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Bipartisan Agreement Reached to Reauthorize WIA

May 23, 2014

On May 21, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), announced an agreement had been reached to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, a law that had sunset in 2003.

Among the legislation’s provisions is language prioritizing the competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities, especially for young people with disabilities. Additionally, all states will be required to develop a strategic comprehensive plan every four years that describes their overall strategy to help meet the need for skilled workers in emerging growth areas for business and industry. The focus will be on careers and career pathways for youth and working age adults with and without disabilities. Similarly, state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies will be required to set aside 15 percent of federal program funds to help young people transition from secondary school to postsecondary education programs and employment. Further, the legislation transitions the administration of the Independent Living program from the Department of Education to the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living.

Formally known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the legislative text will be tacked on as an amendment, in the nature of a substitute, to a similarly related House bill: the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803).

Full consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate is expected in the coming weeks.