For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) will highlight a noteworthy bill that is currently going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.
House Bill (HB) 885, relating to wage requirements for community rehabilitation programs participating in the purchasing from people with disabilities program.
Bill Author: Rep. John Raney, Texas House District 14 (Bryan/College Station)
Joint Author: Rep. Lynn Stucky, Texas House District 64 (Denton)
Where is the bill in the process?
On March 11, HB 885 will receive a public hearing before the House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development. The hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. and will be live-streamed here.
What does the bill do?
The bill requires community rehabilitation programs participating in the Purchasing from People With Disabilities program to pay employees at least minimum wage. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) would be responsible for helping community rehabilitation programs develop a plan to increase the wages paid to workers with disabilities to meet the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour). The pay raises would need to be implemented by no later than September 1, 2021.
The bill would also require community rehabilitation programs to attempt to retain all workers to the best of their ability when increasing wages. If retention isn’t possible, the program must work with TWC to seek for and obtain additional job training for employees to help them find a job that pays at least the federal minimum wage.
Statement from the bill author, John Raney
“This bill deals with approximately 220 individuals that work for companies that have contracts with the State of Texas through the Purchasing from People with Disabilities program. The state allocates enough money through these contracts to pay minimum wage and these companies need to follow through with that. The purpose of these workforce assistance programs is to help people with disabilities be independent with ‘minimal dependency on others or state agencies.’ This goal of self-sufficiency cannot be accomplished when the employees are being paid less than a living wage.”
Who supports the bill, and why?
The following comments were taken from testimony delivered during the 85th Texas Legislature on a similar bill filed by Rep. Raney, HB 2409:
- The Arc of Texas: Kyle Piccola, Chief Government and Community Relations Officer of The Arc of Texas, testified that “some employees with disabilities are literally paid only one penny an hour, and there are over 6,000 employees in the state earning less than minimum wage through a federal waiver program created in 1938. While employers do have to go through an application process for this wage waiver, it compares the labor of an employee with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) against the labor of able employees and is therefore inherently degrading. Paying less than minimum wage separates people with IDD from their peers through forcing them into a cycle of poverty, punishing them socially, and not allowing room to move up. Additionally, allowing people with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage runs directly contrary to Texas’ Employment First initiative.”
- DRTx: Jean Langendorf, Policy Specialist with Disability Rights Texas (DRTx), indicated that her organization “conducted a study on sheltered workshops and their employers, and found that they were severely outdated and that employees with disabilities are not receiving the same workplace protections as their abled counterparts. This bill would work to resolve some of these discrepancies and should be passed.”
- Self-Advocate: Kendra Kurbow, speaking for herself, remarked that she had been paid five cents an hour at a sheltered workshop. Kurbow spoke from her own personal experience and the experience of her fellow co-workers about how punishing it is to be paid so little. Kurbow and her co-workers had no money after paying bills and had been stuck in a cycle of having to work as much as possible to make ends meet, and then being stuck at home when not at work because they had no extra money to do anything else. Kurbow said this makes them lash out. The bill would enable each of them “to be like a normal person like everybody else.”
Who opposes the bill, and why?
The following comments were also taken from testimony provided during the last legislative session on Rep. Raney’s bill, HB 2409:
- Employer Perspective #1: The president of a company that provides vocational services stated that the average wage per hour in his company is $3.60 because their program tries to hire as many people as they can, and this wage is based on the industry average of $12 per hour. He believed this was reasonable, since their employees with disabilities accomplished about 30% of the work as their other employees. Raising wages to the federal minimum wage would double the amount of money they pay out to these employees and would therefore put the company out of business. The employees with IDD love their work environment because it provides a place of security, steady employment, and companionship with co-workers. These benefits offset the fact that they’re being paid subminimum wage.
- Employer Perspective #2: The president of another company that provides vocational services testified that the bill assumes that a wage increase will be good for everyone it impacts, and he did not believe this to be true. Most of the people being paid less than minimum wage receive support from state and federal programs, so the lower wage is supplemented by this income. When being paid more, employees with IDD are at risk of losing SSI and SSDI benefits. This makes it unreasonable for the bill to put pressure on the company to retain employees, because some will quit in order to retain their state and federal benefits. He argued that some programs that employ people with IDD lose money for the company, so it isn’t possible to raise their wages when they’re already so costly. He believed that the bill would not hurt the state or his company, but it would hurt some people with IDD and they deserve to have more options rather than less.
TWC stated that the bill is reasonable in allowing programs to collaborate with the commission in order to achieve the goal of bringing employees up to minimum wage, and that there are sufficient assurances that the bill would help employees with IDD rather than hurt them.
How much will the bill cost?
The Legislative Budget Board analyzed the bill filed last session, HB 2409, and determined that no significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
No identical bill has been filed in the Senate.
- HB 1339 by Rep. Leo Pacheco, relating to repealing the authority for the payment of a subminimum wage to certain persons with disabilities.
- HB 2946 by Rep. Jon Rosenthal, relating to repealing the authority for the payment of a subminimum wage to certain persons with disabilities.
- SB 1759 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to an individualized education program and transition planning for a public school student enrolled in a special education program.
For the latest information about where HB 885 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.
Update on Previous Bill of the Week
HB 116, relating to improving training and staff development for primary and secondary educators to enable them to more effectively serve all students, has been reported favorably out of the House Committee on Public Education on a vote of 12-0. It will now be sent to the Calendars Committee and await placement for consideration by the full Texas House.