In keeping with this month’s theme of disability employment awareness, I would like to share various resources that may either help you in your current position or in job seeking. This article focuses on information for job seekers, and I have included some organizations and websites that may be useful in finding rewarding employment. Finding a job is hard enough in these times of high unemployment; however, I believe we can all find satisfying work with a little effort.
This month, the Department of Labor released employment statistics for persons with disabilities for the month of September 2011. Unemployment last month was 16.1%! This is double the percentage than for people without disabilities.
In alignment with Obama’s recent message to increase awareness of and the hiring of people with disabilities to increase workplace diversity, several government programs are in place. Also, in July 2010, Obama signed the Executive Order 13548 to increase federal employment and retention for people with disabilities by governmental departments. His intent was for the Federal system to be used as a model to organizations and businesses in hiring people with disabilities.
People with verifiable disabilities may be eligible for applying for federal jobs through the Schedule A hiring authority. Schedule A is a way for people with disabilities to apply for government jobs without competition from other applicants; this can be an advantageous way to get a federal job, since applying under Schedule A removes some of the application red-tape and allows for a faster hiring process. If you are eligible, use it!
Another government run program is Ticket to Work (TTW), which is a government program designed for people on Social Security Disability Income to reenter the workforce. One benefit of TTW is that it offers a trial employment period of 9 months, to help make sure you will stay in your job long term, thus reducing dependence on SSDI.
Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
WIA is a Federal Department of Labor program enacted in 1998 for improving employment, training, vocational rehabilitation programs. WIA allows for accessible employment services, education, and job training available through One-Stop locations. Clients can receive career assessments, get assistance with job applications or unemployment insurance, get job search, and placement help and get labor market information. All adults are eligible for services.
Disability Program Navigators were individuals working in One-stop centers assisting in disability employment related training. Another important responsibility of the DPN was to help train and educate employers on hiring people with disabilities, ensure workplaces are accessible, and improve worksites for workers with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Federal funding ran out last year, despite the One-Stop’s success of getting 79% adults with disability participants back to work and employed for at least 6 months. And though DPNs are no longer available, you can still seek services through your local One-Stop center.
In October 2010, The Department of Labor awarded $21 million to nine states for a three-year agreement: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, with funds under the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) to increase education, employment, and training opportunities for people with disabilities. Similar to Disability Program Navigators, the DEI hires staff with disability employment backgrounds
Employer Hiring Incentives:
There are many incentives for employers to hire people with disabilities. One of those is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, or WOTC, which has been extended until December 2011. This is a Federal tax credit for employers for an amount up to $2,400 for hiring adults with disabilities and up to $4,800 for disabled veterans. If you are receiving SSI or are a Vocational Rehab client, your employer is eligible for the credit.
Other tax credits include Welfare-to-work, which allows for a tax credit of up to $8,500 for recipients of Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). Enterprise Zones (EZ) are those where employment is depressed, such as in urban areas, and is another profitable credit for employers, offering thousands of dollars for each employee hired. Businesses with less than 30 employees are eligible for the ADA small business tax credit, giving employers a credit of 50% of costs up to a maximum of $5,000 per year.
On the Job Training (OJT) are funds given to employers to cover the cost it takes to train the employee—funds can be used for training classes, trainer wages. With OJT, the employer can ‘try out’ an employee without feeling obligated to hire the employee if it doesn’t work out. OJT works for the employer by assisting with training costs, and helps the employee by offering training and experience. These programs are so effective, that a previous client I worked with had a yearly part-time salary of $9,000, and with the addition of the WOTC, EZ, and OJT, the employer was credited for $7,500! That is a huge savings and incentive for hiring additional employees with disabilities.
With both employee and employer incentives there are some great opportunities out there for everyone to succeed. Employers can receive tax credits and training costs, while employees can receive trial work periods, are able to receive SSDI while working, and use career services to learn new skills. By educating yourself on the different resources, you have the tools necessary to find and keep your job.