THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE UNVEIL NEW INITIATIVE TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES January 13, 1999
Today, President Clinton will unveil a historic new initiative that will remove significant barriers for people with disabilities to go back to work. This three-part budget initiative, which invests more than $2 billion over five years, includes: (1) full funding of the Work Incentives Improvement Act which will be introduced by Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth, and Moynihan next week; (2) a new $1,000 tax credit to cover work-related costs for people with disabilities; and (3) expanded access to information and communications technologies. With these new proposals, the Administration will have taken action on every recommendation made in the report of the President's Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities, which the Vice President accepted last month. Justin Dart, one of the foremost leaders of the disability community, stated in response to today's proposals: "The Clinton-Gore Administration has a long history of supporting the disability community. This policy initiative is one of the boldest since the landmark passage of the ADA."
CRITICAL NEED TO REMOVE BARRIERS TO WORK Since President Clinton took office, the American economy has added 17.7 million new jobs, and unemployment is at a 29-year low of 4.3 percent. The unemployment rate among all working-age adults with disabilities, however, is nearly 75 percent. According to current estimates, about 1.6 million working-age adults have a disability that leads to functional limitations and 14 million working-age adults have less severe but still significant disabilities.
People with disabilities can bring tremendous energy and talent to the American workforce, but institutional barriers often limit their ability to work. Most critically, people with disabilities often become ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare if they work. This means that many people with disabilities are put in the untenable position of choosing between health care coverage and work. In addition, advances in technology and communications are often not accessible to people with disabilities.
THREE-PART INITIATIVE TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES
Funding the Work Incentives Improvement Act in the President's budget. Health care -- particularly prescription drugs and personal assistance -- is essential for people with disabilities to work. Today, the President is announcing that his FY 2000 budget will fund the full cost of the Work Incentives Improvement Act. This proposal, which costs $1.2 billion over 5 years, would:
Providing a $1,000 tax credit for work-related expenses for people with disabilities. The daily costs of getting to and from work, and being effective at work, can be high if not prohibitive for people with disabilities. Under this new proposal, workers with significant disabilities would receive an annual $1,000 tax credit to help cover the formal and informal costs that are associated with employment, such as special transportation and technology. Like the Jeffords-Kennedy-Roth-Moynihan Work Incentive Act, this tax credit, which will assist 200,000 to 300,000 Americans, will help ensure that people with disabilities have the tools they need to return to work. The credit will cost $700 million over 5 years.
Improving access to assistive technology. Technology is often not adapted for people with disabilities and, even when it is, people with disabilities may not be able to afford it. This new initiative would accelerate the development and adoption of information and communications technologies that can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and enhance their ability to participate in the workplace. The initiative would: (1) help make the Federal government a model user of assistive technology; (2) support new and expanded state loan programs to make assistive technology more affordable for Americans with disabilities; and (3) invest in research and development and technology transfer in areas such as text to speech for people who are blind, automatic captioning for people who are deaf, and speech recognition and eye tracking for people who can't use a keyboard. It would provide $35 million in FY 2000, more than double the government's current investment in deploying assistive technology.
With these steps, the Administration has taken action on all Task Force Recommendations. In December, the Vice President accepted the report of the President's Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities, took action on some of their recommendations, and pledged that the Administration would review others in the budget process. With the new steps taken today, as well as an announcement that Mrs. Gore will make tomorrow, the Administration has taken action on all the Task Force formal recommendations: