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Customized employment involves individualizing the employment relationship
between a job seeker or an employee and an employer in ways that meet
the needs of both. Many customized employment outcomes are supported by
blending multiple funding sources. For example, a customized employment
opportunity might blend funding to purchase assistive technology drawn
from an Individual Training Account through a One Stop Center with additional
training and ongoing supports being paid for by Vocational Rehabilitation
and from a Plan For Achieving Self Support (PASS). Community organizations
providing customized employment services will benefit greatly from tapping
into a diversified funding base. Diversifying funding improves the ability
of a service provider to represent the job goals and choices of individual
consumers responsively with employers. Diversification also presents a
number of potential challenges. This fact sheet provides strategies that
address key questions on both the challenges and opportunities involved
with diversified funding.
Question: What is Diversified Funding?
Answer: Diversified funding involves (1)
establishing a flexible funding base that includes multiple sources
of funding support and (2) assuring that support dollars can follow
and adapt to the employment goals and support needs of each individual
consumer. Diversification is accomplished in two primary ways. First,
diversification involves tapping into a full array of funding options
that are consistent with the mission, goals, and core services provided
by the Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP). Limiting funding agreements
to a primary agency such as Vocational Rehabilitation or the Home and
Community Based Medicaid Waiver restricts the CRP in terms of the population
it can serve and the services it can provide. It also makes the CRP
vulnerable to periodic funding shortages. There are multiple funding
agencies at the state and local level that support employment related
services. The CRP needs to be directly linked to this full array of
Diversification also means effectively mixing program level funding
with funds that exist outside of the core-funding stream of the community
rehabilitation program. For example, a customized employment position
might involve the ongoing assistance of an employment support person
to help negotiate the customized job with the employer and to assist
with training and developing co-worker supports once the job begins.
The community rehabilitation program might draw on its program funding
agreement for the Home and Community Based Medicaid Waiver to pay for
the job coach supports. However, for the individual to be successful
in the job, resources and/or supports might be needed for which the
CRP is not directly funded. In these situations, the funding plan for
the individual needs to be diversified beyond core program funding to
include more flexible, consumer-directed funding. To effectively support
customized employment outcomes, the CRP needs to blend and/or braid
core program funding with funds from sources such as One Stop Centers,
Social Security Work Incentives, and Small Business grants and loans.
Question: How would creating a diversified
funding base benefit a Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP)?
Question: What funding sources are currently
Answer: Community Rehabilitation Programs
(CRPs)should diversify their funding bases for a variety of reasons.
In these times of budget constraints and accountability at the federal,
state and local levels, isolated funding mechanisms have been downsized.
Many public funding agencies are placing an increased emphasis on competitive
employment outcomes. These changes in the funding environment create
a need for CRPs to diversify their funding base as a key organizational
development strategy. For example, as of early 2004, the majority of
State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies are on Order of Selection
because funding is not available to respond to the service needs of
all eligible individuals. Order of Selection requires that funding from
VR be prioritized to specified groups within the overall population
of eligible individuals. CRPs who receive their primary funding from
a state VR agency on Order of Selection could experience a significant
change in funding. It is critically important that these CRPs have a
diversified funding base to avoid budget shortfalls.
Funding for community rehabilitation programs is frequently tied to
service agreements made with a variety of funding agencies. These funding
agreements frequently define specific services that can be purchased
for eligible individuals. These services might include assessments,
job development, and/or workplace and related training and ongoing support
services. For many individuals with a disability who need a more customized
employment opportunity, these core employment services need to be supplemented
by other resources to achieve the desired employment outcome.
Answer: The majority of funding for direct
employment supports has come traditionally from state agencies that
provide supports to individuals with disabilities. Depending on the
population a CRP chooses to serve, typical funding entities and their
service priorities may include: State Mental Retardation/Developmental
Disability agencies (Wrap around services and Long term supports); State
Mental Health agencies (Individualized Placement and Supports); Vocational
Rehabilitation (Evaluation, Skills training, Job development, Vocational
services, On the job training, the initial supports within a supported
employment approach). Individual customers can also allocate personal
resources from the use of the Social Security Administration work incentive
programs, including Plans for Achieving Self Support (PASS) and Impairment
Related Work Expenses (IRWE), or from the Ticket to Work program. Finally,
organizations can consider reaching out to other state service systems
that support employment, including Welfare to Work services for individuals
receiving Temporary Aid to Needy Families (skills Training, job search
and placement) or Workforce Development Services and One Stop Career
Centers (skills training, job search and placement services).
Funding for organizational change initiatives may also be available
from foundations or other charitable organizations. EmployAbility, Inc.,
an organization participating in Training and Technical Assistance for
Providers (T-TAP), secured funding from a local foundation to support
strategic planning and visits to organizations that have implemented
organizational change to expand community employment. Local foundations
often fund strategic planning or organizational development activities,
and can also be a resource for facilitating planning efforts. On occasion,
state agencies will also support change initiatives. Organizations should
look beyond direct service funding to facilitate change.
Question: How does an organization begin diversifying
its funding base?
Question: What are the some of the issues in
diversifying funding streams?
Answer: A diversified funding base creates
opportunities for access to a wide array of funding that consistently
supports the core mission, goals, and services of an organization. Diversified
funding is most effective when a CRP has a clearly defined mission and
service plan that supports competitive employment outcomes. Program
Funding tied to achieving non-community integrated employment outcomes
will not follow the individual into a competitive job outcome. Therefore,
the first step in creating a diversified funding base is to assure that
the CRP is structured to emphasize competitive employment outcomes.
Traditional funding streams may not fully meet the customized support
needs of individuals, and the process of redirecting resources from
facility-based services to community employment may cause short-term
budgetary stresses. Organizations have to assure that new funding options
contribute productively to focus on competitive employment outcomes.
There are a variety of steps a CRP can use in diversifying its funding
base. In negotiating with representatives of new funding options or
in potentially seeking to redirect funding from an existing resource
to achieving competitive employment outcomes, it is most helpful if
information on current employment outcomes is readily available. Here
are some suggestions on how a CRP can effectively position itself to
negotiate with potential funding sources.
On an organizational level:
Collect data on your employment outcomes
– It is time to invest in the collection of data about the services
you offer. The system that you create needs to include statistical
data about your outcomes as well as satisfaction data from all the
stakeholders involved. Find out what the important outcomes are for
all your stakeholders and develop data collection/tracking systems
that will generate factual information about your successes in those
Use the data to sell your service to new stakeholders
– How do you want to tell your story? What should be the platform
that is used to market your services to a diverse pool of stakeholders?
Whatever system you create it has to be one that is easily configured
and updated regularly with accurate information. There will be nothing
worse than using old, inaccurate data to sell your service.
Collect data on your processes –
Know your cost of doing business, and become sophisticated in financial
Use the data to evaluate and improve your service
– Develop an internal process for a self-evaluation of your
data. Create a mechanism to adjust aspects of your service operation
based on the results of your data. Disseminate reports that show your
results and changes your agency is making to strengthen your operation.
On an individual level:
Discuss support needs and resource options
early in developing a comprehensive person-centered employment plan
- Funding should be addressed in the context of specific career goals
and support needs, and developing the necessary resources should be
a partnership between the provider and the job seeker. Use of PASS
resources, for example, requires a personal commitment from the job
seeker. Similarly there may be a wide range of solutions to barriers
like transportation including sharing the costs across funding agencies
and the individual, identifying low or no-cost neighbor or family
supports, or cost-sharing purchase of a car with a family member using
a personal loan.
Question: What are examples of customized employment
outcomes that represent use of a diversified funding base?
Answer: Most funding sources come with
specific guidelines or expectations about the targeted populations,
required outcomes, and in some cases, the level of effort the funder
is willing to support. Some funding streams may not be available as
a primary source to support all individuals being served by a CRP.
Organizations can also blend or braid various funding streams as a strategy
and supplement core funding with resources such as the Ticket to Work
or individual resources established under a PASS or IRWE.
The transition to emphasizing competitive employment outcomes often
requires organizations to shift to new funding models that are more
outcome or task driven. First, when selecting new funding sources, be
sure that the funding mechanism does not have an inadvertent negative
affect on your ability to achieve your core mission and values. Second,
your organization may need to build the capacity to monitor your budget’s
cost centers in a more detailed way than you have before. Knowing the
real average cost per job placement, for example, is critical when working
under an outcome reimbursement model.
Answer: A young woman expresses an interest
in working with children and computers. A customized job is negotiated
with a day care center for this individual where she sets up a computer
lab and provides computer training for the pre-school children at the
Center. The daycare center does not have the means to purchase the equipment
for the computer lab. The necessary computer equipment is purchased
through an Individual Training Account at the local One Stop Center.
Funding through the Home and Community Medicaid Waiver assists with
training and ongoing support needs. The young woman’s ownership
of the computer equipment brings a valued resource to the employer.
The blending of support funds helps her realize her employment goal
and establishes her on a career path.
A young man expresses an interest in cars and car washing. A customized
employment arrangement is negotiated with a new car wash business in
his community. The business would benefit from a piece of equipment
that cleans car carpets thoroughly. The young man uses his Individual
Training Account to purchase the needed carpet cleaning equipment and
brings this resource to his job duties with his employer. Funding from
Vocational Rehabilitation and the local Mental Retardation agency are
blended together for his training and support needs.
Both of these examples are actual customized employment situations.
Creating a diversified funding base is one component of an overall
organizational development strategy for programs seeking to provide
effective customized employment services. There are additional resources
on funding and other key organizational development strategies available
online at the T-TAP website: http://www.t-tap.org
Information for this FAQ sheet came from T-TAP: Training and Technical
Assistance for Providers. Contributors for this issue include John Butterworth,
T-TAP Director of Technical Assistance; Claire Ghiloni, MA Department
of Transitional Assistance; Grant Revell, T-TAP Director of Training;
and Nancy Brooks-Lane, T-TAP CRP Leadership Network. For additional
information, you may contact ODEP at (202) 693-7880 or T-TAP - Dr. Katherine
Inge, Project Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
or (804) 828-5956. For more information on T-TAP, please visit http://www.t-tap.org.