Public Forum Transcript

ST OF CA-REHABILITATION-CAL2

Moderator: Christina Burgoa
August 2, 2017
3:11 am CT

Coordinator:

Good afternoon and thank you all for standing by. I'd like to inform all participants that your lines have been placed in a listen-only mode until the question and answer session of today's call.

Today's call is also being recorded. If anyone has any objections, you may disconnect at this time. And I would now like to turn the call over to Miss Michelle Reynolds. Thank you. You may begin.

Michelle Reynolds:

Thank you, (Sue). And thank you, everyone, for joining the call. Today we are very pleased to be sharing information and collecting feedback related to the United States Department of Education's request for input on federal regulations that should be repealed, replaced, or modified.

We've allowed a time for comment period and very much welcome your thoughts. And now, I'll turn the call over to California Department of Rehabilitation Director, Joe Xavier.

Joe Xavier:

Thank you, Michelle. Good afternoon to everyone. Thank you for making the time to be here with us today. I just want to do one quick housekeeping piece.

And that is, when the opportunity for asking questions comes in, just ask you, if you're on a cell phone, to get close to that phone. And if you're on a speaker phone, do the same, so we can assure that everybody on the phone is hearing the conversations.

So you guys are all very busy. You have a lot going on. And the fact that you're making time to be here with us today, I think is very, very important. We'll just thank our project team here that has been working on the regulatory reform project that we have underway.

And certainly we have a number of you on the phone that are partners, providing services, partners in the - helping advance our programs and services. So thank you for that.

And then there are also a number of individuals that are from the various boards and committees that advise us how to move our programs and services forward. Thank you making the time to listen to the input and to be able to take that into the deliberations of the boards of the committees.

So here in the room in central office, we have our executive team and a number of other management leaders that are listening to the comments and the suggestions that you will be making to us. So I want to thank all of them as well.

These calls are operator assisted. We have over 90 lines that are on the call. So as you can imagine, multiple people, sometimes at the end of each of those lines. It's not ideal. But it allows everyone to participate from around the state. And it allows for a limited conversation.

But it allows us to be able to share with you what's going on, give us the opportunity to tell you what we're thinking, and then provide an opportunity to hear from your - our community, on what we should be considering as we move forward with this project.

We have had an ongoing commitment to transparency for quite some time. And this is yet another step in that path of ensuring that what we're doing is known to everyone and that it's informed by all of our various stake-holders, all of our various partners.

So, Michelle spoke to this and Morgan will speak to this in a little more detail. But this all stems out of the executive order that the President issued that essentially is asking for unnecessary and burdensome regulations to be looked at.

Back a few weeks ago, the Department of Education issued a notice asking for public comment on regulations and policies that should either be repealed, replaced, and/or modified.

And so today if you think about this, we are today implementing regulations that were put into place two, three years ago. And we're carrying out our programs and services in some cases with regulations that are decades old.

So this is an opportunity for us to really take advantage of and shape our programs and services for years to come. It's an opportunity for us to really influence what we could be implementing two, three years from now.

And if you think about this, what we're doing today and over the coming weeks - all of us collectively - is really shaping how we will look and what we will be implementing two, three, four years out, as I mentioned.

One of the things that we very much applied during the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Regulatory Process was to look for a balance of ensuring that we had sufficiency of guidance as well as the flexibility to implement our program across a very diverse state, both in terms of population density and many other factors.

And for those of you that are a little more familiar with what we do, you know that one of our values is to continue to pursue continuous improvement. And so that pursuit of continuous improvement means taking advantage of opportunities to figure out how we can improve on what we're doing, how we can improve on the governance that guides our programs forward.

So I'm going to stop here and introduce Morgan Staines, who is our chief council. Morgan has been with us now about six months. So Morgan, one, welcome, and two, take it away.

Morgan Staines:

Thank you Joe, and good afternoon everyone. It's a great pleasure to be here. As Joe mentioned, I've been here at the Department of Rehabilitation now for just about six months. I think it'll be six months this week or next.

I am really excited to have joined this team. I found some great people - a great mission, and I'm very excited about the opportunity to help our work be even more effective than it already is.

As Joe - as Joe indicated, this form originated out of - we have to go back - go back a little bit in time that it is in response to the Department of Education's request for input, which that was in response to the President's executive order in February asking federal agencies to follow a policy to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens.

The executive order and Secretary DeVos' request for comment indicated a focus on six factors that they would be looking for in regulations. Three of those are most relevant to our work and to our conversation today.

And that is, that we want to - we want to have in our - in our sights regulations that eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation, regulations that are outdated, unnecessary or ineffective, regulations that impose costs that exceed their benefits.

Now most of - most of our work at DOR is governed - is influenced by and governed by federal regulations from the Department of Education. But there are some other agencies that we're also accountable to. Our focus today will be primarily on Department of Education.

The Department - the Federal Department of Health and Human Services has not yet posted its notice for public comment. But we anticipate they will. And their regulations affect our work in the area of independent living. So that's not a focus for us today. But we will come around to that at the appropriate time.

Again, today we're focusing on Department of Education regulations which include our vocational rehabilitation work, by far the biggest part of our business. It also includes the Randolph-Sheppard Act regulations which govern our Business Enterprises Program for the Blind.

And the joint regulations issued by Education and Labor are also up for consideration at this time, though Labor has not issued their request for comment yet. So there'll be another bite at that one is also - and I'd note, we have one item from the Department of Defense that affects a part of our business. And you'll hear about that in just - in just a few minutes.

As many of you already know, the Department of Rehabilitation performed a fairly exhaustive review of the proposed regulations and final regulations that were promulgated after the enactment of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Those regulations were proposed in 2015 and went final in 2016. That work is informing a lot of what we're doing today. A lot of our preliminary work derived from that work, which many of you may have participated in. And we are grateful for that.

Our messaging is likely to remain consistent to what you heard then if you participated in that. And that is that some of the key things that we hope to have from our federal partners are flexibility in their regulations to allow us to meet the unique needs of this diverse state and to utilize our public fund in the most efficient way possible.

Now I do want you to have in mind just a little bit, just sort of the hierarchy of statutes and regulations that we live under. The - all of the - all of the regulations that the federal government imposes on us are authorized by some federal statute.

And the secretary's request for comment doesn't extend to changing statute. And some of the things we might like to be improved would need that. But the focus will be on regulation. Doesn't mean we can't ask the federal government to change statutes if we think that's appropriate.

But the specific invitation was about regulations and other guidance that's given in policy papers and other positions that the federal government takes - things that we sometimes call sub-regulatory guidance that if we want to have their money, which is by far the most significant part of our resources, our federal dollars, we have to follow their rules, whether they're in regulations or in other formats. So we can do that as well.

We are of course also governed by state statutes and state regulations. And because our federal partner is such an important source of funding to us, many of our statues and regulations mirror the federal statutes and regulations.

And in all of that mix, I don't expect that all of you are conversing with federal regulations, in particular the numbering systems and all those things. Some of you probably are. Depends on the nature of you engagement in this work.

But some of you may be - may be perfectly comfortable in that realm. But many, I'm sure, are not. And we don't require that today. We don't - we have to include as well as we're able, specific citations to the regulations that we want to ask the Secretary of Education to act on.

And that's our - that's our homework after we deal with the business issues. It will be on us to do - to do the best we can to trace things back. If you identify a problem for us, we'll do our best to trace it back to a federal regulation to see if it's - to see if it's in the realm of things that we might ask to be - to be remedied.

So don't feel bad if you don't - if you don't know where in the regulations the problem you're concerned about is. Please share it anyway. And we will do our best to connect the dots as we finish this process.

Now we've identified six areas of regulations that we plan to discuss today. And they are equal access to pre-employment transition services, written permissions and consent that we're required to have, burdensome data collection and reporting, recognition of resources contributed by schools and other partners, prior approval of equipment purchases, and then two or three items coming out of the Business Enterprises Program for the Blind.

Members of the legal team here will give us a brief description of each of those. And then we'll have a block of time that we set aside to hear from you. Your comments do not need to be limited to the areas that we are raising today.

And indeed, if you've got other things on your mind, we encourage you to share them because that is one of the key purposes today. There are two purposes that I want to highlight.

First is for us to hear from you before we submit any formal comments to the federal government so that we have the benefit of your input. Second is that we hope that this conversation will encourage and stimulate your thinking about your own comments.

And I would emphasize that you can and should submit your own documents directly to the U.S. Department of Education. Our work here at DOR will be informed by everything you tell us and what, you know, what we get from you as well as our own experiences. But commenting to us doesn't necessarily make a comment to the federal government. That's not our role.

We are - in that system, we are a stake-holder just like you are. You have every right to make your own comments to the feds. And we absolutely encourage you to do so. And we'll give you some information later to remind you how that's possible.

So with that, I want to thank you again for joining us. And we'll get into the next bit of subject matter. And so I want to introduce a member of the legal team here, Attorney Elizabeth Colegrove. Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Colegrove:

Thank you, Morgan, and good afternoon everyone. Today I'm going to be speaking about equal access to pre-employment transition services. In 2014, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which in addition to many other changes to the vocational rehabilitation programs across the country, added new services available to students with disabilities age 16 to 21.

These new services are called pre-employment transition services and include job exploration counseling, workplace learning experiences, counseling on post-secondary education opportunities, workplace readiness training and self-advocacy.

Students who are in special education or have a 504 Plan may receive these pre-employment transition services. Students are not required to apply to for vocational rehabilitation services to access these pre-employment transition services.

According to an interpretation by the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration, which is under the United States Department of Education, students who require a tool or service such as assistive technology, an interpreter, or transportation or other similar tools or service to access these pre-employment transition services must go through the lengthier process of applying for DOR services.

For example, this means that a student who might need an interpreter or transportation to access or attend one of these services such as self-advocacy training would need to be - would not be able to immediately be provided with these services.

Instead, they would have to go through the lengthier process of applying for DOR services simply to receive that tool or service need to access that pre-employment transition service.

The California Department of Rehabilitation is planning on suggesting that the United States Department of Education rethink this interpretation and allow potentially eligible students with disabilities to be provided the services or tools necessary to access the pre-employment transition services as quickly as those who do not need those tools or services to access the pre-employment transition services. Now I will turn it over to DOR Attorney Anisha Asher.

Anisha Asher:

Thank you. Our next area of interest deals with written permission for access to a consumer's records. There are two facets to this. The first is releasing a person's own information to themselves. And the second is releasing a person's information to other service providers.

Our goal for both of these practices is to make the process for releasing records more efficient and convenient to our consumers while also safeguarding their privacy in line with state and federal laws about protecting personal information.

Currently, if a person wants to access their own records with DOR, the person makes a request for their own records in writing. We want to make this process less burdensome. We believe that we should provide faster, more efficient access to a person seeking their own records.

Now if a person wants a third party, such as a service provider to have access to their records, the person must provide informed written consent to the release of records. In our current practice, a consumer must review and sign a hard copy document consenting to the release of their records.

This process is particularly time consuming. In the time it takes for a consumer to provide and for DOR to process, this consent can delay the provision of services to the consumer.

For example, if a consumer does not have access to a scanner and wants a service provider to receive their records, the consumer must either come to a DOR office in person to provide written permission or mail the appropriate forms to DOR.

This delays the consumer from receiving services because the service provider has to wait to review a consumer's records to know how to appropriately serve the consumer. If we can arrange for electronic consent, we can speed up the time it takes for our consumers to receive services.

Broadly, we are looking into digital signatures and other electronic methods of providing informed consent that can speed up the process of providing information and services to our consumers.

We intend to suggest that so long as we have protections in place for personal information, a consumer should be able to give permission for release of information in a way other than a writing in the literal sense.

We are also exploring other instances in federal regulation where written consent is required. What we want is to have the idea of written consent be made more flexible to allow for faster transmission of a consumer's data when they want it.

Our third suggestion for changes to federal regulation involves reducing burdensome data collection and reporting requirements. Under multiple federal regulations and guidance memos, state vocational rehabilitation agencies like DOR are required to collect information about applicants and report certain data in the aggregate to the federal government.

Some of this data is information that helps DOR guide a consumer to employment. But some of it is background or demographic information that does not directly contribute to an individual's preparation or help an individual secure employment.

Reducing the burden of data collection would benefit consumers in two ways. First, consumers would not be required to provide DOR with data that doesn't directly assist with obtaining employment. And second, reducing the burden of data collection will allow DOR staff to spend less time on data processing and more time assisting consumers to achieve employment.

DOR believes that the burden of data collection should be reduced to only what is required to assist an individual to achieve their employment goal. I will now turn it over to DOR Attorney Daisy Hughes, who will review additional topics.

Daisy Hughes:

Thank you Anisha. The next topic is resources for schools and other partners. In its comments, the DOR intends to request repeal of certain regulatory provisions that restrict the use of resources from schools and other partner agencies from being used for the non-federal share for Match.

So allow me to give a brief explanation of Match. Match is the arrangement between the state and federal government for the funding of services. Our federal government provides 78.7% of our budget. And the state provides 21.3%. So the ratio is about four to one.

The matching requirement for certain programs, such as Older Individuals Who are Blind and our Supportive Employment program, is different. But for the vast majority of what we do, it is that four to one ratio. So that's a good way to simplify things for our purposes today.

The state comes up with the money to meet its share - its one out of four share - primarily through the state general fund, but also through third party cooperative arrangements. A third party cooperative arrangement is an agreement between DOR and another public agency in which the public agency agrees to provide vocational rehabilitation services to the department's consumers and now potentially eligible students as well.

And the public agency gives money to the department for match purposes in order to draw down federal funds. Typically this is not done just by providing cash. Instead of, or in addition to cash, the public agency certifies or assigns a dollar amount to the portion of salary of its personnel.

This is called certified personnel time. And that's the personnel that's performing work under the contract. So the Department of Rehabilitation uses this dollar amount for match purposes to draw down federal dollars. And all of the money is used to pay for the services provided to our consumers through this cooperative arrangement.

And the services provided to the consumers as a result of these arrangements are not customary or typical services provided by the partner agencies. They're new services that have a vocational rehabilitation focus or they're existing services that have modified or expanded to have a vocational rehabilitation focus.

So the federal funds are used to pay for these new or enhanced services created through these arrangements. As an example, what you have from these arrangements are teachers in schools dedicated to working with students with disabilities in transition classes.

In California, we have many partners helping to provide vocational rehabilitation services. A prime example is our partnership with local school districts.

At issue are the regulatory provisions that restrict the use of certified personnel time for certain times that our partner staff spend related to services for consumers.

Department of Rehabilitation submitted comments on these restrictions in June of 2015 in response to the proposed regulations implementing the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. However the restrictions were made part of the final regulation.

And as a result of the regulation, the Department of Rehabilitation revised its contracts with our partner agencies. While the DOR made great effort to continue to fund all of our cooperative programs to the same extent as before, there were negative impacts. The department lost seven cooperative programs. Several other cooperative programs had to reduce their budget.

This means that as a direct result of regulatory restrictions, there are fewer opportunities for individuals with disabilities to receive services through a coordinated effort in California. Moving on to the next topic - that is prior approval of equipment purchases.

In 2014, the federal government consolidated written guidance governing federal grants and agreements and promulgated regulations to be applied across the board. These regulations are called the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Wards. They're found in Title II, part 200.

These regulations are also referred to as the Super Circular. Within this provisions of the Super Circular is a requirement that agencies seek prior approval from the federal government for capital expenditures and for purchases of certain equipment with a useful life of one year or more and a per unit cost of $5000 or more.

The Super Circular has broad applicability to federal entities. And it is not clear whether the definitions and rules relating to capital expenditures and equipment take into account the particular ways in which vocational rehabilitation agencies purchase equipment for the benefit of the individuals that we serve.

In its comments, the DOR intends to request that the Department of Education clarify this prior approval requirement in regards to vocational rehabilitation agencies in order to ensure that it does not result in a delay of provision of services to individuals with disabilities. And I now turn it over to my colleague, DOR Attorney Lisa Niegel.

Lisa Niegel:

Good afternoon. My comments today are focused on federal regulations relating the Randolph-Sheppard Act and the impacts on our Business Enterprises Program for the Blind as well as the licensed vendors who participate in the program.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Business Enterprises Program for the Blind, or BEP, as I'll refer to it here today, it is a program established pursuant to the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act, which was first signed into law in 1936 and provides a priority to licensed vendors to operate vending facility business on property owned or otherwise controlled by the federal government.

Vending facility operations provide a variety of goods and services and can consist of vending machines, coffee carts, snack bars, sundry shops, and cafeterias, including military dining facilities. The purpose of the program is to expand and enlarge economic opportunities, specifically business opportunities for individuals who are legally blind.

All but a couple of states and territories have established Randolph-Sheppard programs similar to the BEP. I also want to mention that in 1945, California law expanded the priority afforded to licensed vendors to state property - that property which is owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the state of California.

The three specific areas that I am commenting on today are the applicability of the priority, the Department of Defense's proposed rulemaking noticed in 2016 which relates to the issue of priority, and the Randolph-Sheppard arbitration process.

Federal law requires a federal agency to apply the priority when soliciting and awarding contracts for the operation of cafeterias. However, federal agencies do not consistently recognize and apply the priority. This results in qualified licensed vendors being denied opportunities to compete for cafeteria contracts, including those on military bases.

These situations continue to lead to costly arbitrations and litigation between the states and federal government. To effectively resolve this matter, our recommendation is that the Department of Education modify its regulations to clarify that a contract for the operation of a cafeteria includes the provision as any type of goods or services necessary to provide food and beverages.

Related to the issue of priority is the Department of Defense's proposed rulemaking noticed in June of 2016. These proposed regulations, if adopted, would define operation of military dining facilities in such a way that it would severely limit, and in most cases eliminate, the priority afforded to licensed vendors competing for military food service contracts.

We believe that contracts for the operation of a cafeteria include all military food service contracts. Specifically the proposed regulations would exempt from the priority dining support service contracts that involve food preparation, serving, ordering and inventory of food, meal planning, cashiering, mess attendance services, and dining facility attendance services.

While the Department of Rehabilitation commented on these proposed regulations in August of 2016, we believe that it's important once again to raise our concerns and share our recommendations. We recommend the Department of Defense withdraw its proposed rulemaking and that the Department of Education support this recommendation.

The third area of discussion today - or at least for me - relates to the inefficient and outdated arbitration process. When a dispute arises out of the program, federal law permits state Randolph-Sheppard programs or licensed vendors to request that the Secretary of the United States Department of Education convene a three member panel to arbitrate the dispute or the matter.

The so-called interim policies and procedures that govern the arbitration process have not been updated since 1978. The process is extremely slow, cumbersome, and costly for all parties involved, often taking several years to reach a decision.

In our experience, significant delay results from the challenges in identifying a neutral third arbitrator to serve as chair. And the arbitrations are not conducted in a consistent fashion or manner.

We believe that the arbitration process could be greatly improved, making the process more efficient and thereby reducing costs for all parties involved. We recommend that the Department of Education collaboratively work with the state Randolph-Sheppard program, licensed vendors and their representatives, and federal agencies to identify and implement efficient processes and procedures.

Furthermore, we recommend that the Departments of Defense and Education work collaboratively to address the application of the priority consistent with existing federal law. At this time, I'll turn it back to Elizabeth Colegrove, my colleague, who will talk in terms of submitting public comments.

Elizabeth Colegrove:

Great. Thank you, Lisa. So, as Lisa mentioned, I've going to be giving a brief overview on how any interested individual can submit their own comments.

As Morgan discussed earlier, the conversation we have today in just a couple minutes will help identify and inform DOR's comments. However, we are encouraging everyone to submit their own comments to the United States Department of Education or Defense.

The notices from the Departments of Education and Defense describe how to submit comments. However, I'm going to briefly summarize the process so everyone has a general understanding.

Comments to the Department of Education must be submitted either online through the federal e-rule making portal, via postal mail, commercial delivery or hand delivery. Department of Education is not accepting comments by fax or email.

The federal e-rule making portal is available at regulations.gov. To find the notice from the United States Department of Education and to provide your comments, you can search for the dock-it number which is ED-2017-OS-0074.

Or you can simply search for regulatory reform task force and scroll through until you find the notice from the United States Departments of Education and click on that.

You may submit comments to the Department of Defense via fax, mail, or through the federal e-rule portal which is also available at regulations.gov. The docket number for the Department of Defense requests is DARS2017-0001.

Similar as above, you can also search for regulatory reform task force and find the notice from the Department of Defense. Comments to both agencies are due by 8:59 Pacific Standard Time on Monday, August 21. So please submit all of your comments before then if you would like them to be considered. Now I will turn it back over to Michelle Reynolds.

Michelle Reynolds:

Thank you Elizabeth. And now it's the portion of the call in which we'll be taking your comments. At this time, I'd like to ask our operator to assist us with the question and answer session.

Sue, please remind participants how they may enter the question and answer queue and ask questions or make comments. And then we can begin our comment section.

Coordinator:

Yes, thank you. At this time, if you would like to ask a question, please ensure your phone is un-muted and please press star followed by one.

Again, that is star followed by one if you'd like to ask a question or make a comment. One moment please. Our first question comes from (Lisa Cooley). You may go ahead.

(Lisa Cooley):

Has anyone thought about starting pre-employment transition services for youths who need them at 14 instead of 16?

(Kathi Mowers-Moore):

Good afternoon. Thank you for the question. This is (Kathi Mowers-Moore), Deputy Director for Voc Rehab Policy and Resource Development.

At this time, we have taken the question of whether including in our scope of individuals for pre-employment transition services, individuals that are 14 to 16. We've not yet made that determination. But we do have the flexibility to make that decision.

(Lisa Cooley):

I know for California's Employment First policy (unintelligible) I'm sure you're all familiar with, the age for services related to transition and/or employment start at 14 instead of 16.

(Kathi Mowers-Moore):

Yes, and you're accurate. And additionally through our Cal-Promise grant project, our research project that is inclusive of Cal-Promise, we are working with students age 14 (unintelligible).

We appreciate the benefits of both opportunities. Obviously we're looking at how we can most effectively serve the largest population of students that need our support. Thank you.

Coordinator:

Thank you. The next question comes from Bruce Morgan. You may go ahead.

Bruce Morgan:

Yes, my name is Bruce Morgan. I represent the Dayle McIntosh Center in Orange County, California. And I wanted to know if there has been any decision on whether or not the DOR would allow us to keep paperless files instead of keeping hard copy, heavy paper files for extended years? I know that the federal government allows paperless files. Thank you.

Morgan Staines:

Thank you for that question, Bruce. This is Morgan Staines speaking. We are - the Department is very interested in facilitating that. Our experience is that we can - we think we can be paper less - perhaps not paperless - but paper less. And we are very interested in doing that.

And we - and some of the comments that we started with, with regard to needing wet signatures on, you know, ink on paper and written consent, our requests from our consumers our definitely on that line.

And we are - we are already looking at that, particularly in that area as well as some other - some other projects to try to reduce the amount of paper. So I can't give you - I can't give you a black and white answer--you can do it, you can't.

But know that we want to move in that direction as well. And we will be supportive to do that in the context of needing to maintain an adequate record of services provided.

Bruce Morgan:

One of the things that would - that would help a great deal would be allowing us to scan the files in after the files are closed and at least archiving it electronically so that we're not paying for storage units or filling up extra cabinets in our offices.

Kathi Mowers-Moore:

Thanks, Bruce.

Coordinator:

Thank you. At this time, there are no further questions. As a reminder, please press star followed by one if you would like to ask a question or make a comment. One moment please. Question comes from Pete (Unintelligible). Go ahead.

(Pete):

Thank you. In the recent RFP distributed by the Department, one of the questions asked - and this was in regards to transitional youth. One of the questions that was asked was in regards to whether or not the applicant planned to serve youth one on one or in group settings.

In doing research, I discovered that there's many regulations involved when serving a person with a disability under the age of 18 or just (unintelligible). So I need some clarification. What are the exact regulations (unintelligible) on one versus group training when serving 17 and under?

Lisa Niegel:

Good afternoon, (Pete). This is Lisa Niegel. I'm one of the attorneys here at the Department. Thank you for your comment. Certainly in this area where we - there are a lot of new services and certainly expectations in serving more youth.

This is an area certainly that we have looked into. Specifically relating to your question, in order - I cannot - frankly I cannot just cite you all the regulations and rules that may apply to such a situation.

But certainly as Morgan had mentioned you know, we will look into matters that you raise to us. And certainly in relation to this RFP, we can certainly look into that and provide comments to you and other potential bidders in response.

(Pete):

Thank you.

Lisa Niegel:

Thank you very much, (Pete) for your comment and your participation today.

(Pete):

No problem.

Coordinator:

Thank you. The next question comes from (Matt Mauer). You may go ahead.

(Matt Mauer):

I'd like to ask the Department of Rehabilitation to recommend that the Department of Education direct the RSA to rescind sub-regulatory guidance criteria on integrated settings in the definition of competitive integrated employment under WIOA. I believe they're overly restrictive and actually keep people from getting jobs that are valuable to them. Thank you.

Joe Xavier:

So thank you for your comment. That is something that is actually - is under consideration. I - this is Joe, by the way. I just want to - what I want to do is just take an opportunity to also - I'm going to kind of approach this from a little bit of a different angle because it's so important that we have the benefit of all of your experience and all of your thinking.

So in addition to the frames you've heard from the good folks already this afternoon about how to think this, I'll ask you the same question that I've been asking our own team here in the Department, which is, what - when you're carrying out your day to day work - when you're doing the work that you are partnering with us on, what are the things that stand in your way of being able to provide either more service or more effective services?

And as Morgan has pointed out, don't confine yourselves to regulation X or policy Y. If you can just even help us think about areas where we want to focus - we want to concentrate our effort over the next couple of weeks so that we can look at this.

And part of this is that I just can't emphasize enough, some of what we have in place has been in place for decades. And so it's become second nature, right? It's become second nature for us to do it the way that we do it because that's the way we've always done it.

But this is an opportunity to say, there's a better way to do it, right? And we're depending on all of your good experience and your knowledge to help us point - or point us in that direction of areas that we should be taking a closer look at.

Coordinator:

Does that conclude question, Mr. (Mauer)?

(Matt Mauer):

Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't - that seemed like a general comment for everybody. Yes, I'd just like to say basically that that is one - just the regulation or sub-regulation is actually one of the things that impede us helping people get jobs.

And it basically very narrowly defines what competitive integrated employment is under WIOA. And that keeps us from getting people jobs that they want. So thank you.

Kelly Hargreaves:

Hi, (Matt). This is Kelly Hargreaves, Chief Deputy Director. Sounds like some of the concerns that you're raising are ones that we did wrestle with as well during the federal regulation period when - after WIOA.

And the federal regulations really didn't have anything different than what Congress had put into the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. And that's along the lines of what Morgan described as the limits of our comments on federal regulations.

We know that the impact of that change - or that emphasis really, since CIE was always expected to be the outcome - has created, you know, some concerns - perhaps some unintended consequences even though the overall intention was one of your equitable treatment for people with disabilities.

But we are - we are addressing that through the blueprint and working with our partners. But it's likely not something that can be tied to a federal regulation...

(Matt Mauer):

Actually - I'm sorry. If I can interject. I'm actually looking at simply the sub-regulatory guidance criteria put out by RSA. And that was basically - it actually called out Source America contracts, such as the ones that you're talking about under the Randolph-Sheppard Business Enterprise program as - they're very similar although on a different side.

But they called them as non-integrated programs. And they employ a lot of people with disabilities. And their concern is that integration cannot be achieved if a contract is set aside for people with disabilities and has percentage requirements.

Kelly Hargreaves:

Okay, we will look for that guidance - the outside of the regulations and comment on it if we find that it's gone beyond the law. Thank you for identifying that for us.

(Matt Mauer):

Thank you.

Coordinator:

Thank you. At this time, there are no further questions. As a reminder, please press star followed by one if you would like to ask a question or make a comment. One moment please. The next question comes from (Lisa Cooley). You may go ahead.

(Lisa Cooley):

In hopes of reducing paperwork, have one set of paperwork for every client or potential client of the Department of Rehabilitation and have data sharing agreements put in place either before someone becomes a client or after someone becomes a client to be more efficient and possibly save the state money.

Michelle Reynolds:

Thank you for your comment, (Lisa). We appreciate that.

(Lisa Cooley):

You're welcome.

Coordinator:

Thank you. And the next question comes from (Marcy Telgrin-Smith). You may go ahead.

(Marcy Telgrin-Smith):

Yes, hi. This is for Daisy. In the area of resources for schools, you had talked about match. And can you expand on what changes you're proposing in the match requirement?

Daisy Hughes:

The changes that we're proposing are to allow more use of certified personnel time than is currently allowed in the regulatory guidance or the actual regulations.

And so what we're looking for is to repeal certain regulatory provisions or actually certain sub-divisions of regulatory provisions. And so we will be commenting on that.

And if you want, after this I believe we do have a list of the regulations that we have to - that we will be commenting on and that are dealing with particularly this issue of certified match and using more partners' time in order to meet that match requirement. Does that answer your question?

(Marcy Telgrin-Smith):

Yes, sure. Thank you.

Coordinator:

Thank you. At this time, there are no further questions. Again, please press star followed by one if you would like to ask a question or make a comment.

Coordinator:

The next question comes from (Gary Crocker). Please go ahead.

(Gary Crocker):

Yes, good afternoon everyone. I wanted to know if you could possibly elaborate on the potential changes or proposed changes that you would make to the arbitration process at this time.

Lisa Niegel:

Good afternoon Mr. (Crocker). This is Lisa Niegel. Once again, I'm one of the attorneys here at DOR. In relation to the arbitration process, as many vendors experience as well as the department, the decisions - it can take years for an arbitration to be conducted and the decision to be rendered.

So it is quite a lengthy process. And we don't think that is actually necessary. Some of the areas that we are looking at - and we know that there has been significant delay caused by trying to identify a neutral third arbitrator. And of course that is a requirement under the Randolph-Sheppard Act.

But we also are raising questions as to whether there are other opportunities for the neutral arbitrator. For example, the federal government, the U.S. Department of Education, actually has an office of administrative law judges. Could one of those judges serve as the third arbitrator, of course with the agreement of both parties? So certainly that's an area we're looking at.

Also with the age of electronic communication, we are also looking at whether and considering whether it would be more efficient - of course with the party's agreement - to conduct hearings based on record. For example, some of these arbitrations stem from fair hearings.

Or some of these issues are such that paper based type of arbitration with argument - written argument - may be sufficient and more effective. So these are areas that certainly we're considering. Certainly the vendors and their advocates may have other ideas as well as other states.

But what we would encourage is that the federal government engage with not only us as a state licensing agency, but also with the vendor community and federal agencies to really talk about, you know, efficiencies that we could implement here.,

I'll turn - I'll turn it over to Elena Gomez. Elena is the Deputy Director of the Specialized Services Division. And she oversees the Business Enterprise Program for the Blind.

Elena Gomez:

Thank you, Lisa. And good afternoon, (Gary). I'm glad to see that you were able to join us. We really appreciate your participation in this process. And what Lisa shared with you are some of the things that we're considering. And (Gary), I know you're very familiar with the arbitration process.

So we would be curious to hear your thoughts as well in terms of some of the items that we should be considering in submitting our comments to the Rehabilitation Services Administration. So please do share with us your thoughts.

(Gary Crocker):

Are the comments that the Department is currently considering proposing - are they listed on the DOR website at this time?

Lisa Niegel:

Mr. (Crocker), our comments are not - our specific thoughts on changes are not listed on our website at this time.

(Gary Crocker):

If that - if that does occur before the deadline, would you please reach out to the vendor community or whoever is interested in this process and provide them with that information? And that would be my last comment. Thank you.

Lisa Niegel:

Thank you.

Coordinator:

Thank you. And at this time, again there are no further questions. As a reminder, please press star, followed by one if you'd like to ask a question or make a comment. One moment please. There are no further questions or comments at this time.

Joe Xavier:

So we certainly don't want to hold you guys up from - what the rest of your day. So if there's no more comments, we'll go ahead and wrap this up. And before I turn it over to Kelly to close, I just wanted to share - it just occurred to me to share something that might be self-evident to some but not to everyone.

So today what we're doing is gathering the comments that we will submit. We're again encouraging you to submit your own comments individually and collectively as organizations.

So as the Department of Education moves forward - and we don't know what that timeline looks like, frankly. But as they move forward, they will likely have a regulatory package that they will then issue once they've taken into account all of the public comments that have been received.

They would then have regulatory package that they would issue that then would go back out through the public rule-making process. So what I want - I want to be sure that we distinguish that what we're doing today is shaping what that will look like.

It does not mean that this will be the last opportunity for us to comment because whatever shows up in those regulations - all of us again will have that opportunity to weigh in again on. So, Kelly, I'll turn it over to you.

Kelly Hargreaves:

Thank you, Joe. Good, you know, good point. Just as when we had the federal regulations under WIOA, we did post on the internet. And at that point, we provided the specific regulation number for those who shared the comments with us so that - for their convenience so that they could make comments and have the benefit of our research.

So I'd like to thank everyone for participating in this meeting today. On our end, we're able to actually see the organizations that people described when they logged on to the call.

And we were happy to see that we had a broad range of individuals representing a broad range of stake-holders on the call, independent living centers, schools, advocacy organizations, community resource providers. And though it wasn't self-evident, we hope the people who are receiving services from DOR or who have received services from DOR were also part of the call along with their families.

I'd like to thank the DOR staff who presented today - the legal staff. They worked hard to identify the regulations and I know are continuing to scour the federal regulations and identify any of those that present the barrier to those providing services or our partners providing services to people who need work.

And with your input as well as that which we've gathered over a number of meetings, just in our usual practice of meeting with our advisory bodies, which has been helpful for identifying the most significant changes that we want to press for, we really can do our best. So do we have an email address that we're inviting comments for? I think...

(Michelle Reynolds):

Yes, we are. We are asking people to send comments to externalaffairs@dor.ca.gov.

Kelly Hargreaves:

Okay, so if you have comments after this - things that you think about, even if you're not certain if they are tied to a federal regulation, we really encourage you to let us know. And we will be posting those on the - on the internet when we - hopefully have a few days before our deadline so that you can check back with that.

So our - we heard today, you know, some new suggestions about record keeping and that we will look into, as well as whether there is other guidance that perhaps restricts competitive integrated employment in a way that doesn't further the purpose, which is to provide integrated employment and the same opportunity for people with disabilities as those who do not have disabilities

There are other suggestions that we're thinking about that we received from other organizations and individuals, including (Unintelligible) expenses that are the result of providing services to students to be captured as pre-employment transition services, simply by identification of the number of - of how old the consumer is.

So you see some things on the internet that we haven't been able to talk about because we're still doing some research. With that, I would like to give Morgan Staines an opportunity to provide additional information before we close out.

Again, thank you. And thank you to the DOR staff who have helped make this happen to provide you with not only the education so that you can advocate, whether in the same way that we are or differently, as well as giving us feedback and your thoughts about our ideas.

Morgan Staines:

Thank you, Kelly. I just want to quickly remind everyone on the phone - if you received the email or electronic invitation from us for this public forum, in that invitation there is a link to a Survey Monkey survey, which we created for this project, which invites you to identify other problem areas. And we encourage you to use that.

If you don't have that link, you can send an email message to externalaffairs@dor.ca.gov. And they can help you find that. The advantage if you use it, the advantage is - for us - is that it will sort the - it will sort your concerns in a way that might make it easier for us to connect them to federal regulation. So our work would be expedited a little bit.

But in any way that you want - that you are able to get further comments to us, we invite them. We intend this as a collaborative process. And we really want to hear from you.

So I want you - I want to thank those of you on the phone for your time today and for your participation and thank the people hear in the room at DOR who made it possible for us to have this opportunity to meet with you in this way. Thanks everyone.

Coordinator:

That concludes today's conference. Thank you for participating. You may disconnect at this time.

 

END