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$2.9M Federal Grant Will Help Disabled Find Work

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   September 27th, 2011 · 2 Disqus Comments · Maui Business

By Sonia Isotov

Hawaii is among seven states that will receive more than $21 million under the US Labor Department Disability Employment Initiative, and Maui is in the running to receive part of the funds.

Hawaii will receive $2,923,674 to expand services at two one-stop career centers that provide education, training, and employment opportunities for unemployed adults with disabilities, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Congresswoman, Mazie K. Hirono, and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa announced today, in a joint statement.

The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations will use the money to expand the disability services offered at two of the states’ 13 One-Stop Centers located on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii. The grant is designed to serve two of the four counties in order to gauge success. The counties are chosen by lottery by the US Dept. of Labor.

James P. Hardway, executive director at Workforce Development Council. Photo courtesy of WDC.

“The grant will allow the state and counties to improve the accessibility and accountability of Hawaii’s public workforce development system for persons with disabilities. We are going to build upon the promising practices the state and counties have implemented over the past several years, while studying the effects of innovative ideas to improve employment outcomes for adults with disabilities,” said James P. Hardway, executive director of the Workforce Development Council, a division of the State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the state agency that applied for the grant.

“Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations will leverage funds from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Ticket to Work to provide training services while two staff in each selected site will collaborate with partners in the community to create a streamlined pathway to gainful employment for participants,” added Hardway. “The project will also collaborate with the Medicaid Infrastructure grant to provide key support services in the form of a targeted support service model cohort class housed within the one-stops that will help participants explore careers and identify educational and employment pathways.”

The One-Stop Centers provide free services to job seekers and employers, including job search assistance, personal career planning services, training opportunities, HireNet Hawaii support and a library resource center. The funds will help the state design programs and workshops that encourage employers to hire workers with disabilities while also preparing the worker for the responsibilities of full-time employment. The money will also help with the hiring of new staff members.

“In this difficult economy, our top priority needs to be job creation and preparing all workers for the rigors of full-time employment. Many people are having difficulty finding a job and people with disabilities have been hit particularly hard by the recession. These funds will help the state partner with employers and work with job seekers to ensure that our workers with disabilities have a productive place in our workforce,” said Senator Inouye.

“While so many families have been hurt in the recession, workers with disabilities have been among the first to see their jobs cut. In Hawaii, people with disabilities face an unemployment rate that’s nearly 70% higher than the national average,” said Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee. “This investment in job training and education puts more people back to work and helps businesses find effective workers.”

Key partners in the grant application were: Workforce Investment Boards and County One-Stop Centers; Department of Human Services (DHS),including Vocational Rehabilitation, Benefit, Employment & Support Services, and Med-Quest Division; University of Hawaii; Department of Health; Social Security Administration; Hawaii Disability Rights Center; Hawaii Business Leadership Network, and community and non-profit service providers.

The Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) aims to improve education, training and employment opportunities and outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed and/or receiving Social Security disability benefits.

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.

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.

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  • Mel

    It is about time that somone has decided that people with disabilites are "people who count." I have been withoout emplyoment for years. I live in Wahington State, and have been through the work rehabilitation system. The councilors do not listen to your needs, I hope this works out..

  • Mom

    I say "Thank God!" from a parent who has a disabled child and know that budget cuts have affected so many with "Special needs" :)