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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 16, 1999


                      OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
                            October 16, 1999

In his Saturday radio address, President Clinton will take action to increase employment of people with disabilities, issuing a landmark plan to make the Federal government a model employer. This action will enable the federal government to benefit from a broader pool of job applicants and help sustain the nation's record economic growth by bringing more people with disabilities into the work force. The President will also call upon Congress to pass the bipartisan Work Incentives Improvement Act to help people with disabilities who wish to join the workforce overcome one of their most significant barriers - the fear of losing health care coverage. Today, the President will:

DIRECT FEDERAL AGENCIES TO IMPLEMENT PLAN FOR HIRING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. Since the beginning of the Clinton-Gore Administration, the American economy has added more than 19 million new jobs, and unemployment is at a 29-year low. Yet over 75 percent of individuals with severe disabilities are unemployed. Last year, Vice President Gore asked the Office of Personnel Management to develop a model plan to bring more adults with disabilities into the Federal workforce.

Today, the President will release that action plan and direct the Federal government to implement it immediately. The plan, Accessing Opportunity: The Plan for Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Government, along with a companion Employment Guide, provides detailed resources for federal employees as they recruit, hire, train and promote people with disabilities. Under this plan, the Federal government - the nation's largest employer with almost 1.8 million workers - will do more to:

CHALLENGE THE CONGRESS TO PASS THE BIPARTISAN WORK INCENTIVES IMPROVEMENT ACT. Under current law, people with disabilities often become ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare if they work, forcing many to choose between health care and employment. The bipartisan Work Incentives Improvement Act helps address this problem by giving workers with disabilities more options. President Clinton today will call on the House, which is scheduled to vote on this legislation next week, to finish the job so that people with disabilities who want to work do not have to wait another day.

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee passed its version of this legislation. While an improvement over the version passed by the House last year, it still does not guarantee funding for vital health care and employment incentives. In particular, it does not include: (1) mandatory funding for infrastructure grants which provide an incentive for states to adopt the Medicaid buy-in portion of the legislation; (2) a mandatory demonstration that allows people who are not yet too disabled to work to buy into Medicaid; and (3) a guarantee of Medicare coverage for eligible individuals returning to work. In contrast, the bill that has passed the Senate 99-0, as well as the bill voted unanimously out of the House Commerce Committee, provide mandatory funding of the grant and demonstration provisions within this legislation. Under the leadership of Senators Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth and Moynihan, and Representatives Bliley, Dingell, Lazio and Waxman, this version of the bill has received broad bipartisan support.

CALL ON CONGRESS TO PASS RESPONSIBLE, LONG OVERDUE HEALTH AND BUDGET LEGISLATION THIS YEAR. The President today will also reiterate the call he made in his press conference Thursday to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights and enact a responsible budget that strengthens Social Security, strengthens and modernizes Medicare, and pays down the debt by 2015, keeping interest rates low and the economy growing.

THE CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION'S LONGSTANDING COMMITMENT TO INCREASE OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. Today's action is the latest of many executive actions taken by the President and Vice President to increase the employment of people with disabilities, including: issuing an executive order in June expanding hiring opportunities for people with psychiatric disabilities; putting in place new regulations in February to make work pay for people with disabilities receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), by allowing them to earn more and still receive critical cash and medical benefits; creating a task force last year to create coordinated national policy to increase employment of people with disabilities in all sectors of the economy; and including in his budget a historic $2 billion initiative to provide a $1,000 tax credit for work-related expenses for people with disabilities, invest in technology to help more people with disabilities work, and provide better health care and employment options for people who work by fully funding the Work Incentives Improvement Act.