HARRISBURG, PA (June 14, 2018) — United Way of Southwestern PA’s #IWantToWork Campaign is pleased to join Representative Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, Representative Dan Miller, D-Allegheny and Senator Bob Mensch R-24, in celebrating the passing of PA Employment First legislation – House Bill 1641 and Senate Bill 21 – through the House and Senate. Twenty-two other states have already adopted similar legislation to support the competitive employment of people with disabilities.

“#IWantToWork is thrilled to join together with these legislators to help make this a reality,” said Dr. Josie Badger, #IWantToWork campaign manager. “The Employment First legislation will help thousands of hard-working, capable people with disabilities find employment that suits their skills and where they can thrive.”

Before officially becoming law, the legislation will need approval from Governor Tom Wolf, who, in May 2016, issued an Executive Order implementing a number of Employment First policies already. If approved, this legislation will ensure these policies are kept in place after Gov. Wolf’s term ends.

“We know that employment may not be the right answer for everyone with a disability—but it should be the first option sought,” said Representative Cutler. “Every year approximately 17,000 Pennsylvania high schoolers with disabilities graduate into the workforce. People with disabilities in our state are willing and able to work. Let’s commit to providing the opportunities they are asking for and deserve.”

With strong bipartisan support, the PA Employment First legislation presented by Representatives Cutler and Miller and Senator Mensch will result in a number of positive changes for the disabilities and business communities:

  • It will result in a dynamic change in employment supports for people with disabilities.
  • The legislation supports a shift in priorities within existing funding. It places a priority on putting competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities at the forefront of Pennsylvania policy. The legislation does not focus on closing Adult Training Facilities also known as “sheltered workshops” for people with disabilities.
  • It calls on the Governor to develop a three-year plan and sets a 7% minimal goal of the state workforce to be made up of talented individuals with disabilities.
  • Agencies that provide services and support to people with disabilities will coordinate efforts to ensure state programs, policies, procedures and funding support competitive employment in integrated settings for people with disabilities who are of working age.
  • Additionally, it will create an Employment First Oversight Commission to report progress to the public, Governor, and Legislature.

“Across our Commonwealth today, too many people with disabilities spend their days working in segregated facilities for wages well below the minimum wage,” said Senator Mensch. “Enactment of the Employment First Act will provide people with disabilities the opportunity to work at competitive wages in a wide range of jobs. I urge the Governor to sign this bill.”

About #IWantToWork—The #IWantToWork self-advocacy social media campaign is powered by young people with disabilities. The campaign focuses on creating and advocating policies to help people with disabilities prepare and obtain jobs in integrated work environments. It is a statewide civic effort supported by United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. More information is available at www.IWantToWorkPA.org.

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