Senator Bob Mensch has announced he will be introducing Employment First legislation in 2017. The #IWantToWork campaign thanks Senator Bob Mensch for continuing to be a champion for Pennsylvanians with disabilities. Read Senator Mensch’s statement below.

I plan to introduce legislation in the near future entitled “The Employment First Act,” designed to promote the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages in Pennsylvania businesses and public agencies.

Fifty years ago, the Legislature created the MH/MR Act of 1966 to provide a system of home and community-based services for people with disabilities. One of the results was that many people with disabilities — especially those with intellectual disabilities — ended up spending their days working in segregated facilities where they are often paid wages well below the minimum wage.

For quite some time, Pennsylvania has been talking about deinstitutionalization and home and community-based living, where people with disabilities have the opportunity to work at competitive wages in a wide range of jobs in the private and public sectors across the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania employers are dealing with a serious workforce shortage. On any given day there are more than 200,000 job vacancies are posted on the state’s official job listing. More and more employers in Pennsylvania are finding that people with disabilities are productive, responsible, and dependable employees. National research and pilot programs in Pennsylvania have proven that the employment of people with disabilities at competitive wages benefits both employers and persons with disabilities. It’s a win-win.

This legislation will not require additional state spending. Instead, it will require state agencies to shift priorities within existing budgets. This legislation will help people with disabilities end a lifetime of dependence on governmental assistance by focusing state agencies’ efforts on helping them obtain employment. They then become taxpaying citizens.

Finally, this state legislation is consistent with recent changes in federal law governing vocational rehabilitation services and workforce development programs, as well as federal regulations governing services to people with intellectual disabilities.

People with disabilities deserve a real opportunity to be a part of the Pennsylvania workforce and become contributing members of society in their communities. Please join me in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.

This was Senate Bill 1199 of last session and co-sponsors were Vulakovich, Vogel, McGarrigle, Greenleaf, Rafferty, Costa, Dinniman, Yudichak, Bartolotta, Scarnati, Haywood, Argall, Tartaglione, Baker, Sabitina, Blake and Boscola.

If you have any questions please call Bill Joraskie at 717-787-3110.

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