In the past, it wasn't always easy for a disabled individual to obtain work in our nation's workforce. In fact, with today's fierce competition for almost any type of job that becomes available, the ability for a disabled individual to obtain gainful work is even more challenging. In seven states, however, finding jobs for the disabled may soon be easier than it has been in recent years. Seven different states, including Hawaii, California, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin, have all received grants to improve employment opportunities for their disabled residents.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that seven states would become beneficiaries of a $21,166,560.00 grant. This funding would allow the states to improve the education, training and employment opportunities available to their residents under the Disability Employment Initiative. Under this program, disabled youth and unemployed disabled adults (or those who are underemployed or receiving Social Security Disability benefits) can receive further training and access to employment opportunities in order to help them provide for themselves and their families.
This is not the first round of funding for the Disability Employment Initiative. The seven states that have now been added bring the total number of states participating in this disability employment program to sixteen. The states that will continue to receive grants under this initiative include Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.
The grants that have been awarded will help the states build and maintain vocational rehabilitation services, mental health and developmental disability agencies, independent living centers, business leadership networks, Medicaid Infrastructure Grant-supported activities and other community and nonprofit organizations whose goals are in line with the goals of the Disability Employment Initiative.
The Disability Employment Initiative will also help Social Security recipients with the Ticket to Work Program. Any state that receives grant money from this initiative will be required to participate in the Ticket to Work program and the program will require the state workforce centers to serve as employment networks for disabled individuals. This will help the career centers that are run by local government agencies to serve those who suffer from disabilities, whereas many government programs have solely focused on economically disadvantaged workers in the past.
States who are participating in the program and who have received the grant will hire staff that has expertise in workforce issues that are experienced by disabled individuals. These experts will be expected to work with local area businesses, networking to create and provide job opportunities to local disabled job seekers.
The good news is that these grants may benefit not only disabled workers, but the Social Security program as a whole. Not only are the grants and programs created by the grants a benefit to disabled individuals who want to participate in the workforce and earn a living, these grants may also be a blessing to the Social Security Disability program. As job opportunities increase and more disabled workers are able to support themselves due to employers that are willing to accommodate them, the strain on the Social Security Disability program may be alleviated to some degree.