be delivered. They also must have agreements in place with state agencies that are responsible for administering IDD services. 

Creation of an Advisory Committee on Competitve Integrated Employment: WIOA created an advisory committee tasked to produce a report on how to increase competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. The committee met regularly for two years, and produced a report with final recommendations in 2016. A link to the committee's website, which contains the final report as well as public materials from its working sessions, is below. 

Resources:

DOL WIOA Overview

DOL WIOA Final Rules Resource Page

Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

ANCOR Analysis of WIOA (August 14, 2014)

WIOA Issue Brief (July 13, 2017)