HARRISBURG, PA (December 29, 2015) – The #IWantToWork Campaign notched a major victory for teenagers with disabilities today when Gov. Tom Wolf signed a state budget including funds to ensure they can get summer and part-time jobs while still in high school.
The $5 million in new state funding will enable the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) to access an estimated $18.5 million in federal matching funds for employment programs, including young people with disabilities.

#IWantToWork is encouraging OVR to set aside at least half of these funds to hire the staff needed to work with organizations wanting to hire teenagers with disabilities for summer and part-time jobs.

“Thousands of young people with disabilities will benefit from this funding by being able to get jobs while in school and during the summer,” said Dr. Josie Badger, #IWantToWork’s campaign manager.

Without job experience before graduating from high school, research shows three out of four young people with disabilities will never work, with many of them ending up living in poverty.

The funding will benefit businesses committed to hiring young people with disabilities. OVR will be able to take new steps to identify and encourage employers to hire young people with disabilities earlier in their high school years.

“Given the chance, people can succeed regardless of whether or not they have a disability. Pennsylvania has an obligation give young people with disabilities an opportunity to be employed, and be productive, tax-paying members of society, just like everyone else,” said Robert Nelkin, chief executive of the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, a major funder of the #IWantToWork campaign.

The funding is part of the two-prong effort undertaken by #IWantToWork to ensure young people with disabilities get work experience while in high school. Legislation creating new policies and procedures for OVR in its work with these young people is close to final approval in the General Assembly.

House Bill 400 is positioned for a final vote in the Senate. Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, has been guiding the legislation through the Senate.  After it passes the Senate it will need a procedural approval in the House before being sent to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature into law. Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Lebanon, chair of the House Labor and Industry Committee authored it. The House initially unanimously approved it.

The legislation moves up the timetable for getting them job placements and supports by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Instead of getting help in their senior year, often just before graduation, OVR staff will begin helping these young people find jobs in the sophomore and junior years.

The #IWantToWork self-advocacy campaign helps young people with disabilities in Pennsylvania get jobs and internships while in high school. Our goal is to let Pennsylvania policymakers know more needs to be done to help young people with disabilities and to let them know they are ready to work, are good workers, and are great for businesses and employers.

For more information, contact: Stephen Drachler


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