Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Job Developing for People with Disabilities during Times of Increased Unemployment Online Dialogue. The Center for Public Representation (CPR) is a national legal advocacy organization that promotes the full integration and community participation of people with disabilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made more urgent the need for investment in provider transformation. People with disabilities face a particularly high risk of complications and death if exposed to COVID-19, and that risk is elevated substantially in congregate programs. Congregate settings across the country have faced widespread coronavirus outbreaks that have proven difficult to control. As a result, many congregate day programs have been closed during the pandemic. While more individualized supports do not entirely eliminate the risk posed by COVID-19, they are safer and give people with disabilities more control over their health during this pandemic.
Given the danger congregate day programs pose to people with disabilities, conversations around safety must involve strategies to increase the availability of more individualized employment supports. Many providers responded to the shut-down of day programs by changing their service models and transitioning their large congregate day programs to more individualized employment and other day supports. This has created an opportunity to make permanent changes.
ODEP should work with those providers who have made the transition to more individualized supports to ensure these transformations made to meet the needs of participants during the pandemic can be maintained after the end of public health emergency. ODEP should also work to support more providers in implementing those strategies, providing the technical assistance and resources necessary to help them implement those changes and maintain them long term.
In addition, ODEP should ensure that people with disabilities – many of whom are among the many Americans who have lost employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic – are included in COVID-19 recovery efforts to increase employment. ODEP should work with other DOL agencies, including the Employment and Training Administration and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, to identify strategies to increase employment of people through federal employment initiatives.