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BREAKING NEWS: Senate Votes 95-3 for Jobs for People with Disabilities

BREAKING NEWS: Senate Votes 95-3 for Jobs for People with Disabilities

Washington, DC. At a time when 70% of working age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce and more than 9 million working age Americans with disabilities are living on government benefits, the U.S. Senate voted 95-3 on legislation (S. 1356) to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (S. 1356) will now move to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote on its counterpart, H.R. 803. If passed and signed into law, the new WIOA legislation will streamline programs and make them more accountable to people with disabilities and taxpayers alike. Indeed, as has been highlighted  by RespectAbilityUSA, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) identified 45 programs that supported employment for people with disabilities in fiscal year 2010, reflecting a fragmented system of services. The programs were administered by nine federal agencies and overseen by even more congressional committees. All programs overlapped with at least one other program in that they provided one or more similar employment service to a similar population—people with disabilities. However, there was little coordination or collaboration and only 10 of the 45 programs reported that an evaluation had been conducted the last five years before the GAO report was issued in 2012. Many of the failed programs will now be eliminated, and all future programs will now be required to have successful outcomes.

“Polls show that the majority of people with disabilities want to work. Hiring people with disabilities can also make companies more profitable. Nationally Walgreens, hospitals, AMC theaters, EY and others have found this to be true as employees with disabilities, when aligned with their talents and interests, are productive, loyal and successful,”
commented Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbilityUSA, a non profit working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream. Recently the organization released a major report on jobs for people with disabilities. “This legislation recognizes that hiring Americans with disabilities can be win-win-win for people with disabilities, employers and taxpayers alike. The U.S. spends billions each year on benefits to people who, in most cases, would rather have a hand up than a hand out. They need to be included in employment because of the talents they bring to the table. Their work and commitments to success can be a part of how the U.S. can compete successfully.”

Continued Mizrahi, “We don’t see much bipartisan agreement in Washington these days, but thanks to U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) we saw it today as Senators from both parties came together for a better future. We look forward to a vote on H.R. 803 led by Congresspeople John Kline (R-MN), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), George Miller (D-CA) and others.”

The bill was previously known in the House as the SKILLS Act and is supported by a broad group of leaders and organizations. According to the U.S. Census 56 million Americans have disabilities and people with disabilities (PwDs) represent 18.6% of our population.

If signed into law, this bill will build on the work done over the past two years by the National Governors Association (NGA) and individual governors who are shifting dramatically to “employment first” policies. The NGA has put employment of people with disabilities at the center of their work with both “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities” as well as the new focus, “America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs” on workforce development.

To find out how your Representatives and Senators will vote on this important legislation, call the Congressional switchboard at 1-202-224-3121 or 202-225-3121 and ask to speak with their office.

For more information contact: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi at JenniferM@RespectAbilityUSA.org

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Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the communications director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. Appelbaum currently oversees RespectAbility’s outreach to Hollywood to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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