Apr-19-12 Governor Chris Christie Acts to Enhance Job Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities in New Jersey
"Employment First” Initiative Encourages Competitive Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities
|For Immediate Release||Contact: Michael Drewniak|
|Thursday, April 19, 2012||Kevin Roberts|
Trenton, NJ – Furthering the Christie Administration’s commitment to expand life opportunities and job prospects for New Jerseyans with disabilities, Governor Chris Christie today announced that New Jersey will become the 14th state to adopt an Employment First initiative. The initiative embraces a philosophy – implemented through policies, programs and services – to proactively promote competitive employment in the general workforce for people with any type of disability.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to be productive, earn a living, and feel a sense of personal fulfillment from employment,” said Governor Christie. “By adopting an Employment First policy, this Administration is firmly committed to creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities. That’s why we’re working cooperatively with the private sector to ensure that people with disabilities are a seamless part of New Jersey’s workforce, with the independence and sense of community that comes from relationships developed inside and outside of the workplace.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of March 2012, only 20.1% of people with disabilities participated in the labor force as compared to 69.3% of their peers without disabilities. In addition, the nationwide unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 15.2% compared to an 8.1% unemployment rate for people without disabilities.
As a result of the Administration adopting Employment First, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) will coordinate to deliver services that advance the goals of this initiative. That means assessing policies to ensure that the infrastructure of education, social services, transportation and workforce expectations support getting individuals with disabilities to work. It will also require all of state government to examine their respective policies and regulations to prevent barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities.
DHS supports numerous education and employment programs in its Divisions of Developmental Disabilities, Disability Services, and Mental Health and Addiction Services as well as within its Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
“Employment First is about creating an expectation of individuals with disabilities, which ultimately empowers them with choices for their future,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez. “Employment reduces poverty, shrinks enrollment in entitlement programs, eases demand on state and community based social service agencies and provides workers with a sense of achievement.”
The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services within LWD solicits private non-profit and for-profit companies to facilitate work training, employment counseling, educational advancement, assistive technologies and job placement services. Annually, 27,000 people with disabilities are serviced through LWD’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services through is 34 One-Stop Career Centers.
“This month, our Department’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services is celebrating its 93rd year of preparing people with disabilities for work through training and services that level the playing field. Each year my Department assists an average of 27,000 people with disabilities to achieve self-sufficiency, and we place about 4,000 annually into jobs. I’ve visited the employers, who range from national corporations to Ma-and-Pa shops, and witnessed first-hand the productivity these talented individuals bring to our New Jersey businesses,” said Commissioner Harold J. Wirths.
Also, the Department of Education (DOE) utilizes the Vocational Profile as a framework that provides needed information for the customization of community employment opportunities, which enables students with disabilities to be successful.
Governor Christie is committed to creating employment opportunities for New Jerseyans with disabilities by:
- Protecting funding for Vocational Rehabilitation Services at the enhanced level provided in the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget, so that providers will have the resources necessary to offer enhanced work activities for a second year;
- Continuing NJ WorkAbility, a New Jersey Medicaid Buy-In Program which offers full health coverage to people with disabilities who are working, and whose earnings would otherwise make them ineligible for Medicaid. Currently, there are more than 9,200 participants in NJ WorkAbility;
- Contracting with supportive employment agencies through the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Approximately 900 individuals have obtained competitive employment through this process since January 2010;
- Contracting with supportive employment agencies through the partnership of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Approximately 900 individuals have obtained competitive employment through this process since January 2010;
- Continuing to provide job training and placement and assistive technology through the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s vocational rehabilitation program to over 2,500 clients since January 2010.
In addition, building upon a public/private initiative called ‘DiscoverAbility’, the Departments of Human Services and Labor and Workforce Development, together with hundreds of businesses statewide, will intensify efforts to collaboratively provide the services and training necessary for individuals with disabilities to prepare for and find and retain employment.
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Governor Chris Christie announces New Jersey will become the 14th state to adopt an Employment First initiative at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. on Thursday, April 19, 2012. The initiative embraces a philosophy – implemented through policies, programs and services – to proactively promote competitive employment in the general workforce for people with any type of disability. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)