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An estimated 100,000 people with disabilities are paid less than $7.25 an hour

Washington, D.C. – As the Nation recovers from the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) are introducing bipartisan legislation that would lift up workers with disabilities and raise wages for people being paid subminimum wage. Currently, thousands of people with disabilities are being paid less than the minimum wage—most of those workers have intellectual or developmental disabilities—and some can be paid as little as a few cents an hour. The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (TCIEA) would end this discriminatory practice and support employers transitioning to paying competitive, fair wages to people with disabilities.

“Every American deserves to be paid a fair wage, but unfortunately that is not the case for many Americans with disabilities. Some workers with disabilities spend decades earning a subminimum wage without the opportunity to gain new skills or move to a job that pays a higher wage. This bipartisan effort will end the discriminatory subminimum wage practice and help people with disabilities better achieve financial independence,” said Senator Casey.

“There is dignity and hope in work, so we should be doing all we can to support Americans with disabilities in the workforce, not treat them unfairly. Americans with disabilities should never be paid below the minimum wage,” Senator Daines said.

“I have long-said that disability policy is not a partisan issue, which is why I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation from my friends Senators Casey and Daines. This legislation is a positive step in providing resources to states and providers that create more competitive employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. At a time when our country is facing a significant workforce shortage, individuals with disabilities are ready to work,” said Tom Ridge, Chairman, National Organization on Disability.

According to reporting from the Department of Labor, an estimated 100,000 people in the United States are paid subminimum wage. This is due to a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows employers to apply for special certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay people with disabilities a subminimum wage. A 2020 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report found that between 2017 and 2018, the average wage of a person with a disability working under such certificates was only $3.34 per hour—less than half of the federal minimum wage. The TCIEA would prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Labor from issuing new certificates and phase out the use of subminimum wage practices for all employers over five years. It would provide grants to states or employers, supporting employers transitioning to a business model that pays at least minimum wage to workers with disabilities and continue to provide services and supports to workers with disabilities, particularly to those who need more supports in the workplace.

Read more about the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act here.