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HOW OSERS PROPOSED PRIORITIES & DEFINITIONS-AMERICAN INDIAN VOCATIONAL REHAB SERVICES-TRAINING & TECHNICAL (510 hits)


For Immediate Release From OSERS!


AGENCY: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), Department of Education.

ACTION: Proposed priorities and definitions.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Education (Department) proposes priorities and definitions to fund an American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Training and Technical Assistance Center (AIVRTTAC), Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number 84.250Z. The Department may use the priorities and definitions for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2020 and later years. We take this action to focus Federal financial assistance on

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identified national needs and to improve employment outcomes and raise expectations for American Indians with disabilities. We intend the AIVRTTAC to provide training and technical assistance (TA) to American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AIVRS) project personnel, especially vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors, in order to improve their capacity to implement innovative and effective VR services and employment strategies and practices to increase the number and quality of employment outcomes for American Indians with disabilities served through the AIVRS program.

DATES:

We must receive your comments on or before October 13, 2020.

ADDRESSES:

Submit your comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. We will not accept comments submitted by fax or by email or those submitted after the comment period. To ensure that we do not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the Docket ID at the top of your comments.

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on the site under “Help.”

Postal Mail, Commercial Delivery, or Hand Delivery: If you mail or deliver your comments, address them to Jerry Elliott, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room 5097, Potomac Center Plaza, Washington, DC 20202-2800.
Privacy Note: The Department's policy is to make all comments received from members of the public available for public viewing in their entirety on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Therefore, commenters should be careful to include in their comments only information that they wish to make publicly available.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jerry Elliott, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room 5097, Potomac Center Plaza, Washington, DC 20202-2800. Telephone: (202)245-7335. Email: jerry.elliott@ed.gov.

If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) or a text telephone (TTY), call the Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Invitation to Comment: We invite you to submit comments regarding the proposed priorities and definitions. To ensure that your comments have maximum effect in developing the notice of final priorities and definitions, we urge you to identify clearly the specific part of the priorities or definition that each comment addresses. In addition to your general comments and recommended clarifications, we seek input as to whether entities who may apply under this competition would have the ability to meet Proposed Priority 2, which is consistent with option (f) of the Secretary's Final Supplemental Priorities and Definitions for Discretionary Grant Programs, published in the Federal Register on March 2, 2018 (83 FR 9096), related to matching support, and if so, whether that priority should be included as an absolute priority, competitive preference priority, or an invitational priority and what the level of matching support should be.

We invite you to assist us in complying with the specific requirements of Executive Orders 12866, 13563, and 13771 and their overall requirement of reducing regulatory burden that might result from the proposed priorities and definitions. Please let us know of any ways we could reduce potential costs or increase potential benefits while preserving the effective and efficient administration of the program.

During and after the comment period, you may inspect all public comments about the proposed priorities and definitions by accessing Regulations.gov. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Department buildings are currently not open. However, upon reopening, you may also inspect the comments in person in room 5059, 550 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday of each week except Federal holidays.

Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities in Reviewing the Rulemaking Record: On request we will provide an appropriate accommodation or auxiliary aid to an individual with a disability who needs assistance to review the comments or other documents in the public rulemaking record for the proposed priorities and definitions. If you want to schedule an appointment for this type of accommodation or auxiliary aid, please contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

Purpose of Program: The purpose of the AIVRTTAC program is to provide training and TA to governing bodies of Indian Tribes, or consortia of those governing bodies, that have received an AIVRS grant under section 121(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Under section 121(c)(2) of the Act, the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) makes grants to, or enters into contracts or other cooperative agreements with, entities that have experience in the operation of AIVRS projects to provide such training and TA on developing, conducting, administering, and evaluating these projects.

Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 741(c).

Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 371.

Proposed Priorities

This notice contains two proposed priorities.

Background

Section 121(c)(1) of the Act requires the Commissioner of RSA to reserve not less than 1.8 percent and not more than 2 percent of the funds set aside for the AIVRS program under section 110(c)(1) from the amount appropriated to the State VR program under section 100(b)(1) of the Act to provide training and TA to governing bodies of Indian Tribes and consortia of those governing bodies that have received an AIVRS grant, as well as their personnel.

Under section 121(a) of the Act, the Department funds 92 active AIVRS projects that provide VR services to American Indians with disabilities who reside on or near a Federal or State reservation, consistent with each individual's strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice, so that they may prepare for, and engage in, high-quality competitive integrated employment that will increase opportunities for economic self-sufficiency. In FY 2015, the Department funded one grant under section 121(c) for an AIVRTTAC to provide training and TA to the AIVRS projects.

The AIVRTTAC funded in FY 2015 has provided intensive, sustained TA; targeted, specialized TA; and universal, general TA to governing bodies of Indian Tribes that have received an AIVRS grant and to the personnel of the AIVRS projects in the following topic areas:

(a) Applicable laws and regulations governing the AIVRS program.

(b) Promising practices for providing VR services to American Indians with disabilities.

(c) Delivering VR services to American Indians with disabilities, including the determination of

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eligibility, case management, case record documentation, assessment, development of the individualized plan for employment (IPE), and placement into competitive integrated employment.

(d) Assistive technology (AT), including what AT is, how to evaluate the need for AT, use of AT, and access to AT.

(e) Implementing professional development practices to ensure effective project coordination, administration, and management.

(f) Implementing appropriate financial and grant management practices to ensure compliance with the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200) and the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR).

(g) Evaluating project performance, including data collection, data analysis, and reporting.

Also, in FY 2015, RSA used a different funding source, section 21 of the Act, to fund one grant for a Vocational Rehabilitation Training Institute for the Preparation of Personnel in American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation (the Institute). The Institute was designed to provide a structured program of VR training to personnel of the AIVRS projects to improve the delivery of VR services to American Indians with disabilities. The Institute included in its training a series of courses specifically geared toward building foundational skills that, when satisfactorily completed, led to a VR certificate awarded by the Institute. The Institute's training was intentionally different in scope and sequence than was the training and TA provided by the AIVRTTAC funded in FY 2015, which provided more concentrated short-term training in specific areas.

Together, the AIVRTTAC and the Institute comprise the totality of RSA-funded training and TA to the AIVRS projects to date.

Both projects funded in FY 2015 are now in their fifth and final year of operation, and both have proven to be successful in delivering training and TA to the AIVRS projects. For example, as of the second quarter of grant year five, the Institute provided outreach to 2,093 participants, almost seven times the outreach goal; and enrolled 226 personnel from 61 AIVRS programs in multiple offerings of thirteen different courses, exceeding their goal by more than 10 percent.

The AIVRTTAC has developed and delivered intensive TA to 23 AIVRS projects to date. Thirteen AIVRS projects have completed all intensive TA activities included in the intensive TA agreement. Ten AIVRS projects are currently working on intensive TA activities. Additionally, there are four AIVRS projects currently developing requests for intensive TA. The AIVRTTAC has developed 41 products or tools to support the provision of intensive, targeted, and universal TA, with 21 more products and tools under development.

The grantees that participated in intensive TA are showing improvements in the documentation of service records and the provision of VR services to project participants. For example, among grantees that participated in intensive TA, documentation that participants had been notified of their rights and responsibilities increased from 33 percent to 100 percent. Similarly, external partnerships increased significantly, including partnerships with schools (increased from 0 to 6) and businesses (increased from 0 to 25), as well as training events with business partners (increased from 0 to 18).

Each intensive TA plan is customized to the individual needs of the AIVRS project and targets areas of improvement based on input and requests from the project staff and areas of need identified by the pre-TA service record review. During on-site and desk monitoring of the two TA centers and of the AIVRS projects conducted over several years, RSA has observed the need to continue to assist AIVRS personnel to work more effectively with American Indians with disabilities and to fulfill their roles as VR counselors, VR support personnel, and project administrators. There are four factors that contribute to this need. First, many of the personnel employed by AIVRS projects live in rural and remote communities. While many of these individuals have relevant experience in social service fields, they have not been able to obtain formal training in rehabilitation counseling.

Second, the remote locations of many AIVRS projects not only make it difficult for local personnel to obtain further training due to distance and cost, but they also make it difficult to recruit VR counselors from other locations to work for AIVRS projects.

Third, the AIVRS program requires projects to give a preference in hiring to American Indians, with a special priority being given to American Indians with disabilities. While American Indians may be knowledgeable of American Indian cultural practices and norms, this preference in hiring requirement makes it difficult to find VR counselors who have experience with VR and who are also familiar with the Indian Tribe's particular cultural practices and norms.

Fourth, the AIVRS projects have historically had high personnel turnover rates. The need for basic training and skills development is ongoing as new personnel are hired.
Based on these factors, RSA determined that AIVRS personnel could benefit from a structured training program focused on the VR process and practices and the unique skills and knowledge necessary to improve employment outcomes for this population. For example, AIVRS personnel require a better understanding of how various disabilities affect an individual's ability to participate in competitive employment, how to interview and evaluate the eligibility of prospective AIVRS consumers respectfully and appropriately, how to develop a reasonable and achievable IPE, how to effectively manage the VR services and supports provided to the individual identified in the IPE, how to obtain and use accurate labor market information to understand the skill needs and demands of local employers, and how to develop employment opportunities to meet those demands that are at appropriate skill levels and consistent with the consumer's aspirations, as documented in the IPE. AIVRS personnel also need to understand how job training, reasonable accommodations, and assistive technology help individuals with disabilities to pursue, obtain, and retain competitive employment. In addition, project administrators would benefit from training in areas such as financial management and accountability, performance measurement, and case management.

To help determine funding priorities, section 121(c)(3) of the Act requires RSA to survey the governing bodies of Indian Tribes operating AIVRS projects to identify their training and TA needs. To do that, RSA considered the results of the needs survey each AIVRS project submitted as part of the most recent annual performance report (APR) and the results of the Tribal consultation on this competition undertaken by RSA. Analysis of APR survey results over four years showed continuing demand for almost all topics, even though the relative demand for various topics shifted somewhat from the initial survey conducted in 2015. Training is consistently requested on applicable laws, outreach to veterans, eligibility determination, and IPE development. In addition, there has recently been an increase in requests for training on Federal regulations applying to grants management, strategies for working with.


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individuals with physical and mental disabilities, budget management, case management, case record documentation, outreach to underserved populations regarding disability and institutionalized potential consumers, VR services, and AIVRS data collection and reporting.

Tribal Consultation: RSA conducted Tribal consultation on this competition in two primary ways. First, RSA conducted targeted consultation at a conference of the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR) in December 2019. The conference is for AIVRS project directors—the personnel who had been served by both the AIVRTTAC and the Institute and would be served by the new training and TA grantee. RSA conducted an open Tribal input session on December 5, 2019 and invited a small focus group of AIVRS project directors to provide input on December 3, 2019.
Second, RSA issued a request for consultation to all Tribal leaders through the Department's Office of Indian Education's listserve on December 4, 2019. This request was open for 31 days and asked for responses by January 3, 2020. A second request for consultation was sent to the Tribal leaders and AIVRS project directors of Tribes operating AIVRS projects. This request was open from December 9, 2019, through January 9, 2020.

The Tribal requests for consultation consisted of a survey of the topics and methodologies used by the current TA providers—AIVRTTAC and the Institute—as well as open-ended questions about how training and TA could be improved or changed. The results of the Tribal consultation survey and the input from the Tribal consultation focus groups showed support for continuing both the activities of the AIVRTTAC and the Institute and for continuing the specific topics addressed by each entity. There was also support for continuing the training delivery models developed by both entities.

The structure of training and TA was also discussed during the Tribal consultation. The structural issue involved deciding whether to combine the types of training and TA provided by the AIVRTTAC and the Institute into a single project. There was no consensus on whether to change the structure of the AIVRTTAC project funded under a new competition. Tribal consultation input included support for combining the two projects and for retaining them separately.

Tribal consultation input indicated that some AIVRS project personnel wanted a single AIVRS website where AIVRS related material could be retained, archived, and accessed in a single location. The Tribal consultation also included suggestions for additional training and TA needs that will be incorporated into the final priority and the cooperative agreement.

Proposed Priority 1

Background

RSA proposes for the FY 2020 competition to continue to build upon the functions and activities of both the AIVRTTAC and the Institute but combine these functions into a single grant. RSA has noted some overlap and duplication in the content of the modules developed by the Institute and the tools, webinars, and on-site TA delivered by the AIVRTTAC, as well as duplication of overhead functions such as maintaining two websites. In addition, while funding available for training and TA under section 121(c) of the Act has increased, overall funding for training and TA for the AIVRS projects has decreased, because the Act's section 21 funds that were used for the Institute in FY 2015 will not be available as they have been redirected to other priorities in FY 2020.

We believe that a single grantee will be able to work within funding limitations to reduce administrative inefficiencies and deliver effective training and TA using identified and potentially new methods and modules.

Proposed priority 1 is designed to assist AIVRS projects to implement— (1) efficient and effective project and resource management techniques to increase the numbers of, and improve the skills of, VR counselors and other service delivery personnel; and (2) innovative employment and support strategies provided by these personnel to improve employment outcomes and career advancement for individuals with disabilities. The AIVRTTAC funded under this priority would do this by—
Developing current and, to the extent possible, evidence-based training modules for use with AIVRS projects, both for use as part of VR education programs and certificate programs, and as stand-alone modules;

Providing on-site and other direct training and guidance to individual AIVRS projects and Tribal governments to implement best practices and training module content; and
Through both academic content and direct TA, providing AIVRS project managers, professionals, and paraprofessionals with the knowledge to meet the unique needs of American Indians with disabilities.

Consistent with the Secretary's priorities, proposed priority 1 is designed to implement strategies that ensure Department funds are spent in a way that increases their efficiency and cost effectiveness, including by reducing waste or achieving better outcomes.

Proposed Priority 1

American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services—Training and Technical Assistance Program

This priority would fund a five-year cooperative agreement to establish an American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Training and Technical Assistance Center (AIVRTTAC) to provide four types of training and technical assistance (TA) for the personnel of the American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AIVRS) projects awarded under section 121(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Act), to the governing bodies of Indian Tribes. The four types of training and TA are: (1) Intensive, sustained training and TA; (2) targeted, specialized training and TA; (3) universal, general training and TA; and (4) capacity-building for AIVRS project personnel through training modules that build foundational skills for the delivery of VR services to AIVRS project participants. The AIVRTTAC will develop and provide these types of training and TA for AIVRS projects in the following topic areas:

(a) Applicable laws and regulations governing the AIVRS program.

(b) Promising practices for providing VR services to American Indians with disabilities.

(c) The delivery of VR services to American Indians with disabilities, including the determination of eligibility, case management, case record documentation, assessment, development of the individualized plan for employment, and placement into competitive integrated employment.

(d) Knowledge of assistive technology (AT), including the definition of AT, how to evaluate the need for AT and what types of AT are available, use of AT, and access to AT.

(e) Implementing professional development practices to ensure effective project coordination, administration, and management.

(f) Implementing appropriate financial and grant management practices to ensure compliance with OMB's Uniform Guidance (2 CFR part 200) and the Education Department General Administrative Regulations. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/10/2020-19925/proposed-priorities-and-definitions-american-indian-vocational-rehabilitation-services-training-and and https://twitter.com/hashtag/VR100Years

Posted By: agnes levine
Wednesday, October 7th 2020 at 12:41PM
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