October 22, 2018
The Honorable Bob Casey
United States Senate
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Casey:
I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent, non-partisan federal agency that advises the President and Congress on disability policy issues, in support of S. 3260, the Disability Employment Incentive Act of 2018 (DEIA). NCD recommended, as long as a decade ago, that Congress revisit the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Disabled Access Credit, and the Architectural/Transportation Tax Credit and to take steps to increase their use and effectiveness; and the DEIA does exactly that.
As NCD noted in our most recent report, National Disability Employment Policy, From the New Deal to the Real Deal: Joining the Industries of the Future, “…data demonstrate that the labor force participation rate of people with disabilities -- those who are working or seeking work -- is just 32.6 percent compared to 75.8 percent of the general population.” Although this statistic comes from a report released just days ago, the unfortunate reality is that the percentage of people with disabilities participating in the labor forced has changed very little in the decades since the ADA was passed. Increasing the maximum tax credit available through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit from $2,400 to $5,000 may provide some employers the extra incentive they need to hire a person with a disability. Importantly, the DEIA also provides a greater incentive to employers to invest in their employees with disabilities by offering a tax credit to employers who retain a worker with a disability for a second year.
NCD is also supportive of the changes to the Disabled Access Credit in the bill, which increases the number of businesses that will be able to take advantage of this program by raising the limit on gross receipts that a business can have and be considered a “small business” under the Act from $1 million to $3 million, and by raising the number of employees a business can have to 60 (up from 30) and still be considered an eligible small business. Additionally, the increase in the credit itself from $5,000 to $10,000 may encourage more businesses to invest in accessibility, increase their customer base, and protect themselves from potential lawsuits while making the community more livable and workable for people with disabilities.
Similarly, the increase in the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Tax Credit to $30,000 for expenses incurred by a business in a single year for removing barriers to access for people with disabilities in qualified facilities and vehicles is an overdue update. Perhaps the most important aspect of this section of the legislation is the recognition that improvements to the accessibility of internet and telecommunications operated by a business are as important as changes to the built environment. NCD noted recently that, “…the traditional means of finding employment have largely been replaced by Internet-based postings and applications, which means many people with disabilities are denied the possibility of pursuing economic self-sufficiency on an equal basis with their nondisabled peers.” Needless to say, the internet has also become how we shop, travel, and communicate with each other. Businesses should not only be held accountable if they fail to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities, they should be encouraged to improve the accessibility of these “…fundamental portals to full participation.”
The DEIA has the potential to increase the availability of competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities across the country and finally “move the needle” on the number of people with disabilities who are able to work and become self-sufficient. For the reasons outlined above, NCD supports S. 3260, the Disability Employment Incentive Act of 2018, and looks forward to opportunities to work with your office and to educate other members about this important piece of legislation.
Chairman, National Council on Disability