Education Department Launches Historic Real Pay for Real Jobs Initiative for People with Disabilities

The following is a press release sent on behalf of the United States Department of Education.

States eligible to compete for Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment Grants totaling $167 million


March 18, 2022

Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) released the notice inviting applications for the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) demonstration project, aimed at increasing access for people with disabilities to jobs that pay good wages.

The SWTCIE project is the largest discretionary grant administered by RSA, with $167 million available to State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners.

“Economic security should be available to all Americans,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Providing individuals with disabilities with a high-quality education and the services that they need to thrive will result in real pay for real jobs, empowering them and leading to greater social and economic inclusion.”

SWTCIE is a step toward ending practices that have allowed some employers to pay less than the federal minimum wage to people with disabilities. The new grant program will sponsor innovative approaches that allow people with disabilities to successfully secure jobs working alongside their non-disabled peers while earning the same pay.

“More than 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, far too many people with disabilities continue to be denied equal opportunity,” said U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. “The subminimum wage for workers with disabilities is a relic of a time when people with disabilities were viewed as unable to work and lacked federal protections. It is long past time that we help phase out the subminimum wage for people with disabilities and expand access to fulfilling employment and economic self-sufficiency. We must continue working to ensure every American can succeed and earn a fair wage.”

To help eliminate subminimum wage employment, this competition will award grants to as many as 18 State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners that will create employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The jobs will be in critical need areas, including home and community-based services, the arts, or transportation and related industries. In addition, applicants may submit proposals in other areas that will transition individuals from subminimum wage employment to competitive integrated employment.

“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. Today, the Department of Education took an important step to end this discriminatory practice,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. “I applaud Secretary Cardona for his leadership and I will keep fighting to ensure all workers with disabilities are paid at least minimum wage and have the opportunity to succeed in the workplace.”

The SWTCIE project advances a key Biden-Harris Administration goal – strengthening the economic security of Americans with disabilities. This funding opportunity aligns existing and emerging employment opportunities with the needs of employers and the public infrastructure. Most notably, activities will ensure people with disabilities are earning real pay for real jobs.

The Department’s Rehabilitation Services Administration web page provides additional information about vocational rehabilitation opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Notice Inviting Applications is available for public inspection at the Federal Register. The Federal Register will publish the official version of the notice on Monday, March 21. The deadline for submissions is June 21, 2022.