US Labor Department awards more than $21 million in Disability Employment Initiative funding to 7 states

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced $21,166,560 for seven states under the Disability Employment Initiative to improve education, training, and employment opportunities and outcomes for youth and adults who are unemployed, underemployed and/or receiving Social Security disability benefits. The initiative is jointly funded and administered by the department's Employment and Training Administration and its Office of Disability Employment Policy.

"During these difficult economic times, it is important to ensure that all workers, including those with disabilities — who as a group face employment barriers even during times of prosperity — are able to benefit from the Labor Department's employment and retraining services," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "These federal grants will help to provide services and support to individuals with disabilities in seven additional states, and put them on the path to permanent and secure jobs."

This round of funding is the second under the Disability Employment Initiative, which now supports 16 state projects. The new grants are part of cooperative agreements with California, Hawaii, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin to implement exemplary employment services for individuals with disabilities in the public workforce system. The states with continuing grants under the initiative are Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.

All projects under this initiative build upon the department's Disability Program Navigator Initiative by hiring staff with expertise in disability and workforce issues. The grants also support extensive collaboration across multiple workforce and disability service systems in each state, including vocational rehabilitation services, mental health and developmental disability agencies, Medicaid Infrastructure Grant-supported activities, independent living centers, business leadership networks, and other community and nonprofit organizations.
"Our priority is to provide individuals with disabilities the foundation of education, job training, and employment and support services to achieve economic stability," said ETA Assistant Secretary Jane Oates.
The Disability Employment Initiative also expands the workforce development system's participation in the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work Program by requiring participating state workforce agencies or local workforce investment boards to become employment networks. Many Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries use the mainstream workforce system to seek employment opportunities. By serving as employment networks, grantees will expand the capacity of the department's One-Stop Career Centers to serve Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities.

"Access to high-quality employment and training services is vital to moving youth and adults with disabilities into the workforce and preparing them for good jobs in high-growth, high-demand industries," said ODEP Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez.

The department's priority is to serve individuals with disabilities and those who are receiving Social Security disability benefits, and it is working on early intervention strategies to assist people with disabilities before they become Social Security disability beneficiaries. States will work closely with the Social Security Administration's Work Incentive Planning and Assistance Program and its Community Work Incentive Coordinators to expand services to beneficiaries.

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