Updates from the States
Employment First News from Around the Country...
Delaware Employment First Act Passes House
Legislation opening the door for people with disabilities to work side-by-side with other employees cleared the Delaware House unanimously on May 17, 2012.
Historically, people with disabilities have had little choice in what they did during the day, where they lived and were solely dependent on state benefits.
The Employment First Act, sponsored by Representative Debra Heffernan, would give people with disabilities more choice and more independence.
House Bill 319 would require that state agencies that provide services to persons with disabilities consider, as their first option, employment in an integrated setting for persons with disabilities. It would not require an employer to give them hiring preference. The bill also establishes an Employment First Oversight Commission as part of the State Council for Persons with Disabilities to review goals and objectives and prepare an annual report.
HB 319 now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Gov. Christie touts 'Employment First' policy, removes employment barriers for people with disabilities - May 8, 2012
TRENTON — The Arc of New Jersey helped Bill Byrne get an interview for a kitchen job at the boys prep school, Delbarton in Morristown three years ago. But Byrne believes he got hired on the spot because he works hard and he's "fussy" about making sure everything is clean and organized.
"My supervisor took a chance on me,' said Byrne, 58 of Morristown. "Some places might be scared to hire people with a disability."
Byrne attended a press conference with Gov. Chris Christie and First Lady Mary Pat in Trenton today to draw attention to the administration's new "Employment First" policy, which will require state government to remove any barriers or practices that might prevent people with physical, developmental and mental disabilities from holding a job. New Jersey is the 14th state to adopt the policy, he said.
The policy also calls for dispatching the departments of Human Services and Labor and Workforce Development to encourage private sector employers to step up its hiring practices, although the governor said he does not intend to impose any sanctions or offer incentives.
While 69 percent of people ages 16 to 65 hold a job, only 20 percent of people with disabilities in the workforce, said Christie citing national labor statistics.
"What we are talking about is not a preference, but a change in mindset and a change in approach,'" Christie said.
"I've always believed in the old saying the greatest social program is a job,' Christie said. "As a policy of this state government, folks with disabilities should be presumed. . . to have every opportunity based on their skills and talents, to be employed and to assume they are going to get fair consideration to get a job."
When a person with mental or developmental disabilities seeks assistance from government safety net programs, jobs and vocational training are offered but employment is not pushed, said Tom Baffuto of the Arc of New Jersey. That will change under the new mindset. he said.
"We have to raise expectations that every one has the right and obligation to work,' Baffuto said. "What I hope will happen is that everyone who goes to get services — from Vocational Services, the Division of Developmental Disabilities or Mental Health — work is the first option they have to consider. We need to provide the supports and services for people with disabilities, and we do," he said, noting the Arc and another agency provided job coaching when Byrne first started at Delbarton.
Baffuto said he hopes private employers recognize "we have a untapped labor force,' and "there are jobs in any economy people have a difficult time filling."
State officials said they couldn't immediately estimate how many people with disabilities work for the state because not everyone identifies themselves as such when they apply for a job.
For More Information: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/04/gov_christie_touts_employment.html