DRTC Supports Modernizing Policy to Benefit People with Disabilities

Group of workers packing boxes.

New bill would develop a transition plan away from subminimum wages in Oklahoma

DRTC applauds Representative Ellyn Hefner for introducing legislation to examine the future use of 14(c) certificate programs in Oklahoma. If approved, the measure could usher in a new wave of service and program modernization across the state.

House Bill 3796 would create a task force to examine and develop a plan to phase out the use of 14(c) subminimum wages paid to people with disabilities in Oklahoma.

“States that have phased out 14(c) considered a multitude of related aspects including high school-to-work transition programs, Medicaid administration, and non-work-related activities,” said DRTC Executive Director/CEO Deborah Copeland, M.Ed. “DRTC hopes the task force would find and recommend best practices across the country to develop an Oklahoma-specific solution.”

According to the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), 15 states have passed laws to eliminate subminimum wages paid to people with disabilities (July 2023). DRTC is a member of APSE, as well as SourceAmerica®, an AbilityOne® Program to employ people with disabilities. The AbilityOne® Program also eliminated the use of 14c subminimum wages for thousands of people with disabilities working on federal contracts (October 2022).

DRTC serves, trains or employs approximately 700 people with disabilities or limiting conditions annually. More than 100 of these workers at DRTC’s main campus are eligible to earn subminimum wages under the 14(c) certificate. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 1,200 Oklahomans currently earn subminimum wages (as of January 1, 2024).

DRTC has spearheaded the conversation in the transition away from 14(c) subminimum wages, leading a coalition comprised of state and provider agencies to address concerns facing Oklahoma. Additionally, DRTC participated in an interim study conducted by Reps. Hefner and Jared Deck that ultimately proposed the task force mentioned in HB3796.

“We are highly encouraged by the proposal for a task force,” said Copeland. “This is a great opportunity to modernize services and policy for Oklahomans with disabilities and their families. We hope Oklahoma’s lawmakers recognize the need to be prepared to serve some of their most vulnerable constituents throughout the process.”