[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 123 (Friday, June 26, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 36736-36743]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-15754]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

34 CFR Chapter III

[Docket ID ED-2015-OSERS-0070]


Proposed Priority and Definitions--Rehabilitation Training: 
Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center-Targeted 
Communities

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

ACTION: Proposed priority and definitions.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

[CFDA Number: 84.264F.]

SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) proposes a priority and definitions to 
fund a cooperative agreement to develop and support a Vocational 
Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Targeted Communities 
(VRTAC-TC). We take this action to focus Federal financial assistance 
on an identified national need. We intend the VRTAC-TC to improve the 
capacity of State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and their 
partners to increase participation levels for individuals with 
disabilities from low-income communities and to equip these individuals 
with the skills and competencies needed to obtain high-quality 
competitive integrated employment.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before July 27, 2015.

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 ``Are you new to the site?''
     Postal Mail, Commercial Delivery, or Hand Delivery: If you 
mail or deliver your comments about these proposed regulations, address 
them to Sandy DeRobertis, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland 
Avenue SW., Room 5094, Potomac Center Plaza (PCP), 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: Sandy DeRobertis. Telephone: (202) 
245-6769 or by email: [email protected].
    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 
this notice. To ensure that your comments have maximum effect in 
developing the notice of final priority and definitions, we urge you to 
identify clearly the specific section of the proposed priority or 
definition that each comment addresses.
    We invite you to assist us in complying with the specific 
requirements of Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 and their overall 
requirement of reducing regulatory burden that might result from this 
proposed priority and these proposed definitions. Please let us know of 
any further 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 this notice in Room 5094, 550 12th Street SW., PCP, 
Washington, DC 20202-2800, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 
p.m., Washington, DC 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 this notice. 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: Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as 
amended

[[Page 36737]]

by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (the Rehabilitation 
Act), the Rehabilitation Services Administration makes grants to States 
and public or nonprofit agencies and organizations (including 
institutions of higher education) to support projects that provide 
training and technical assistance (TA) services designed to increase 
the numbers of, and improve the skills of, qualified personnel 
(especially rehabilitation counselors) who are trained to: (1) Provide 
vocational, medical, social, and psychological rehabilitation services 
to individuals with disabilities; (2) assist individuals with 
communication and related disorders; and (3) provide other services 
authorized under the Rehabilitation Act.

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 772(a)(1).

    Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR part 385.

Proposed Priority

    This notice contains one proposed priority.
    Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Targeted 
Communities.

Background

    State VR agencies are authorized to operate statewide 
comprehensive, coordinated, effective, efficient, and accountable VR 
programs. Each program is an integral part of a statewide workforce 
development system and is designed to assess, plan, develop, and 
provide VR services for individuals with disabilities, consistent with 
their unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, 
capabilities, interests, and informed choice, so that they may prepare 
for and engage in competitive integrated employment and achieve 
economic self-sufficiency.
    Poverty and disability, considered separately, can, and often do, 
compound the challenges that workforce development programs and VR 
programs need to address when offering employment and training services 
(DeNavas-Walt and Proctor, 2014). For example, 2012-2013 data reported 
by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicate that 
only 62 percent of students with disabilities and 73 percent of low-
income students graduate from high school, as opposed to 81 percent of 
students overall. Indeed, regardless of age, individuals who are 
economically disadvantaged or disabled lag behind their peers, on 
average, on almost every academic and professional measure, and 
individuals who are both economically disadvantaged and disabled tend 
to lag further behind.
    Moreover, the barriers to employment faced by individuals who are 
both economically disadvantaged and disabled are compounded when they 
reside in communities that have high crime rates, low-performing 
schools, insufficient access to public transportation, few employers, 
and a paucity of social service programs. Accordingly, State VR 
agencies have had limited success when serving economically 
disadvantaged individuals with disabilities in these communities.
    Research suggests that the substandard participation rates and 
types of employment outcomes achieved through the VR system by 
economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities may be shaped 
more by social and economic circumstances than by their cognitive, 
physical, or communication limitations or by their limited occupational 
experience, skills, and training. In general, these studies point out 
that as economic conditions improve and as unemployment levels decline, 
the demand for disability payments and VR services decreases (Fremstad, 
2009; RSA, 2015).
    Economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities tend to 
have greater VR needs and fewer resources than more financially secure 
individuals with disabilities. Further, individuals with disabilities 
are much more likely to experience material hardships--such as food 
insecurity, inability to pay rent, mortgage, and utilities, or 
inability to afford needed medical care--than individuals without 
disabilities at the same income levels (Fremstad, 2009). Likewise, 
individuals with disabilities have greater VR needs because of the all-
too-often debilitating impact upon their workforce development skills 
resulting from longstanding inferior access to quality schools and 
community support systems. Accordingly, in low-income communities there 
tends to be a heightened need for comprehensive wrap-around VR services 
for individuals with disabilities, including basic education, remedial 
learning, and literacy services.
    The VRTAC-TC would seek both to address the persistent opportunity 
gaps that exist, regardless of race, between poor neighborhoods and 
middle class and wealthier communities and to eliminate barriers that 
too often prevent individuals with disabilities from low-income 
communities from fully accessing and benefitting from VR services. To 
help remedy the support gaps that may exist, the VRTAC-TC would promote 
greater availability of an array of comprehensive VR services, 
including pre-employment transition services, transition services, and 
customized VR services.
    The VRTAC-TC would work from the assumption that VR alone cannot 
effectively and efficiently address the persistent, pervasive, multi-
layered economic and disability-related barriers to employment specific 
to economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities who live in 
targeted communities. This priority, therefore, is designed to provide 
State VR agencies and their partners with the skills and competencies 
needed to effectively and efficiently address these barriers and help 
these individuals achieve competitive integrated employment.
    The VRTAC-TC would provide intensive technical assistance to State 
VR agencies and their partners that is designed to maximize community 
support services in targeted communities, complement VR services, and 
promote competitive integrated employment consistent with informed 
choice for economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities.
    These targeted communities, serving as intensive field-based 
intervention sites, would also serve as the basis for the VRTAC-TC, 
along with an online VR community of practice, to develop effective 
practices for serving VR consumers throughout the Nation who are both 
disabled and economically disadvantaged.

References

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen and Proctor, Bernadette D., ``Income and 
Poverty in the United States: 2013'' (Washington: Bureau of the 
Census, 2014), available at www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-249.pdf.
Fremstad, Shawn, ``Half in Ten: Why Taking Disability into Account 
is Essential to Reducing Income Poverty and Expanding Economic 
Inclusion'' (Washington: Center for Economic and Policy Research, 
2009), available at www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/half-in-ten/.
National Center for Education Statistics: ``2012-2013 Graduation 
Rates,'' available at www.nces.ed.gov/.
Rehabilitation Services Administration (2015). RSA-911 Case Service 
Report for FY 2013 (non-published).

Proposed Priority

    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services proposes to fund a cooperative agreement to establish a 
Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Targeted 
Communities (VRTAC-TC) to provide technical assistance (TA) and 
training to upgrade

[[Page 36738]]

and increase the competency, skills, and knowledge of vocational 
rehabilitation (VR) counselors and other professionals to assist 
economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities (as defined in 
this notice) to achieve competitive integrated employment outcomes.
    The VRTAC-TC will facilitate linkages for the State VR agencies 
through substantial outreach to partner agencies within targeted 
communities (as defined in this notice) to increase the resources and 
key partnerships needed to address the daily living stressors that 
often result in unsuccessful VR case closures, including childcare 
needs, homelessness, hunger, safety concerns, interpersonal issues, and 
lack of transportation, basic or remedial education services, and 
literacy services.

TA and Training Deliverables

    The VRTAC-TC must, at a minimum, develop and provide training, TA, 
and opportunities for ongoing discussion in each of the following areas 
to rehabilitation professionals and staff from both (1) the State VR 
agencies and partner agencies who are serving the targeted communities, 
and (2) diverse service providers throughout the Nation, including 
State VR agency staff, who work with high-leverage groups with national 
applicability (as defined in this notice) in other economically 
disadvantaged communities similar to the targeted communities that are 
the focus of this priority:
    (a) Developing and maintaining formal and informal partnerships and 
relationships with relevant stakeholders (including, but not limited 
to, State and local social service and community development agencies, 
correctional facilities, community rehabilitation programs (CRPs), 
school systems, and employers) for the following coordinated 
activities:
    (1) Increasing referrals to the State VR system for economically 
disadvantaged individuals with disabilities from at least two high-
leverage groups with national applicability residing in each of the 
targeted communities; and
    (2) Facilitating the provision of support services by stakeholders 
to VR consumers and applicants from at least two high-leverage groups 
with national applicability residing in each of the targeted 
communities;
    (b) Developing and implementing outreach policies and procedures 
based on evidence-based and promising practices that ensure that 
consumers with disabilities from each of the targeted communities are 
located, identified, and evaluated for services; and
    (c) Developing and implementing collaborative and coordinated 
service strategies designed to increase the number of consumers with 
disabilities from targeted communities who are served by the State VR 
agencies, receive support services from other stakeholders, and obtain, 
maintain, regain, or advance in competitive integrated employment.

Project Activities

    To meet the requirements of this priority, the VRTAC-TC must, at a 
minimum, conduct the following activities:

Knowledge Development Activities

    (a) Within the first year, survey each of the 80 State VR agencies 
regarding the action steps, including emerging, promising, and 
evidence-based practices utilized, that the VR agencies have previously 
used to address substandard participation levels and performance 
outcomes achieved by residents of targeted communities within their 
States;
    (b) Within the first year, conduct a literature review of emerging, 
promising, and evidence-based practices relevant to the work of the 
VRTAC-TC. The review should include, at a minimum, research on place-
based interventions and the particular needs of economically 
disadvantaged individuals with disabilities;
    (c) By the end of the first year, post on its Web site the results 
of its survey and literature review; and
    (d) Categorize, analyze, and provide an opportunity for interactive 
commentary by VR professionals about all information posted on its Web 
site in order to identify the workforce participation challenges and 
resources that underserved individuals with disabilities (as defined in 
this notice) from economically disadvantaged communities tend to have 
in common and to identify examples of the types of VR services that 
have been used to address their employment and training needs. This 
interactive process should facilitate both evaluating and adjusting the 
ongoing and planned interventions within the targeted communities and 
the development of effective practices for the nationwide VR community.

Targeted Community Selection and Development

    (a) In the first year, survey each of the 80 State VR agencies to 
identify two or more groups of underserved individuals with 
disabilities from one or more targeted communities in each of their 
respective States. All identified targeted communities in each State 
must meet the eligibility requirements for designation as an 
Empowerment Zone under either 24 CFR 598.100 or 7 CFR 25.100;
    (b) Develop intensive TA (as defined in this notice) proposals for 
at least 20 targeted communities to present to the Rehabilitation 
Services Administration (RSA). The proposals must:
    (1) Include communities that reflect national diversity with 
respect to State, region, and culture. Communities must be situated in 
at least 12 States and territories located within no fewer than eight 
of the nine Census Divisions (State groupings) defined by the U.S. 
Census Bureau (For more information on Census Divisions, see 
www.census.gov/geo/reference/gtc/gtc_census_divreg.html). No more than 
two targeted communities may be located within any one State or 
territory, and no more than four may be located within any one Census 
Division; and
    (2) Include the following information for each targeted community 
recommended:
    (A) A map that shows the targeted community's boundaries and 
relevant demographic characteristics, including poverty concentration;
    (B) Documentation that within the targeted community's boundaries:
    (i) The median household income is below 200 percent of the Federal 
poverty level; and
    (ii) The rate of unemployment is at or above the national annual 
average rate;
    (C) A performance chart of State VR agency data that documents 
substandard participation levels and performance outcomes achieved by 
VR consumers and applicants from high-leverage groups with national 
applicability from the targeted communities in comparison to the 
State's overall performance that includes the following for all 
relevant groups:
    (i) The number of applicants and percentage of the overall 
population;
    (ii) The number and percentage of individuals determined eligible;
    (iii) The number and percentage of individuals receiving VR 
services pursuant to an individualized plan for employment;
    (iv) The number and percentage of individuals whose service records 
were closed without employment; and
    (v) The number and percentage of individuals whose service records 
were closed after achieving employment;
    (D) A brief (one or two pages) overview by the State VR agency 
addressing the following for high-leverage groups with national 
applicability from the targeted communities:

[[Page 36739]]

    (i) The factors that the agency believes have contributed to the 
substandard performance outlined in the chart; and
    (ii) Action steps that the VR agency has previously taken to 
address these performance gaps;
    (E) A two- or three-page proposed intensive TA work plan by the 
VRTAC-TC that addresses:
    (i) The performance gaps summarized in the chart required by 
paragraph (b)(2)(C) of this section;
    (ii) The barriers to employment described in the State VR agency's 
overview statement required by paragraph (b)(2)(D) of this section;
    (iii) The strategies being proposed to remediate the identified 
barriers in the targeted community;
    (iv) The potential replicability of the strategies in the work plan 
for targeted communities in other parts of the State; and
    (v) The potential to replicate the strategies in the work plan for 
targeted communities in other States; and
    (F) Letters of support from the State VR agency and partners in the 
community (e.g., employers, secondary and post-secondary educational 
institutions, and community leaders) stating their intent to work 
cooperatively with the VRTAC-TC should the targeted community be chosen 
as a recipient of intensive TA.

Targeted Community Timeline

    (a) By the end of the first year, provide RSA with, at minimum, 10 
proposals (as described in paragraph (b) of the ``Targeted Community 
Selection and Development'' section of this priority) from which RSA 
will select six to receive intensive TA from the VRTAC-TC;
    (b) By no later than the third quarter of the second year provide 
RSA with, at minimum, 10 proposals (as described in paragraph (b) of 
the ``Targeted Community Selection and Development'' section of this 
priority) in addition to the proposals described in paragraph (a) of 
this section, from which RSA will select six to receive intensive TA 
from the VRTAC-TC;
    (c) By no later than the first quarter of the second year, begin 
providing intensive TA to VR staff, CRPs, employers, education and 
training entities, and community leaders, as appropriate, in at least 
three of the targeted communities approved by RSA in the first year;
    (d) By no later than the third quarter of the second year, be 
providing intensive TA to VR staff, CRPs, employers, education and 
training entities, and community leaders, as appropriate, in all 
targeted communities approved by RSA in the first year;
    (e) By no later than the first quarter of the third year, begin 
providing intensive TA to VR staff, CRPs, employers, education and 
training entities, and community leaders, as appropriate, in at least 
three of the targeted communities approved by RSA in the second year; 
and
    (f) By no later than the third quarter of the third year, be 
providing intensive TA to VR staff, CRPs, employers, education and 
training entities, and community leaders, as appropriate, to all 
targeted communities approved by RSA in the second year.

Technical Assistance Activities

    (a) At a minimum, provide intensive TA that is aligned with the 
proposals described in paragraph (b) of the Targeted Community 
Selection and Development section of this priority to the VR agency 
within each of the targeted communities on the following topic areas, 
as appropriate:
    (1) Using labor market data and occupational information to provide 
individuals with disabilities from high-leverage groups with national 
applicability who reside in targeted communities with information about 
job demand, skills matching, supports, education, training, and career 
options;
    (2) Providing disability-related consultation and services to 
employers about competitive integrated employment of economically 
disadvantaged individuals with disabilities from high-leverage groups 
with national applicability;
    (3) Building and maintaining relationships in targeted communities 
with industry leaders, employer associations, and prospective employers 
of economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities from high-
leverage groups with national applicability;
    (4) Building and maintaining relationships with secondary and post-
secondary institutions and CRPs that serve to support transition 
activities and leverage programs and providers of basic education, 
remedial learning, and literacy services to the targeted communities 
and are committed to providing individualized wrap-around VR services 
that are attuned to the remedial and ongoing support services needed by 
economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities;
    (5) Building and maintaining alliances with schools, community 
organizations, and business leaders with a heightened understanding of 
the acculturation and assimilation issues within the targeted 
communities regarding culture, religion, language, dialect, and 
socioeconomic status that might be impeding full participation of the 
economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities from high-
leverage groups with national applicability; and
    (6) Developing services for providers of customized training and 
other types of training that are directly responsive to employer needs 
and hiring requirements for economically disadvantaged individuals with 
disabilities from high-leverage groups with national applicability;
    (b) By the end of the first year, post on its Web site State agency 
overview statements specific to high-leverage groups with national 
applicability along with related VR research studies identified by the 
VRTAC-TC;
    (c) Establish no fewer than two communities of practice with the 
following areas of focus:
    (1) One community of practice should be designed to specifically 
support State VR agency and related agency staff and management serving 
targeted communities; and
    (2) One community of practice should be designed to be open to all 
staff and management serving economically disadvantaged communities 
nationwide and to address the employment needs of individuals with 
disabilities in those communities;
    (d) Ensure that the communities of practice described in paragraph 
(c) of this section focus on partnerships across service systems 
designed to develop, implement, adjust, support, and evaluate VR 
processes and strategies for promoting competitive integrated 
employment for high-leverage groups with national applicability from 
targeted communities; and
    (e) Develop and make available to State VR agencies and their 
associated rehabilitation professionals and service providers a range 
of targeted TA and general TA products and services designed to 
increase VR participation levels and outcomes achieved by individuals 
with disabilities from targeted communities. This TA must include, at a 
minimum, the following activities:
    (1) Developing and maintaining a state-of-the-art information 
technology (IT) platform sufficient to support Webinars, 
teleconferences, video conferences, and other virtual methods of 
dissemination of information and TA; and Note: All products produced by 
the VRTAC-TC must meet government and industry-recognized standards for 
accessibility, including section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. In 
meeting these requirements, the VRTAC-TC may either develop a new 
platform or

[[Page 36740]]

system, or modify existing platforms or systems, so long as the 
requirements of the priority are met.
    (2) Ensuring that all TA products are sent to the National Center 
for Rehabilitation Training Materials, including course curricula, 
audiovisual materials, Webinars, and examples of emerging and best 
practices related to this priority;
    (f) During the fourth quarter of both the second year and the 
fourth year, develop and implement year-end national State VR agency 
forums dedicated to discussing the progress and lessons learned from 
the targeted communities; and
    (g) During the fourth quarter of the fifth year, present a national 
results meeting to State VR agencies to review the data collected, best 
practices developed, and lessons learned from the intensive 
intervention sites served within the 12 targeted communities, as well 
as the communities of practice described in paragraph (c) of this 
section.

Coordination Activities

    (a) Facilitate communication and coordination on an ongoing basis 
with other Federal agencies, State agencies, and local government 
workforce development partners, as well as private and nonprofit social 
service agencies and other VR TA centers funded by RSA, in order to:
    (1) Maximize existing individual and community assets to 
effectively address socioeconomic issues that impact employment and 
overall well-being;
    (2) Create a mechanism for partner organizations and community 
members to participate in the VR program planning process, including 
brainstorming and vetting new ideas and approaches to VR service 
provision;
    (3) Create an active online community of practice that addresses 
the needs of participants;
    (4) Organize the online community of practice to address both 
general barriers to employment faced by individuals with disabilities 
from targeted communities, and barriers to employment faced by 
individuals with disabilities from diverse high-leverage groups with 
national applicability including, but not limited to, adjudicated 
adults and youth, persons with multiple disabilities, and high school 
dropouts; and
    (5) Provide greater access for targeted communities to culturally 
relevant VR services provided by State VR agency personnel with the 
support of VRTAC-TC staff and community partners;
    (b) Communicate and coordinate, on an ongoing basis, with the 
communities of practice described in paragraph (c) of the Technical 
Assistance Activities section of this notice; and
    (c) Maintain ongoing communications with the RSA project officer.

Application Requirements

    To be funded under this priority, applicants must meet the 
following application requirements. RSA encourages innovative 
approaches to meet these requirements, which are:
    (a) Demonstrate, in the narrative section of the application, under 
``Significance of the Project,'' how the proposed project will--
    (1) Recruit State VR agencies to identify targeted communities with 
intensive TA needs to take part in the services supported by this 
priority, including a detailed description of the primary factors and 
processes proposed to facilitate the identification and selection of 
these communities;
    (2) Address State VR agencies' capacity to meet the employment and 
training needs of individuals with disabilities from high-leverage 
groups with national applicability from targeted communities. To meet 
this requirement, the applicant must:
    (i) Demonstrate knowledge of emerging and best practices in 
conducting outreach and providing VR services to applicants and 
consumers from economically disadvantaged communities; and
    (ii) Demonstrate knowledge of emerging and best practices in 
conducting outreach and providing VR services to high-leverage groups 
with national applicability that are frequently reported as underserved 
or achieving substandard employment outcomes in statewide comprehensive 
needs assessments, VR-related research studies, or monitoring reports 
prepared by RSA pursuant to periodic onsite monitoring visits; and
    (3) Result in increases both in the number of individuals with 
disabilities from high-leverage groups with national applicability 
receiving services from State VR agencies within targeted communities 
and the number and quality of employment outcomes in competitive 
integrated employment achieved by these individuals;
    (b) Demonstrate, in the narrative section of the application, under 
``Quality of Project Services,'' how the proposed project will--
    (1) Achieve its goals, objectives, and intended outcomes. To meet 
this requirement, the applicant must provide--
    (i) Measurable intended project outcomes;
    (ii) A plan for how the proposed project will achieve its intended 
outcomes; and
    (iii) A plan for communicating and coordinating with key staff in 
State VR agencies, State and local partner programs, RSA partners such 
as the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation 
(CSAVR) and the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind 
(NCSAB), and other TA Centers and relevant programs within the 
Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce;
    (2) Use a conceptual framework to develop project plans and 
activities, describing any underlying concepts, assumptions, 
expectations, beliefs, or theories, as well as the presumed 
relationships or linkages among these variables, and any empirical 
support for this framework;
    (3) Be based on current research and make use of evidence-based and 
promising practices;
    (4) Develop products and provide services that are of high quality 
and sufficient intensity and duration to achieve the intended outcomes 
of the proposed project;
    (5) Develop products and implement services to maximize the 
project's efficiency. To address this requirement, the applicant must 
describe--
    (i) How the proposed project will use technology to achieve the 
intended project outcomes; and
    (ii) With whom the proposed project will collaborate and the 
intended outcomes of this collaboration;
    (c) Demonstrate, in the narrative section of the application under 
``Quality of the Evaluation Plan,'' how the proposed project will--
    (1) Measure and track the effectiveness of the TA provided. To meet 
this requirement, the applicant must describe its proposed approach 
to--
    (i) Collecting data on the effectiveness of the TA activity from 
State VR agencies, partners, or other sources, as appropriate; and
    (ii) Analyzing data and determining the effectiveness of the TA 
provided for at least two high-leverage groups with national 
applicability residing in each of the 12 targeted communities. This 
process includes evaluation of the effectiveness of current practices 
within the selected targeted communities throughout the project period, 
with a goal of demonstrating substantial progress towards achieving 
outcome parity for the high-leverage groups and other targeted groups 
with the State VR agency's overall performance with respect to number 
of applications received and processed, eligibility

[[Page 36741]]

assessments completed, and both the number and quality of employment 
outcomes achieved;
    (2) Conduct an evaluation of progress made by all of the targeted 
communities on an annual basis. At the end of the final year of the 
project, the VRTAC-TC will submit a final report on the project 
performance to detail the outcomes of individuals with disabilities in 
the targeted communities. The evaluation will utilize multiple data 
points as evidence of progress as compared to the baseline established 
at the beginning of the project, including State VR agency reported 
data, changes in State policies and procedures, customer surveys, and 
State personnel input, as well as any other relevant stakeholder input; 
and
    (3) Collect and analyze preliminary quantitative and qualitative 
data of VR services facilitated and the outcomes achieved by 
economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities in at least 
one other part of the State in which a targeted community is located. 
State VR personnel from the targeted communities approved by RSA within 
the first year will serve as trainers for colleagues in other parts of 
the State by applying or modifying the strategies learned from the 
VRTAC-TC;
    (d) Demonstrate, in the narrative section of the application under 
``Adequacy of Project Resources,'' how--
    (1) The proposed key project personnel, consultants, and 
subcontractors have the qualifications and experience to provide TA to 
State VR agencies and their partners for each of the activities in this 
priority and to achieve the project's intended outcomes;
    (2) The applicant and any key partners have adequate resources to 
carry out the proposed activities; and
    (3) The proposed costs are reasonable in relation to the 
anticipated results and benefits;
    (e) Demonstrate, in the narrative section of the application under 
``Quality of the Management Plan,'' how--
    (1) The proposed management plan will ensure that the project's 
intended outcomes will be achieved on time and within budget. To 
address this requirement, the applicant must describe--
    (i) Clearly defined responsibilities for key project personnel, 
consultants, and subcontractors, as applicable; and
    (ii) Timelines and milestones for accomplishing the project tasks;
    (2) Key project personnel and any consultants and subcontractors 
will be allocated to the project and how these allocations are 
appropriate and adequate to achieve the project's intended outcomes, 
including an assurance that such personnel will have adequate 
availability to ensure timely communications with stakeholders and RSA;
    (3) The proposed management plan will ensure that the products and 
services provided are of high quality; and
    (4) The proposed project will benefit from a diversity of 
perspectives, including those of State and local personnel, TA 
providers, researchers, and policy makers, among others, in its 
development and operation.

Types of Priorities

    When inviting applications for a competition using one or more 
priorities, we designate the type of each priority as absolute, 
competitive preference, or invitational through a notice in the Federal 
Register. The effect of each type of priority follows:
    Absolute priority: Under an absolute priority, we consider only 
applications that meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(3)).
    Competitive preference priority: Under a competitive preference 
priority, we give competitive preference to an application by (1) 
awarding additional points, depending on the extent to which the 
application meets the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i)); or (2) 
selecting an application that meets the priority over an application of 
comparable merit that does not meet the priority (34 CFR 
75.105(c)(2)(ii)).
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority, we are 
particularly interested in applications that meet the priority. 
However, we do not give an application that meets the priority a 
preference over other applications (34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).

Proposed Definitions

Background

    We propose the following definitions to help ensure that applicants 
clearly understand how we use these terms in the priority. We base 
these definitions on definitions that the Department uses or relies on 
in other contexts.

Proposed Definitions

    The Assistant Secretary proposes the following definitions for this 
program. We may apply one or more of these definitions in any year in 
which this program is in effect.
    Economically disadvantaged individuals with disabilities means 
individuals with disabilities who are from a household with a median 
household income below 200 percent of the Federal poverty level; 
individuals receiving Federal financial assistance through Temporary 
Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Social Security Disability 
Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI); or individuals 
residing in public housing or receiving assistance under the Section 8 
housing-choice voucher program.
    General technical assistance (TA) means TA and information provided 
to independent users through their own initiative, resulting in minimal 
interaction with TA center staff and including one-time, invited or 
offered conference presentations by TA center staff. This category of 
TA also includes information or products, such as newsletters, 
guidebooks, or research syntheses, downloaded from the TA center's Web 
site by independent users. Brief communications by TA center staff with 
recipients, either by telephone or email, are also considered 
universal, general TA.
    High-leverage groups with national applicability means groups of 
individuals with disabilities who are frequently identified by State VR 
agencies throughout the Nation in their statewide comprehensive needs 
assessments as groups comprised of individuals that are either 
underserved or who have achieved substandard performance. Examples of 
these groups include, but are not limited to, the following 
populations:
    (A) Residents of rural and remote communities;
    (B) Adjudicated adults and youth;
    (C) Youth with disabilities in foster care;
    (D) Individuals with disabilities receiving Federal financial 
assistance through TANF;
    (E) Culturally diverse populations, e.g., African Americans, Native 
Americans, and non-English speaking populations;
    (F) High school dropouts and functionally illiterate consumers;
    (G) Persons with multiple disabilities, e.g., deaf-blindness, HIV/
AIDS-substance abuse; and
    (H) SSI and SSDI recipients, including subminimum-wage employees.
    Intensive technical assistance (TA) means TA services often 
provided on-site and requiring a stable, ongoing relationship between 
the VRTAC-TC staff and the TA recipient. Intensive TA should result in 
changes to policy, programs, practices, or operations that support 
increased recipient capacity or improved outcomes at one or more 
systems levels.
    Targeted community means any economically disadvantaged community

[[Page 36742]]

that qualifies as an Empowerment Zone under either 24 CFR 598.100 or 7 
CFR 25.100, and in which (a) the median household income is below 200 
percent of the Federal poverty level; (b) the unemployment rate is at 
or above the national average; and (c) as a group, individuals with 
disabilities have historically sought, been determined eligible for, or 
received VR services from a State VR agency at less than 65 percent of 
the average rate for the State VR agency, or who have achieved 
competitive integrated employment outcomes subsequent to receiving VR 
services at 65 percent or less of the State VR agency's overall 
employment outcome level.
    Targeted technical assistance (TA) means TA services based on needs 
common to multiple recipients and not extensively individualized. A 
relationship is established between the TA recipient and one or more TA 
center staff. This category of TA includes one-time, labor-intensive 
events, such as facilitating strategic planning or hosting regional or 
national conferences. It can also include episodic, less labor-
intensive events that extend over a period of time, such as 
facilitating a series of conference calls on single or multiple topics 
that are designed around the needs of the recipients. Facilitating 
communities of practice can also be considered targeted, specialized 
TA.
    Underserved individuals with disabilities means individuals with 
disabilities who, because of disability, place of residence, geographic 
location, age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status, have not 
historically sought, been determined eligible for, or received VR 
services at a rate of 65 percent or more of the State's overall service 
level groups. Underserved individuals include, but are not limited to, 
subminimum wage employees; adjudicated youth and adults; culturally 
diverse populations such as African Americans, Native Americans, and 
non-English speaking persons; individuals living in rural areas; and 
persons with multiple disabilities such as deaf-blindness.
    Final Priority and Definitions: We will announce the final priority 
and definitions in a notice in the Federal Register. We will determine 
the final priority and definitions after considering responses to this 
notice and other information available to the Department. This notice 
does not preclude us from proposing additional priorities, 
requirements, definitions, or selection criteria, subject to meeting 
applicable rulemaking requirements.

    Note:  This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use this priority, we invite applications through 
a notice in the Federal Register.

Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

Regulatory Impact Analysis

    Under Executive Order 12866, the Secretary must determine whether 
this regulatory action is ``significant'' and, therefore, subject to 
the requirements of the Executive order and subject to review by the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Section 3(f) of Executive Order 
12866 defines a ``significant regulatory action'' as an action likely 
to result in a rule that may--
    (1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, 
or adversely affect a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, 
jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or 
tribal governments or communities in a material way (also referred to 
as an ``economically significant'' rule);
    (2) Create serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an 
action taken or planned by another agency;
    (3) Materially alter the budgetary impacts of entitlement grants, 
user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients 
thereof; or
    (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal 
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles stated in the 
Executive order.
    This proposed regulatory action is not a significant regulatory 
action subject to review by OMB under section 3(f) of Executive Order 
12866.
    We have also reviewed this proposed regulatory action under 
Executive Order 13563, which supplements and explicitly reaffirms the 
principles, structures, and definitions governing regulatory review 
established in Executive Order 12866. To the extent permitted by law, 
Executive Order 13563 requires that an agency--
    (1) Propose or adopt regulations only on a reasoned determination 
that their benefits justify their costs (recognizing that some benefits 
and costs are difficult to quantify);
    (2) Tailor its regulations to impose the least burden on society, 
consistent with obtaining regulatory objectives and taking into 
account--among other things and to the extent practicable--the costs of 
cumulative regulations;
    (3) In choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, select 
those approaches that would maximize net benefits (including potential 
economic, environmental, public health and safety, and other 
advantages; distributive impacts; and equity);
    (4) To the extent feasible, specify performance objectives, rather 
than the behavior or manner of compliance a regulated entity must 
adopt; and
    (5) Identify and assess available alternatives to direct 
regulation, including economic incentives--such as user fees or 
marketable permits--to encourage the desired behavior, or provide 
information that enables the public to make choices.
    Executive Order 13563 also requires an agency ``to use the best 
available techniques to quantify anticipated present and future 
benefits and costs as accurately as possible.'' The Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB has emphasized that these 
techniques may include ``identifying changing future compliance costs 
that might result from technological innovation or anticipated 
behavioral changes.''
    We are issuing the proposed priority and definitions only on a 
reasoned determination that their benefits would justify their costs. 
In choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, we selected those 
approaches that maximize net benefits. Based on the analysis that 
follows, the Department believes that this regulatory action is 
consistent with the principles in Executive Order 13563.
    We also have determined that this regulatory action would not 
unduly interfere with State, local, and tribal governments in the 
exercise of their governmental functions.
    In accordance with both Executive orders, the Department has 
assessed the potential costs and benefits, both quantitative and 
qualitative, of this regulatory action. The potential costs are those 
resulting from statutory requirements and those we have determined as 
necessary for administering the Department's programs and activities.
    The benefits of the Rehabilitation Training program have been well 
established over the years through the successful completion of similar 
projects. The proposed priority and definitions would better prepare 
State VR agency personnel to assist individuals with disabilities 
living in targeted communities to achieve competitive integrated 
employment in today's challenging labor market.
    Intergovernmental Review: This program is subject to Executive 
Order 12372 and the regulations in 34 CFR part 79. One of the 
objectives of the Executive order is to foster an intergovernmental 
partnership and a strengthened federalism. The Executive order relies 
on processes developed by State and local governments for

[[Page 36743]]

coordination and review of proposed Federal financial assistance.
    This document provides early notification of our specific plans and 
actions for this program.
    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this 
document in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, 
audiotape, or compact disc) on request to the program contact person 
listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.
    Electronic Access to This Document: 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 via the Federal Digital System 
at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys. At this site you can view this document, as well 
as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal 
Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). To use PDF 
you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the 
site.
    You may also access documents of the Department published in the 
Federal Register by using the article search feature at: 
www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search 
feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published 
by the Department.

    Dated: June 23, 2015.
Michael K. Yudin,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. 2015-15754 Filed 6-25-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P