What is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) ?

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 is a federal law which was supported by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Through the passage of WIOA, Congress said that work is an important and valued activity for people and society. WIOA established the employment of people with disabilities as a national priority. 

The goal of WIOA is to increase employment of people with disabilities in competitive integrated employment (CIE) and significantly limit placements in subminimum wage sheltered workshops. 

WIOA defines CIE as job that (1) pays people with disabilities at least the minimum wage and not less than the wage paid to people without disabilities for the same or similar work; (2) is performed in a location where the employee interacts with people without disabilities; and (3) provides workers with disabilities the same opportunities for career advancement as their non-disabled co-workers.

WIOA is made up of five sections (titles):

  • Title I — Workforce Development Activities
  • Title II — Adult Education and Literacy
  • Title III — Amendments to the Wagner-Peyser ActTitle IV
  • Title IV — Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Title V — General Provisions—specifies transition provisions from WIA to WIOA.

Title IV of WIOA makes significant changes to Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Title IV of WIOA focuses on the state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Programs and better coordinates the VR program with other parts of the workforce development system. 

WIOA’s substantive provisions include:

  • Significant limits on the use of subminimum wage sheltered workshops, particularly for transition age and out-of-school youth, by
    • requiring that anyone under 24 explore and try CIE before they can be placed in a subminimum wage setting,
    • prohibiting schools from contracting with subminimum wage providers, and
    • requiring at least annual engagement of anyone in a subminimum wage setting to discuss CIE alternatives. 
  • Requires state agencies – including Medicaid, intellectual and developmental disabilities, VR, and education – to enter into cooperative agreements to prioritize CIE.
  • Requires that at least 15% of vocational rehabilitation funding be used for pre-employment transition services.
  • Extends post-employment services from 18 to 24 months.
  • Requires that at least half of states’ supported employment grant funds be used for youth (up to age 24) with the most significant disabilities.