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Notice

Systems-Change Projects to Expand Employment Opportunities for Individuals With Mental or Physical Disabilities, or Both, Who Receive Public Support; Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Year (FY) 2001

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Purpose of Program: To enhance collaboration in existing systems, including the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (TWWIIA) projects administered by the Social Security Administration, and to increase competitive employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities who are participants in public support programs funded by Federal, State, and local agencies.

For FY 2001 the competition for new awards focuses on projects designed to meet the priorities we describe in the PRIORITIES section of this application notice.

Eligible Applicants: A consortium of, at a minimum, the State vocational rehabilitation agency, the State welfare agency, a State educational agency, the State agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program, and an agency administering an employment or employment training program supported by the U.S. Department of Labor. Additional entities (e.g., public and private non-profit organizations or Indian tribes) also may be included as part of the consortium. An agreement between the members of the consortium must be submitted as part of the application.

Applications Available: April 23, 2001.

Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: July 6, 2001.

Deadline for Intergovernmental Review: September 4, 2001.

Estimated Available Funds: $2,000,000.

Estimated Range of Awards: $450,000—$500,000.

Estimated Average Size of Awards: $475,000.

Estimated Number of Awards: 4-5.

Note:

The Department is not bound by any estimates in this notice.

Project Period: Up to 60 months.

Page Limit: The application narrative (Part III of the application) is where you, the applicant, address the selection criteria that reviewers use to evaluate your application. It is suggested that you limit Part III to 35 pages.

Applicable Regulations: (a) The Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) in 34 CFR parts 74, 75, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 85, 86, 97, and 99; and (b). The regulations for this program in 34 CFR part 373.

Note:

The regulations in 34 CFR part 79 apply to all applicants except federally recognized Indian tribes.

Priorities: This competition focuses on projects designed to meet the absolute priority in the notice of final priority and definitions for this program, published in the Federal Register on July 8, 1998 (63 FR 37016), and the competitive preference priority in the notice of final competitive preference for Special Demonstration Programs, published in the Federal Register on November 22, 2000 (65 FR 70408).

The purpose of the absolute priority is to establish five-year model demonstration projects that stimulate and advance systems change in order to expand competitive employment outcomes for individuals with mental or physical disabilities, or both, who are participants in Federal, State, and local public support programs (e.g., TANF, SSI and SSDI, including TWWIIA, Medicaid, Medicare, subsidized housing, and food stamps, etc.).

Absolute Priority—Systems-Change Projects to Expand Employment Opportunities for Individuals With Mental or Physical Disabilities, or Both, Who Receive Public Support

Under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3) and section 303(b) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (the Act) (29 U.S.C. 762(b)(3)), the Secretary gives an absolute preference to applications that meet the following priority. The Secretary funds under this competition only applications that meet this absolute priority:

A. General Requirements for Applicants

Applicants under this priority shall satisfy the following requirements: Start Printed Page 20140

(1) Applicants shall form a consortium of, at a minimum, the State vocational rehabilitation agency, the State welfare agency, the State educational agency, the State agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program, and an agency administering an employment or employment training program supported by the U.S. Department of Labor. Additional entities (e.g., public and private non-profit organizations) that could effectively assist in removing barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities also may be included as part of the consortium.

(2) The members of the consortium shall either designate one of their members to apply for the grant or establish a separate, eligible legal entity to apply for the grant. The designated applicant shall serve as the grantee and be legally responsible for the use of all grant funds, overall fiscal and programmatic oversight of the project, and for ensuring that the project is carried out by consortium members in accordance with Federal requirements.

(3) Consortium members shall be substantially involved in the development of the application. To the extent possible, consortiums also shall involve consumers in the development of the application.

(4) The members of the consortium shall enter into an agreement that details the activities that each member plans to perform and that binds each member to the statements and assurances included in the application. Each member is legally responsible for carrying out the activities it agrees to perform and for using the funds that it receives under the agreement in accordance with Federal requirements that apply to the grant. The agreement must be submitted as part of the application.

(5) Consortiums shall establish a Consumer Advisory Board consisting of individuals with disabilities and, as appropriate, their representatives that will assist in the development, implementation, and evaluation of barrier-removal strategies.

(6) The application submitted under this priority also must identify the specific locality or region that would be served by the project.

B. Project Objectives

Projects supported under this priority must—

(1) Identify systemic barriers, including State or local agency policies, practices, procedures, or rules that inhibit individuals with disabilities who are participants in public support programs from becoming competitively employed.

(2) Develop and implement replicable strategies to remove identified barriers, including, at a minimum, strategies for—

(a) Establishing effective collaborative working relationships among project consortium members and their partners as described in paragraph (C)(1) of this priority (e.g., providing interagency staff training and technical assistance on program requirements and services or collaboratively using labor market and job vacancy information);

(b) Establishing coordinated service delivery systems (e.g., common intake and referral procedures, customer databases, and resource information) and developing innovative services and service approaches that address service gaps (e.g., developing employee and employer support networks);

(c) Improving access to health insurance for individuals with disabilities who become employed;

(d) Increasing the use of existing resources by State and local agencies (e.g., Medicaid waivers, Home Community Based Services waivers, Job Training Partnership Act income exemptions, and work incentive provisions such as Plan for Achieving Self Support);

(3) Design and implement an internal evaluation plan for which—

(a) The methods of evaluation are thorough, feasible, and appropriate to the goals, objectives, and outcomes of the project;

(b) The methods of evaluation provide for examining the effectiveness of project implementation strategies;

(c) The methods of evaluation include the use of objective performance measures that are clearly related to the intended outcomes of the project and will produce quantitative and qualitative data to the extent possible;

(d) The methods of evaluation will provide performance feedback and permit periodic assessment of progress toward achieving intended outcomes; and

(e) The evaluation will provide guidance about effective strategies suitable for replication or testing in other settings; and

(4) Disseminate information on effective systems-change approaches developed under these projects to Federal, State, and local stakeholders and facilitate the use of systems-change models in other geographic areas. As examples, consortiums may make presentations before national, State, or local conferences, consult with and provide technical assistance to other States or localities, develop Internet web sites, and distribute project publications.

C. Project Requirements

In carrying out the priority, the projects must—

(1) Develop partnership agreements, as described under DEFINITIONS, with the local district offices of the Social Security Administration; the State agency or agencies responsible for mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and mental health services; existing transportation or paratransit service providers; and appropriate public and private sector employers. Partnerships also may be formed with other appropriate entities identified by the consortium, including but not limited to, Centers for Independent Living, consumer advocacy organizations, economic development councils, Private Industry Councils, Governor's committees on the employment of persons with disabilities, developmental disabilities councils, mental health centers, community rehabilitation programs, Indian Tribes, labor unions, and community-based and other non-profit employment and training organizations funded by the U.S. Department of Labor;

(2) Make timely, formal requests for Medicaid waivers if necessary for projects to be able to implement developed strategies;

(3) Implement, in a timely manner, the strategies developed by the project to expand employment outcomes for individuals with mental or physical disabilities, or both;

(4) Participate, as appropriate, in meetings of a Federal Interagency Employment Initiative Workgroup and inform workgroup members of project activities; and

(5) Participate in, and provide data for, an external evaluation of the systems-change projects as directed by the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The evaluation would examine— (a) The effect of specific innovative systems-change approaches and strategies on State or local agency policies, practices, or rules affecting the employment of individuals with disabilities; (b) The effect of specific innovative systems-change approaches and strategies on increasing the number of individuals with disabilities who obtain competitive employment, including job retention, promotion, and satisfaction, and wage growth; and (c) The cost effectiveness of employment supports and services implemented by the project. Start Printed Page 20141

Definitions

Competitive employment, as defined in 34 CFR 361.5(b)(10), means work in the competitive labor market that is performed on a full-time or part-time basis in an integrated setting, and for which an individual is compensated at or above the minimum wage, but not less than the customary wage and level of benefits paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by individuals who are not disabled.

Consortium means a group of eligible parties formed by the applicant seeking a Federal award under this priority. Members of the consortium shall enter into an agreement and carry out their responsibilities consistent with the requirements in paragraph (A) of the priority. Members of the consortium shall also ensure that project partners carry out their agreed-upon activities.

Disability with respect to an individual means a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of that individual, having a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.

Locality means specific geographical areas within a State or States.

Partner means an entity with which the consortium has entered into an agreement to carry out specific activities, goals, and objectives of the project.

Partnership agreement means a written arrangement between a consortium and its partners to carry out specific activities related to the project.

Public Support means Federal, State, and local public programs that provide resources or services to individuals with disabilities. These programs include, but are not limited to, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Medicaid (including Medicaid waiver programs), Medicare, subsidized housing, and food stamps.

Region means two or more States participating in the project.

Competitive Preference Priority: Within the absolute preference priority for this competition for FY 2001, under 34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i) we add a competitive preference to applications that are otherwise eligible for funding under this program.

The maximum score under the selection criteria for this program is 100 points; however, we will also use the following competitive preference so that up to an additional 10 points may be earned by an applicant for a total possible score of 110 points.

Up to 10 points may be earned based on the extent to which an application includes effective strategies for employing and advancing in employment qualified individuals with disabilities as project employees in projects awarded under this program. In determining the effectiveness of those strategies, we will consider the applicant's prior success, as described in the application, in employing and advancing in employment qualified individuals with disabilities.

Therefore, within this competitive preference, applicants can be awarded up to a total of 10 points in addition to those awarded under the published selection criteria for this program. That is, an applicant meeting this competitive preference could earn a maximum total of 110 points.

Selection Criteria: In evaluating an application for a new grant under this competition, we use selection criteria chosen from the general selection criteria in 34 CFR 75.210 of EDGAR. The selection criteria to be used for this competition will be provided in the application package for this competition.

For Applications Contact: Education Publications Center (ED Pubs), P.O. Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794-1398. Telephone (toll free): 1-877-433-7827. FAX: 301-470-1244. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may call (toll free): 1-877-576-7734.

You may also contact ED Pubs at its Web site: http://www.ed.gov/​pubs/​edpubs.html.

Or you may contact ED Pubs at its e-mail address: edpubs@inet.ed.gov.

If you request an application from ED Pubs, be sure to identify this competition as follows: CFDA No. 84.235B.

Individuals with disabilities may obtain a copy of the application package in an alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer diskette) by contacting the Grants and Contracts Services Team, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3317, Switzer Building, Washington, DC 20202-2550. Telephone: (202) 205-8351. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may call the Federal Information Relay Services (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339. However, the Department is not able to reproduce in an alternative format the standard forms included in the application package.

For Further Information Contact: Sonja T. Turner, Competition Manager, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3322, Switzer Building, Washington, DC. 20202-2650. Telephone: (202) 205-9396. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339.

Individuals with disabilities may obtain this notice in an alternative format on request to the contact person listed in the preceding paragraph.

Please note:

Applications are to be requested only from ED Pubs as listed in the FOR APPLICATIONS CONTACT section.

Electronic Access to This Document

You may view this document, as well as all other Department of Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site: www.ed.gov/​legislation/​FedRegister

To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-6498; or in the Washington, DC, area at (202) 512-1530.

Note:

The official version of this document is the document published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations is available on GPO Access at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/​nara/​index.html.

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Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 773(b).

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Dated: April 13, 2001.

Francis V. Corrigan,

Deputy Director, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

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[FR Doc. 01-9655 Filed 4-18-01; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4000-01-U