ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
Better pay for Kansans with disabilities has long been a goal of the Kelly Administration and Thursday, the State of Kansas took some action to help with just that.
Thursday, Gov. Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 15, legislation that facilitates employment opportunities for Kansans with disabilities.
“Kansans with disabilities deserve a fair wage for the work they perform,” Gov. Kelly noted in the release from the State of Kansas. “I’m signing this bipartisan legislation to create more opportunities for people with disabilities, grow our workforce, and ensure every Kansan can work with dignity and respect. SB 15 creates the Disability Employment Act, which expands an income tax credit for goods and services purchased from qualified businesses that employ disabled workers and that pay those workers at least the minimum wage.”
The bill also creates the Sheltered Workshop Transition Grant Program, a matching grant program that transitions employers away from a federal policy that allows them to pay Kansans with disabilities less than minimum wage. Businesses that pay Kansans with disabilities less than minimum wage are not eligible for the Disability Employment Act tax credit, according to the State of Kansas release.
“By incentivizing businesses that purchase products from companies with integrated workforces, we are creating more jobs for Kansans with disabilities. This bill also helps those that make below minimum wage to get a pay increase,” Representative Sean Tarwater, Kansas House District 27, noted in the State o fKansas release. “This spurs local economies across the state as the workforce grows and has additional money in their pockets. The Act also eliminates the minimum work-hour requirement for Kansans with disabilities to qualify for health insurance coverage.”
“The Disability Employment Act and the Sheltered Workshop Transition Grant Program is a win-win for Kansans with disabilities and businesses,” Martha Gabehart, Executive Director of the Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns, noted in the State of Kansas release. “The transition grants hold the opportunity to help providers switch from sheltered work to providing competitive integrated employment, enabling Kansas to join the growing list of states that have equalized the pay for people with disabilities by eliminating subminimum wage.”
Thursday’s announcement comes after Gov. Kelly’s announcement earlier this week regarding a budget amendment to increase funding for intellectual/developmental disability and physical disability waivers.
“With this investment, 500 more Kansans with disabilities will receive critical services such as in-home care, reducing the waitlist for services,” Gov. Kelly noted in Tuesday’s State of Kansas release. “Meanwhile, we’ll continue to push for long-term solutions that expand the capacity of disability service providers, such as Medicaid expansion and the Community Supports Waiver. An estimated 15,000 Kansans with disabilities would be eligible for health insurance coverage if Kansas were to expand Medicaid. As we’ve heard from disability advocates and families, Kansans with disabilities need the essential services and care provided by these waivers to live comfortably. While we work to build a more comprehensive network of disability services providers, I am committed to reducing the wait times for waiver services. In addition to this investment, I will continue to urge the legislature to expand Medicaid to better recruit and retain the workforce needed for more Kansans with disabilities to access quality resources and services.”
Gov. Kelly previously invested a historic $90 million to enhance services for the I/DD waiver throughout her time in office following underfunding from the previous administration, according to Tuesday’s State of Kansas release, and also allocated a $8.6 million enhancement in her Fiscal Year 2025 budget to increase Supported Employment rates for the I/DD waiver community. This funding will allow individuals on the I/DD waiver to pursue their employment goals and play an important role in addressing workforce gaps in Kansas. Gov. Kelly’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget also included $7.4 million for I/DD Targeted Case Management and $2 million for I/DD Mobile Crisis Services.
“In addition to addressing the I/DD and Physical Disability Waivers, the Governor’s Budget Amendment also includes funding for a new information system at the Department for Children and Families to help the agency identify kin and relative placements for foster youth,” Tuesday’s State of Kansas release noted. “It would pay off more than $47 million in bonds for the Curtis and Myriad Buildings, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and Statehouse renovations projects, and previous capital improvement projects. The Governor’s Budget Amendment would also retire $450 million in KPERS debt.”
The Governor’s Budget Amendment can be found at https://governor.kansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/2024-GBA-1.pdf.