What is the Department of Labor's "Disability Employment Initiative"?

Submitted by Chris on

In a continued effort to address concern for the rising number of disabled and unemployed citizens in the U.S., the Department of Labor has recently expanded its Disability Employment Initiative to include organizations in 7 new states. Through this program, roughly $21 million will be awarded to state organizations that already offer assistance for the unemployed and/or underprivileged.

The goal of the initiative is to address the needs and concerns of people who would otherwise have no other option for income than Social Security Disability. By working with unemployed or newly disabled individuals before they become dependent on SSDI or SSI, these organizations are often able to assist them in finding new career paths, education, and training necessary for them to find good jobs which suit them.

The initiative started with nine states which are still receiving funding to help educate, train, and assist the unemployed, specifically those with disabilities, in finding lasting employment and economic betterment. The grants are specifically designated to allow state organizations to employ people who have experience working with disabled individuals, and to expand their ability to collaborate with other organizations which provide vital services to those who are unemployed and disabled.

The original nine states to receive funds from the initiative were Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. Added to these now are California, Hawaii, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Although the initiative has been labeled by opponents as another expense that the government really can’t afford, proponents of the Disability Employment Initiative content that the program will alleviate some of the pressure facing the already over-extended Social Security Administration.

Thousands of dollars are already awarded every year for Social Security Disability claims by the under-staffed and underfunded Social Security Administration, which is projected to run out of funds as soon as the next decade even as its backlog of unresolved cases continues to grow.

When individuals experience disabling conditions, whether from a physical injury, illness, hereditary disease, or mental illness, it becomes very difficult for them to find work. In an economy that is already struggling, it becomes even harder since these individuals have to compete with more non-disabled people for jobs. What often becomes the only resort is dependence on Social Security Disability Insurance, or in the case of the young and unsupported, Supplemental Security Income.

By partnering with state organizations which already provide services to the unemployed, the Department of Labor’s initiative has targeted the places people otherwise dependent on SSDI and SSI would go to look for work. The new funding will allow these organizations to better assist the disabled, a group which has been largely neglected as a whole.

The Department of Labor and related departments believe this partnership with states will make all the difference in local, state, and national economies through the stimulation of education and job placement in growing industries and fields, as well as profoundly impact the lives of underprivileged and disabled individuals for the better.

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