MADISON, Wisconsin - Friday in Madison, a bi-partisan job creation proposal authored by Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) was passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Local Government.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, over 4,100 individuals with disabilities are currently on waiting lists for job training and employment assistance services through the state's vocational rehabilitation program.
Senate Bill 274 will leverage additional funding in order to eliminate these waiting lists and increase workplace opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the state.
"Unemployment and underemployment of people with disabilities is a serious issue in Wisconsin," said Sen. Shilling. "Every community in our state is affected by this issue. Senate Bill 274 is a smart investment in a proven workforce development program that will increase access for people with disabilities seeking job training and employment assistance services."
The state's vocational rehabilitation program provides employment assistance services to people with disabilities by creating individualized plans for employment. Services provided include job search and placement assistance, transportation, on-the-job support, vocational training, interpreter services, career guidance and counseling.
Individuals who receive services through the vocational rehabilitation program are able to successfully transition to steady employment and become more productive members of their communities, more self-sufficient, and less reliant on other state assistance programs.
Beth Swedeen, the Executive Director of the Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, testified in support of Senate Bill 274 during a public hearing on the proposal. According to Swedeen, "Improving integrated community job opportunities enables people with disabilities to contribute to local economies, more fully participate in their local communities, help permanently get out of poverty, and reduce overall reliance on public benefits."
The Department of Workforce Development estimates that 3,250 individuals returned to the workforce in 2012 as a result of vocational rehabilitation services. These individuals are expected to earn approximately $56.4 million annually which translates into a 210% return on investment for the DVR program.
"Everyone has skills and talents that they can offer and utilize in a workplace setting," added Shilling. "Helping individuals with special needs to identify their unique abilities and maximize their potential is not only the right thing to do, but it's the smart thing to do."
Senate Bill 274 was included in a package of workforce development bills announced by the Governor last month. The bill will now be referred to the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee for approval before being scheduled for a vote in the State Senate and State Assembly.