Blending and Braiding: A Scam to Bypass WIOA Regulations

The State of Michigan is desperate to find a way to continue funding sheltered workshops despite new federal regulations.

In partnership with Michigan’s association of sheltered workshops (MARO), the Michigan Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), and the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council have submitted a detailed – and shocking – proposal to the Governor’s Office (PDF).

The authors of this document provided a chart demonstrating how the State can maintain the illusion of compliance while continuing the pipeline of Michiganders with disabilities to subminimum wage “jobs”. This graphic demonstrates how the state can move individuals with disabilities from agency to agency for 90 days, collecting every fee they can – with no identified outcome other than a closed case and “ongoing supports provided by Medicaid”. Translation: they intend to continue misusing Medicaid dollars to fund sheltered workshops, and to co-mingle those dollars with vocation rehabilitation funds, which expressly cannot be used to fund sheltered workshops.

Image: Six Boxes. Each box has an arrow leading to the next box: - Box 1: Person-Centered Plan indicates an Employment Goal (Medicaid) - Box 2: Refer to VR Services (MRS/BSBP) for an Eligibility Determination (Vocational Rehabilitation fund/VR funds) - Box 3: If Eligible for VR services develop Plan for Employment & Support Services (VR funds) - Box 4: Refer to a community organization (CRO/CIL) for skill development, job placement, etc. (Medicaid or VR funds) - Box 5: Individual obtains employment-Support such as job coaching may be needed [VR (90-days) or Medicaid funds] - Box 6: After 90-days VR may close the case Ongoing supports provided by Medicaid

The Medicaid funds in question are to be used only to provide skill building assistance in the community according to the Michigan Medicaid Provider Manual. WIOA expressly forbids the use of any vocational rehabilitation funds to Ability One Contractors and non-integrated entities.

The proposal outlines how the state can “blend and braid” funding streams so that it can continue to collect federal dollars while engaging in activities that are not allowable with those funds. The money gets passed from one organization to the next, until no one can understand its original intent or requirements.

  • Blending is a strategy to obscure the source of funding that has specific requirements. Money is transferred from the state to private non-profits so that it can no longer be tracked by the public. Blending will provide the cover Michigan Rehabilitation Services needs to mislead federal regulators.

The Code of Federal Regulations states:

“For Federal awards of similar purpose activity or instances of approved blended funding, a non-Federal entity may submit performance plans that incorporate funds from multiple Federal awards and account for their combined use based on performance-oriented metrics, provided that such plans are approved in advance by all involved Federal awarding agencies. In these instances, the non-Federal entity must submit a request for waiver of the requirements based on documentation that describes the method of charging costs, relates the charging of costs to the specific activity that is applicable to all fund sources, and is based on quantifiable measures of the activity in relation to time charged.”

  • Braiding is a strategy in which separate funding streams are brought together to pay for more than one funding stream can support, then pulled back apart to report to funders on how the money was spent. Braiding requires strict financial and programmatic oversight to ensure that state and federal tax dollars are spent only on allowable activities. Braiding requires a grantee to act in good faith – with transparency and honesty. It is not to be used to bypass or obscure federal regulations.

Two years ago, a formal partnership between Michigan’s Centers for Independent Living and sheltered workshops was developed behind closed doors by Sara Grivetti, Todd Culver (MARO), and Suzanne Howell (State of Michigan). These parties are so closely connected to sheltered workshops that they are completely flummoxed by the new WIOA Regulations because they believe – whole-heartedly – in sheltered work and their role supporting it.

The intent of Section 511 of WIOA is to limit the use of subminimum wage employment.

Graphic: Don’t be fooled! Community Rehabilitation Organization Equals Subminimum Wage EmployerInstead of a good faith effort to follow the law, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Michigan Centers for Independent Living (Disability Network), the Michigan SILC, sheltered workshops, and the Governor’s Office are doing everything they can to maintain the status quo.

Blending and braiding employment and Medicaid funds does nothing to benefit Michiganders with disabilities. The financial beneficiaries of this absurd proposal are sheltered workshops and their partners.

One major question remains unanswered: why have sheltered workshops and their partners been given control over implementing Employment First? It’s a huge conflict of interest. Employment First is not being carried out with the transparency necessary to blend and braid funds legally and zero consumer input is being solicited or considered.

Notes:

  1. Community Rehabilitation Organization (CRO) is a code word for sheltered workshops.
  2. This proposal references “CRO/CILs”. There is no such thing as a CRO/CIL. Centers for Independent Living are not sheltered workshops. CILs and sheltered workshops are radically different organizations. Centers for Independent Living are taxpayer-funded organizations required by law to be led by local disability communities. Real CILs do not support sheltered work or any other forms of disability discrimination or financial exploitation.
  3. Sara Grivetti should disclose conflicts of interest before requesting funds on behalf of the public that benefit her personally and professionally. It is not appropriate for Ms. Grivetti to use her position on the SILC to direct funds to her organization. This has been an ongoing problem for several years.

See also: How Michigan CILs Became Service Providers Chasing Money and Working for Our Oppressors

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Harm and the Well-Intended Ableist

By Darma Canter

While we listened to 3 of Disability Network West Michigan – Newaygo staff members talk about their work, I heard some things that were interesting and very encouraging about supporting disability rights in court and independent living. We just got the highlights but I’m open to acknowledging good work.

Disability Network West Michigan Open Meeting Notice for the May 23 Board Meeting says "public input welcome"As the Board and audience were mingling, DNWM staff member Ada Linderman approached me and said, “You’re doing so much harm.” She exhaled and continued, “You’re not the disability community.”

I tried to ease into a conversation but she was moving quickly away. I guess Ada and I disagree about what is more harmful to the disability community: consumers speaking for ourselves and our disabled peers, or non-disabled program professionals (with good intentions) assuming they know what people with disabilities need and taking public dollars to give it to them with or without their consent.  Continue reading

Consumer Control Principles in Independent Living

Summary

Consumer control in independent living centers means having a governing body comprised of at least 51 percent of its membership with people with disabilities. It means having people with disabilities in key management roles. It means having direct service staff with disabilities who work with consumers to define their own needs, on their own terms, and with their own solutions. It means having people with disabilities in support and clerical staff positions. It means involving volunteers with disabilities in the center’s daily operations. It means that stakeholders in the process — people with disabilities — play significant roles in deciding the issues and methods for advocacy efforts.

The principle of consumer control recognizes that people with disabilities should control their own destiny. It ensures their full control over the direction, composition, and operation of the organization that serves them. The principle of consumer control is translated into organizational policies by the board of directors and operationalized into practice by the management and staff of the center. This translation of consumer control principles into consistent, effective organizational practices results in the exercise of power by consumers over the center and its services, and contributes to its influence in the community it serves.

The practical applications of the consumer control principle must be flexible if services and advocacy efforts are to represent and respond to the varying interests and diversity among consumers in the communities served by the ILC. Across the country, independent living centers reflect wide diversity in practice while adhering to the principle of consumer control.  Continue reading

Illegal Actions Taken by the Disability Network West Michigan Board of Directors (In 2015 Alone)

The six remaining members of the Disability Network West Michigan (Muskegon CIL) Board of Directors have violated their fiduciary duties, their state contract, and state and federal law in the following ways:

  • Refusal to provide 2014 990 (IRS Form for non-profits)
  • Refusal to provide original application for tax exempt status
  • Refusal to provide accurate and honest list of Board members
  • Refusal to comply with Michigan’s Open Meetings Act (Sunshine Law)
  • Refusal to acknowledge obligation under FIOA (despite 98% public funding)

Doctor LOL Cat Says I'm Afraid Its Ableism and Advocacy Is the Only CureWillful misconduct is any action undertaken by a non-profit’s Board after it has been informed that it is operating outside its own bylaws. Disability Network West Michigan:

  • Is operating with less than the required number of Board members (6/9)
  • Does not have the required number of people with significant disabilities on their Board (3/9)
  • Does not have a Board that is cross-disability or community-based, as required by the Rehabilitation Act
  • Does not properly train staff and Board members in Independent Living
  • Does not hold Board meetings that are “generally open to the public” as required by their state contract

Disability Network West Michigan cannot legally sign contracts while in violation of its own bylaws, nor is willful misconduct covered by standard Directors & Officers Liability Insurance.

We ask that supporters of disability rights in Muskegon withhold support to this organization until the Board sees fit to follow the law, reengages the disability community, and commits to building a real Center for Independent Living in Muskegon.  Continue reading

Regarding the Ideology of Consumer-Control: A Primer for Disability Network West Michigan Board and Staff

Disability Network West Michigan:

Disability Network West Michigan: Follow the Law! CIL = 51% / Consumer Control Now / Nothing About Us Without Us / Disability Rights in MKG

Please allow me to assist you with understanding “significant disability” as a term used in the Rehabilitation Act. What distinguishes eligibility in Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living from just a medical diagnosis is the impact of the condition. Determination has nothing to do with a medical diagnosis. Diagnosis is irrelevant because it provides no information about the way a particular health condition affects the individual’s independence in self-care, education / employment, or access to the benefits of society.  Continue reading

Must Watch: Michigan’s Once Proud and Powerful Independent Living Movement

This video contains powerful footage of The EVENT, a Congress of People with Disabilities in Michigan in 1991. This video shows clearly that Michigan’s Independent Living Movement was once a mighty force to be reckoned with.

Independent Living was created by and led by people with significant disabilities. Look at the disabilities represented in the crowd and on the stage. You won’t have any trouble determining who they are and who they advocate for. This is a picture of the cross-disability rights movement based on a shared experience. As Marcia Moers says, “A mighty sea of faces marching with one thunderous voice”.

And after you watch the video, ask yourself who speaks for people with disabilities today? Unfortunately, all too often in Michigan, it’s non-disabled “professionals” with no connection to the passion that fuels our Movement, and the Muskegon disability community is suffering for it. Twenty four years after The EVENT, our Center for Independent Living is wildly out of compliance with the Rehabilitation Act and we have witnessed absolutely no change in employment, housing, or meaningful independence and autonomy for individuals with significant disabilities.

We call on Disability Network West Michigan to reengage with the disability community and implement consumer control – the foundation of Independent Living philosophy – at all levels of the organization!

An Open Letter to Disability Network West Michigan Board of Directors

On January 29, 2015, advocates received a letter from Disability Network West Michigan’s Board President and Executive Director via registered mail. You can read the letter in its entirety below. This is my response – presented publicly, since private communication between advocates and Board members has now been prohibited at the President’s request.

In Response to Your “Respectful Request” That We Be Silent

Disability Network West Michigan Board of Directors,

It’s not ok for you to treat people this way. 

Since January 1, 2015, Disability Network West Michigan has: driven the only disability rights advocate from your Board; held a secret Board meeting while advocates waited at the location you appointed and announced; implemented a moratorium on communication between advocates, Board, and staff; and sent a registered letter ham-fistedly attempting to intimidate the very community you are responsible to serve.

I’m not ok with any of this, and I will not be silent.  Continue reading