Aligning Policy Goals: How States can Pair Continuing Education Requirements with Mentorship Programs

By Sandi Abdelshehed

The Economic and Workforce Health Subcommittee of the CSG Healthy States National Task Force recently explored ways to fill workforce gaps with paid pathways to employment, including ways state governments may expand apprenticeships.

In September 2022, the subcommittee issued a recommendation from these discussions that, “states should consider allowing mentorship to satisfy any continuing education requirements as an incentive for industry-based mentorship. Industry professionals could count activities such as mentoring a career aspirant or hosting a job shadowing session.”

Apprenticeships are a work-based learning model that provide participants with opportunities to connect classroom instruction to work activities. Career mentorship is a key piece of the apprenticeship experience. Knowledgeable mentors are often able to translate written instruction into the mechanics of the job, they are also beneficial to the entity offering these programs since the retention rate for mentees is significantly higher than those not mentored, and turnover rates are lowered as a result.

Employees can also view mentorship programs as informal leadership training that also improves the mentor’s understanding of their field by teaching apprentices and other aspiring workers. To recruit capable mentors for apprenticeship programs, states may consider the recognition of mentorship as professional development, counting toward continuing education requirements (if required).

Continuing education requirements are set by states to ensure licensees maintain competencies and stay current with legal and professional standards in their respective fields. There is the potential to pair these requirements to achieve dual policy goals, which is why some states have implemented exemptions to continuing education requirements in other instances. State leaders, in partnership with private sector employers, credentialing organizations and other stakeholders, could incentivize mentors by allowing mentorship to count toward a licensee’s continuing education requirements. If licensees are allowed to use mentorship programs to fulfill their requirements, they will have the opportunity to support the growth of their career field.

While a preliminary scan found no current state examples of this recommendation, some states offer flexibility to the established continuing education requirements to achieve other policy goals.

For example, New York requires licensed professional engineers to obtain 36 hours of continuing education. Licensees directly employed on a complete full-time basis by the state of New York are exempt from this continuing education requirement. Another example of states implementing exemptions comes from Maine; the state requires public accountant and certified public accountant license applicants to complete a minimum of 20 hours, but no more than 40 hours, of continuing professional education. Maine allows the fulfillment of other states’ continuing professional education requirements to attain Maine’s requirement for continued education requirement.

Oregon Seeks to Enhance Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities Through Private-Sector Engagement

By Rachel Wright, Policy Analyst

Over the past 10 years, the employment rate of Oregonians with disabilities has steadily risen and remains among the highest in the nation. Research by the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows that between 2012 and 2020, the employment rate of people with disabilities in Oregon rose 2.3 percentage points. This means that more than 18,000 additional Oregonians who have a disability found and maintained employment during that period. 

Oregon’s sustained engagement with private sector businesses has contributed to the improved employment outcomes among people with disabilities. In recent years, Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) – an office within the Oregon Department of Human Services – has spearheaded numerous initiatives to build the capacity of private sector employers to engage in disability inclusion efforts. These initiatives include: 

Establishing regional workforce and business coordinators that work with the private sector to identify workforce needs and help clients with disabilities find meaningful employment in high-growth industries. Forming the Interstate Disability Employment Alliance to develop cross border employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Hosting disability etiquette training for employers that partner with Oregon VR to foster more inclusive workplace environments. 

Regional Workforce and Business Coordinators 

A 2011 study by Rutgers University found that many successful employer and market driven initiatives to recruit, hire, train and retain people with disabilities are sustained by partnerships with intermediary organizations. Oregon VR not only acts as an intermediary between persons with disabilities and employers but designates regional workforce and business coordinators to lead these efforts.  

In 2021, the Oregon Department of Human Services expanded their workforce team to include four regional workforce and business coordinators. According to Statewide Workforce and Business Coordinator Kimberly Copeland, these coordinators work with employers and workforce partners within VR’s three service regions to establish long-standing relationships and identify local workforce development needs. They also connect clients with disabilities to employment opportunities that match their skill sets and align with their career goals. 

The Interstate Disability Employment Alliance 

Each day, numerous people cross the border between Oregon and Washington for work. Recognizing this, disability service providers in both states began collaborating in 2016 to develop cross-border business engagement strategies. This collaboration was intended to support efforts by local businesses to recruit and hire people with disabilities.  

These efforts were recently solidified with the establishment of the Interstate Disability Employment Alliance. Alliance membership has evolved over time, but currently consists of the Oregon Department of Human Services, the Oregon Commission for the Blind, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services and the Washington Department of Services for the Blind.  

To help businesses build more inclusive work environments, alliance members have hosted trainings on disability etiquette and awareness for private sector employers. For example, in 2020 the alliance hosted three lunch and learn events for businesses and their employees to learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. Lunch and learn topics included an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act, “Disability Etiquette for Blind and Low Vision” and “Northwest ADA Center Resources.” 

Disability Etiquette and Awareness Training  

Oregon VR and the Oregon Commission for the Blind offer disability etiquette training(s) to interested businesses. These trainings teach employers about respectful communication and interaction with people who have disabilities as well as how to ensure the accessibility of physical workplaces and information and communication technology. Developing a baseline understanding of respectful communication and accessibility principles can prevent unintended exclusion of employees with disabilities in the workplace and make all employees feel welcome and fully included.  

Trainings offered by Oregon VR and the Oregon Commission for the Blind address topics such as “Identifying and Eliminating Unconscious Bias,” “Cultivating an Inclusive Culture,” “Words Matter: Let’s Talk Disability” and “Reasonable Accommodations.” Further, the Commission for the Blind provides training on topics such as assistive technology and accommodations for job seekers and employees with vision loss. 

Policy Considerations for State Leaders 

Engagement with the private sector can help states enhance employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Oregon VR has achieved this through initiatives that identify the workforce needs of the private sector, connect job seekers to businesses to fill those needs and enhance disability awareness in the workplace. Additional policy considerations for state leaders to support the private sector in disability employment efforts include: 

Extending diversity and inclusion initiatives to businesses contracting with state agencies. 

States can consider extending diversity and inclusion policies for state government contractors. This can include requirements to prepare affirmative action plans that incorporate individuals with disabilities in an analysis of barriers, workforce utilization, goals and progress reports. Colorado (House Bill 1065, 2021) Massachusetts (House Bill 4569, 2016) and Tennessee (House Bill 0165, 2017) have enacted affirmative action legislation regarding people with disabilities.  

Using tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire qualified candidates with disabilities. 

States can adopt tax incentive policies to encourage private sector business to hire qualified candidates with disabilities. Delaware (Title 30 §20B-102) provides a tax credit to employers in the state that hire people with disabilities referred by the state vocational rehabilitation agency. The tax credit is equal to 10 percent of the employee’s gross wages (not to exceed $1,500) paid by the qualified employer throughout that employee’s sustained employment during the taxable year. The Maryland Disability Employment Tax Credit allows employers to claim an amount equal to 30 percent of up to the first $9,000 of wages paid during the first and second years of employment.  

Offering tax credits for providing employment supports and accessibility. 

States may also provide tax credits for employment supports such as physical building barrier removal, workplace accommodations, information and communication technology, childcare and transportation. Arizona enacted House Bill 2214 (2017) allowing for the subtraction of eligible “business access expenditures” paid or incurred by a taxpayer in the retrofitting of real property to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the Maryland Disability Employment Tax Credit, employers can claim $900 per year against transportation or child care costs for each qualifying employee during the first two years of employment. 

Additional examples of how states are engaging the private sector in hiring and supporting people with disabilities can be found here.  

Recap: Improving Mental Health Services Delivery for Youth and Young Adults with Marginalized Racial Identities

By Dai Nguyen

The number of high school students experiencing feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 40% between 2009 and 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hispanic students report these persistent feelings at the highest percentage; and more Black students attempted suicide than students of other races. Young adults ages 18-to-25 with serious mental illness increased from 3.8% to 9.7% (or by 3.3 million people) from 2008 to 2020, according to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this already dramatic trend as the number of youth and young adults with mental health conditions continued to increase substantially. Recent research covering 80,000 youth found that depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms. Many youth and young adults have treatable mental health disorders, but they face a variety of obstacles to accessing the services and supports they need to improve their mental and emotional wellbeing. In fact, mental illness among youth and young adults can significantly influence employment outcomes.

To better understand the mental health challenges and consequent employment challenges faced by youth and young adults, the Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) held a virtual roundtable on Improving Mental Health Service Delivery for Youth and Youth Adults with Marginalized Racial Identities with the White House Office of Public Engagement on Sept. 27, 2022. The roundtable examined state opportunities to improve mental health service delivery, including supporting better educational and employment outcomes. 

Participants in the roundtable included youth and young adults with lived experience, policymakers, practitioners and community leaders in mental and public health, education and workforce development.

Below are key themes from a few of the guest speakers:

  • Hannah Bristol, senior advisor of public engagement at the White House, emphasized that rates of suicide are highest among young people of color and indigenous and LGBTQIA+ youth. In response, the White House has prioritized the expansion of mental health services for diverse communities. In addition, the Biden administration has invested in workforce development, including the development of care and public health services.   
  • Justin Tapp, a student in the Master of Science in Social Administration program at Case Western Reserve University, discussed his experience when he seeks mental health services as a young adult who is Black, LGBTQ and living with a disability. He emphasized that financial constraints create a cost barrier for people who are members of marginalized communities, particularly those with disabilities. “Being able to afford $150 biweekly out-of-pocket for therapy because my therapist doesn’t like to bill through insurance, I had to sit back, budget out and see if I could actually afford it.”
  • State Senator Marie Pinkney of Delaware suggested policy solutions that can reduce barriers to access to mental health services for minority children and young adults. She noted that states and the federal government can invest in support systems for marginalized communities in schools and community centers where marginalized youth can be reached. She also emphasized the importance of providing extra funding for schools to hire more mental health providers and expanding Medicaid to increase access to mental health services.
  • Allissa Torres, the director of mental health equity at Mental Health America, discussed how the Western Medical Model prioritizes diagnoses, structured treatments and medical settings but does not fully address the needs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities compared with European American peers. She introduced self-directed care as an option to address the needs of people with marginalized racial identities. “Self-directed care is an innovative practice that emphasizes that people with mental health and substance use conditions should have decision-making authority over the services that they receive.”

This event will contribute to an upcoming policy brief on what states can do to support youth and young adults from marginalized populations in accessing the mental health services they need. The brief will examine practices to improve the education and employment success of youth and young adults who experience mental health barriers and belong to marginalized racial groups.  


For more information on advancing employment policies for youth with disabilities please visit www.capeyouth.org or contact [email protected]

New CSG Report and Upcoming Webinar: The State as a Model Employer of People with Disabilities

The Council of State Governments will host a webinar entitled “Inclusion Works: Strategies for Establishing States as Model Employers of People with Disabilities” on October 27, 2022 from 3:00 – 4:30 pm ET. This webinar will highlight innovative state policies and practices aimed at increasing the employment of people with disabilities in the public sector. These policies include

Extending diversity and inclusion initiatives.Developing comprehensive, government-wide strategic plans.Instituting fast-track and other hiring systems to facilitate employment.Enacting advancement and retention practices.Ensuring accessibility of information and communication technology.Ensuring availability of personal assistance services.Developing disability awareness training for state personnel.

Speakers will discuss the state as a model employer policies and practices in their local context and the impact of these policies on public sector employment of people with disabilities. Speakers include:

Elizabeth Gordon – Executive Director of the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment, WashingtonRepresentative Camille Lilly – Illinois General AssemblyRepresentative Naquetta Ricks – Colorado General AssemblyRepresentative Catherine Abercrombie – Connecticut House of Representatives

A 10-minute Q&A session will follow speaker presentations.

Register for here for the webinar “Inclusion Works: Strategies for Establishing States as Model Employers of People with Disabilities”Read “The State as a Model Employer of People with Disabilities: Policies and Practices for State Leaders” [PDF]

Pre-Apprenticeships: A Pathway for Career Success in North Carolina

By Enmanuel Gomez Antolinez

Learning and upskilling can be a life-long pursuit in the dynamic, constantly changing U.S. economy. Educational opportunities for youth and young adults with disabilities (Y&YAD) should reflect this reality. But all too often, they encounter barriers to acquiring knowledge, learning new skills and accessing general workplace experience.

Apprenticeships are an important and rapidly expanding pathway for all individuals, including Y&YAD. In the 2021 fiscal year, more than 241,000 new apprentices entered the national apprenticeship system. However, research demonstrates apprenticeships are not always accessible to everyone since they may require certain skills or experiences to enter. Pre-apprenticeships are one pathway that prepares Y&YAD for apprenticeships and makes apprenticeships more accessible by providing work-based learning, academic knowledge and professional skills. Several states, including North Carolina, are developing pre-apprenticeships specifically for Y&YAD to support them in their path to apprenticeship and full-time employment.

According to the U.S Department of Labor “pre-apprenticeships are designed to prepare individuals for entry into Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAP) or other job opportunities.” These programs can play a valuable role in initiating career pathways for anyone, including Y&YAD. Pre-apprenticeships are available in a range of industries including health care, information technology, manufacturing, hospitality and retail.

A notable resource for policymakers is Getting Started with Pre-Apprenticeship: Partnership’s Primer, which provides detailed information on pre-apprenticeships, partnerships, program development and funding.

As outlined in the primer, pre-apprenticeships benefit both states and Y&YAD because they:

  • Have the potential to increase annual earnings and employment of workers with disabilities.
  • Are designed to give people of color, women, Y&YAD and other underrepresented populations the skills, confidence and connections they need to be successful.
  • Provide an effective workforce development strategy that results in a net benefit to society and diversifies the talent pipeline of skilled workers.
  • Provide academic knowledge and skills training tailored to specific jobs and industries for participants who face barriers to employment.

The North Carolina Career Launch is an example of a state-supported pre-apprenticeship for Y&YAD. This program provides a series of curricula that give students opportunities to gain knowledge, experience and credentials that lead to jobs in high-demand fields and a living wage. One of the North Carolina Career Launch programs within the health care industry is the Pre-Nursing Careers Vocational Rehabilitation Youth Apprenticeship. This pre-apprenticeship program provides paid on-the-job learning to high school students with disabilities as well as employment and professional development skills and work and training preparation.

In order to successfully implement these programs and provide the right support and practical skills to students with disabilities, there must be a clear relationship with vocational rehabilitation offices to pilot the program, as well as register the program statewide so it does not have to be replicated again. State agencies can collaborate to provide Y&YAD with pre-apprenticeship opportunities like the one in North Carolina.

Diverse pre-apprenticeships have the potential to support Y&YAD to access a career path that offers living wages and benefits. These jobs are an opportunity to prepare and support students for success and ensure they are prepared to be successful in their apprenticeship.

For more information about pre-apprenticeships, please visit: https://www.apprenticeship.gov/help/what-pre-apprenticeship

Employment Transition Services for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities: The Ohio College2Careers Program 

By Katherine Emerson, Roosevelt Fellow

Youth and young adults with disabilities are employed at lower rates than their peers without disabilities. College is one pathway that can help students with disabilities prepare for employment. Individuals with disabilities who complete some college or earn an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree are employed at higher rates than individuals who do not.  

However, fewer than 35% of students with disabilities graduate from four-year institutions within eight years. College students with disabilities could therefore benefit from additional supports and services to succeed in college and prepare for their careers. Ohio’s College2Careers program is a state initiative focused on providing supports to help students with disabilities succeed in college and beyond. 

Establishment and Funding 

College2Careers is a state-wide program that supports students with disabilities at colleges and universities in Ohio to help them complete their degree and/or credential, earn higher wages, and meet the demands of the labor market. The program was created and funded by Gov. Mike DeWine’s Executive Budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 through the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) agency as part of a larger effort to support Executive Order 2019-3D. The financial support is meant to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities by providing personal assistance services, particularly for transitional youth, to “encourage and support individuals with disabilities to fully participate in the social and economic life of Ohio and engage in competitive integrated employment.” This formal mechanism established Ohio as a state as a model employer and prepared College2Careers is a state-wide program that places individuals in career pathways.  

The College2Careers program is operated by the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). Susan Pugh, deputy director of the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation at OOD, explains that the Ohio College2Careers program achieves this by “embed[ding] a vocational rehabilitation counselor into the disability services or the career services” at participating colleges and universities. The program is currently offered at 17 campuses, two of which are the state’s only historically black colleges and universities. 

Program Components 

As of 2022, the College2Careers program serves approximately 1,500 college students and addresses the following topics through activities, workshops, help sessions and networking facilitated by a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor: 

Career exploration and counseling. Assistive technology. Resume and interview preparation. Internships and permanent employment placement. Assistance navigating OhioMeansJobs resources. 

Connection to an expansive employer partner network. On-the-job supports for permanent employment upon graduation. 

According to Marcia Ballinger, PhD and President of Lorain County Community College, the program “add[s] to the base of support already in place…and provide[s] the added targeted help [students with disabilities] need to finish a credential or degree that leads to meaningful employment.”  

Two career development specialists from OOD also work with the disability and career offices at participating institutions to facilitate the hiring of students with disabilities in internships and potential permanent placements. The vocational rehabilitation counselor at each college campus can obtain further resources to ensure the academic and vocational success of students. In the words of President of Central Ohio Technical College John M. Berry, PhD, “the OOD counselor we have on-site helps with everything from career counseling to placement services. She works with our students to make sure they are making progress toward their employment goals.”   

Other State Examples 

Ohio’s College2Careers program is just one example of a state initiative to better support college students with disabilities in their transitions to the workforce. 

California Assembly Bill 504 requires community colleges to develop student equity plans that must identify underrepresentation for specific categories of students (including those with disabilities) in access to, and completion of, basic skills, career technical education and workforce training. In Delaware, Supported Education at the Delaware Technical & Community College Program is a collaboration between the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Delaware Technical & Community College. The program supports students in their coursework while they also enroll in a certificate program or enter a skills training program and gain employment in an area of interest to the student. 

The Puerto Rico Vocational Rehabilitation Administration places counselors in the facilities of the Río Piedras and Mayagüez campuses of the University of Puerto Rico to provide services to eligible students. 

As illustrated in these examples, states can take various approaches to supporting college students with disabilities. Ohio and Puerto Rico have taken the approach of placing counselors at colleges and universities to support students, whereas Delaware offers an intensive year-one program and California requires community colleges to assess and improve equity. Localized vocational supports, such as those in Ohio, Delaware, and Puerto Rico, work with students directly to place them on career pathways. These approaches are personalized and utilize connections between students, vocational rehabilitation staff and businesses. Policy changes such as the legislation enacted in California allow for broader changes to college climates and practices. 

Colorado Enhances Equity, Diversity and Inclusion within State Government, Including for Individuals with Disabilities

By Elise Gurney, Project Manager 

States are increasingly engaging in State as Model Employer (SAME) initiatives to increase employment rates for people with disabilities. These efforts are designed to increase the recruitment, hiring, advancement, retention and inclusion of people with disabilities in the state government workforce. SAME initiatives also position the state as an example for private sector employers to model. 

Colorado is one state that has engaged in particularly robust SAME efforts, including through Executive Order 2020-175, issued by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in 2020. Through the Executive Order and other initiatives, Colorado has sought to create more inclusive workplace cultures and practices within state government, enhance the accessibility of state buildings and technology infrastructure and increase the number of people with disabilities employed in state government. 

Executive Order 2020-175 

Executive Order 2020-175 is designed to increase equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within Colorado state government. While some SAME initiatives focus on advancing opportunities for people with disabilities specifically, Colorado’s Executive Order considers disability as one facet of diversity, along with gender, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship status, education, socioeconomic status “or any other identity.” 

The order directs the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration (DPA) to take several actions to enhance EDI efforts within state government, including: 

Developing an EDI Universal Policy to guide state agencies in creating long-term strategic plans for establishing inclusive, anti-discriminatory workplace cultures and implementing equitable hiring, compensation and retention practices.  Developing and delivering EDI trainings for all state employees, including separate trainings for supervisors and executive leaders.  

Developing a template and procedure for state agencies to report progress on their EDI initiatives. Creating statewide standards of accessibility for buildings, systems, communication and technology tools and other resources, at or above those required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Guiding agencies in addressing systemic inequities in procurement. 

The order further directs individual state agencies, in coordination with DPA, to “operationalize equity in systems, policies, and practices.” This includes cooperating with DPA’s efforts, as well as: 

Supporting internal educational training on equity-related topics. Designating staff to coordinate and lead EDI activities, as needed. Involving community members in decision-making from the beginning to end of projects. Engaging in cabinet-level conversations about systemic inequities. Engaging with the Office of State Planning and Budgeting to budget for EDI actions in future fiscal years.   

Colorado has already made significant progress in achieving these goals. DPA created EDI hiring guides for all agencies, which addressed topics like interviewing and selection. DPA also delivered introductory EDI trainings to state employees throughout 2021. By the end of the year, 89% of state employees had completed all four training modules. The state has further imbedded EDI training in the state’s supervisor training certificate program and has developed agency-specific EDI strategic plans and reports. As a result of these efforts, awareness of EDI among state employees has increased dramatically. In employee engagement surveys in 2022, 80% of employees reported awareness of EDI, up from 30% in 2019. 

Colorado’s Other State as Model Employer Initiatives 

Executive Order 2020-175 represents one component of Colorado’s ongoing efforts to be a model employer of people with disabilities. Colorado previously created the state employment program for persons with developmental disabilities to coordinate hiring people with developmental disabilities into appropriate and meaningful state employment opportunities. The state has also passed three relevant bills following the Executive Order: 

Senate Bill 21-095 creates a hiring preference pilot program for persons with disabilities to encourage state agencies to increase the number of employed people with disabilities and improve the state’s practices on recruiting and hiring. House Bill 21-1110 requires the Chief Information Officer in the Office of Information Technology to promote and monitor the access standards for individuals with disabilities in the state’s information technology infrastructure. House Bill 22-1397 creates a Statewide Equity Office within the Department of Personnel and Administration, to provide best practices, resources and guidance for state agencies in offering equitable services to the residents of Colorado and providing an accepting and diverse environment for state employees. 

The impact of these efforts can be far-reaching. Colorado is one of the largest employers in the state, with over 100,000 employees. Changes in state government hiring and employment practices can therefore impact a substantial number of people. The state’s SAME efforts have also allowed it to model inclusive practices, and develop insight and expertise, to support and encourage the private sector in its own EDI initiatives. 

Colorado’s efforts represent one particularly comprehensive approach to increasing the hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities within state government. Through Executive Orders and legislation, the state has sought to improve workplace culture; staff awareness and attitudes; hiring, compensation and retention practices; and physical and technological accessibility. The report State as a Model Employer of People with Disabilities provides more examples of state SAME initiatives. 

Celebrating Disability Employment as a Key Component of a Diverse and Equitable Workforce

By Dominique DiSpirito and Abeer Sikder

Each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions workers with disabilities make to building a vibrant, resilient workforce. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) selects a theme for the month and shares resources for employers, policymakers and other workforce stakeholders. The theme this year, “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation,” recognizes “the vital role people with disabilities play in making the nation’s workforce diverse and inclusive.” The theme also highlights the intersectionality of disability with other systemic inequalities, such as racial and gender discrimination.

This year’s theme aligns with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Equity Action Plan that U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh released in April. The Equity Action Plan contains several important steps to realize the vision the White House laid out in Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities. The plan promotes positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by expanding access to apprenticeships for diverse constituents and improving the unemployment insurance system. Together, the Equity Action Plan and the 2022 NDEAM theme create an opportunity for stakeholders from every level of the workforce system to increase diversity, equity and inclusion to reduce employment barriers for traditionally underserved communities and increase employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

States are strengthening workplace protections, creating new employment preparation supports for youth with disabilities and engaging people with disabilities and other intersecting identities in employment conversations—all with the goal of improving workforce participation for people with disabilities, including youth and young adults from underserved communities.

The California Employment Development Department operates a Youth Employment Opportunity Program that provides employment services to at-risk youth, such as youth with disabilities. These services include career counseling, peer advising and employment preparation.The New Mexico Developmental Disabilities Planning Council established a task force led by young adults with disabilities and other community stakeholders. The task force aims to develop and implement strategies that improve the school-to-work transition. Furthermore, the task force emphasizes improving employment outcomes for people with intersecting identities.The Rhode Island legislature recently joined several other states in passing a pay equity bill that takes effect in 2023. The legislation implements several protections to prevent employers from adjusting wages based on disability, gender, country of origin or any other protected class. The bill requires employers to show that existing employee pay differences are solely based on a narrow set of criteria, such as seniority, education or experience. Pay equity can improve workforces by attracting diverse talent and reducing employee turnover.

NDEAM is an annual opportunity to increase workforce participation rates and highlight the unique strengths, challenges and contributions of the disability community. The 2022 theme notes the importance of increasing access to employment for people with intersecting social identities, including youth and young adults with disabilities. As Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Taryn M. Williams put it, “A strong workforce is the sum of many parts, and disability has always been a key part of the equation. People with disabilities make up a wonderfully multifaceted group. By recognizing the full complexion of our community, we can ensure our efforts to achieve disability inclusion are, in fact, truly inclusive.”

#NDEAM #DisabilityEmployment #Equity

The Farm Bill Title I: Commodities

Aja Croteau

Summary (no more than 40 words) required

Title I of the Federal Farm Bill covers commodities, which is very important to a large number of states.

The Farm Bill Title I: Commodities

The Federal Farm Bill is developed and enacted into law roughly every five years. This bill establishes U.S. agricultural policy and is divided by topic into 12 titles. Title I of the bill covers commodities and assistance programs for the farmers that grow them. Added to the bill in 2014, the title sets “effective reference prices” for major commodity crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat. These reference prices are designed to respond to the movement of market prices for crops and provide the basis for two federal programs—Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage-County—which are sources of additional income for producers to offset declines in crop prices or revenue. Each commodity crop has its own set effective reference price, which is set based on the average of previous prices for each commodity or the reference price in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Title I also includes the Market Assistance Loan Program, which provides loans to producers at a statutorily fixed rate and allows them to use eligible commodity crops as collateral. Assistance programs like these have existed in various forms since the 1930s and provide much needed income stability to producers across the U.S.

Title 1 also includes provisions around sugar, dairy and disaster assistance programs for commodities not eligible for crop insurance.

Why it matters….

Title I covers programs administrated at the federal level, but its contents can have a significant impact on producers across states. The stability of agricultural operations is a key component in state economies, especially for states like California, Iowa and others that lead the country in agricultural production. These programs are crucial to midwestern states that are major producers of food. In 2021, midwestern states had 155,000,000 enrolled base acres across both the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage-County programs.[1] Base acres are defined as the crop-specific acreage on a farm that are eligible for enrollment in these assistance programs. Full eligibility requirements can be found on the USDA Farm Service Agency website.

Commodity prices have been strong recently, but producers across the globe are facing drastically increased production costs for necessities like fertilizer, machinery and labor. Some of these costs may decrease in the future, but there is a possibility of commodity prices shifting first, given their variable nature. Supply and demand for commodity crops can change quickly and are influenced by a multitude of factors including consumer behavior, international trade disputes, extreme weather and the markets for related industries. For example, a spike in fossil fuel costs can cause the demand for corn to increase drastically due to an increased demand for ethanol, which is produced from corn. A steep decline in commodity prices can impact overall farm revenues, which can increase farmers’ reliance on these assistance programs to survive. Staying up to date on the programs covered by this title can be invaluable to estimating the impact of shifting commodity prices on a state’s agricultural economy.

What changes can we expect to see in the next Farm Bill?

As with each iteration of the farm bill, the statutory reference prices for commodities will be reviewed and may be adjusted if Congress determines it necessary. Changes may also occur to the assistance programs as Congress accounts for climate change and the severe weather patterns that come with it. These patterns can significantly impact agricultural production, as well as increase reliance on assistance programs, particularly those aimed at disaster relief. An increased focus on small farms and ranches may also come into play as the next farm bill is developed. Current House Agriculture Chairman David Scott has indicated this as a priority issue for him with his introduction of the Small Family Farmer and Rancher Relief Act earlier this year.[2] Supporting small businesses has long been a priority for Chairman Scott, and as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, it is unsurprising to see this priority extend into farming.

Title I will impact communities in every state and affect farm policy decisions at the state level. The U.S. Senate and House encourage producers, consumers and other stakeholders to provide input by attending field hearings and submitting thoughts through their websites.

Senate Farm Bill Input Form

House Farm Bill Input Form

Resources

Farm Bill Primer: What is the Farm Bill? (Congressional Research Service, 6/28/2022)

Preparing for the Next Farm Bill (Congressional Research Service, 3/31/2022)

The National Agricultural Law Center

Title I: Crop Commodity Program Provisions After Enactment of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (USDA Economic Research Service, 9/7/2022)

Senate Hearings Schedule

House Hearings Schedule

ARC/PLC Definitions (USDA Farm Service Agency)


[1] https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/arcplc_program/arcplc-program-data/index

[2] https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/h.r._8590.pdf