AROUND THE STATE: Disability Employment Initiative Gets People into Workforce

The US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) recognized Georgia’s Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) nationally for demonstrating best practices towards providing services and opportunities for Georgians with disabilities.

Launched in 2015, DEI is funded by a US Department of Labor (DOL) grant designed to “promote physical and programmatic access to job seekers with disabilities into Georgia’s Workforce System.”

Georgia’s DEI is under the Technical College System of Georgia’s Office of Workforce Development office. It is the administrator of WorkSource Georgia, the state’s federally-funded employment and training system, working to connect talent with opportunity. At a local level, the Office of Workforce Development provides Workforce Innovation of Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds and technical assistance to the 19 Local Workforce Development Areas across the State. WIOA funds are allotted to dislocated workers, low-income adults and youth and administered specifically through services geared toward helping disadvantaged citizens obtain meaningful employment.

It was nationally recognized for funding a full-time Certified Rehabilitation Counselor whose entire caseload consists of shared co-enrolled WIOA title I and WIOA title IV customers to maximize positive outcomes for both job seekers with disabilities and workforce programs.

“Through this model, all these agencies are working together to employ people with disabilities in jobs that provide gainful wages and are in integrated settings,” said Rosanny Rios, Disability Employment Initiative Lead, Technical College System of Georgia’s Office of Workforce Development.

The grant utilizes six strategies to promote this access: Integrated Resource Teams, Social Security Administration Ticket to Work Program (EN), Customized Employment, Customized Training, Career Pathways and Partnership & Collaboration.

Georgia’s DEI works with WorkSource Northeast Georgia and WorkSource Central Savannah River Area to bolster employment opportunities for Georgians with disabilities that reside in those regions. Specifically, DEI is working in Augusta, Athens and Atlanta.

Those areas were strategically chosen to expand the impact of this program across the State, with plans to continue growing to new counties and areas.

Additionally, DEI is focusing on Ticket to Work, a resource provided to all individuals who receive Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), many of whom are people with disabilities.

Currently, 14 individuals have already utilized Ticket to Work, and approximately 100 people are participating in the DEI program.

“This is a win-win for providers and people with disabilities,” added Rios. “Many people do not know that this program exists, and through DEI, we want to bring more attention to it so people can utilize these resources and get into the workforce.”

Currently, Rios is working to expand the program and make it more sustainable across the State. Her main goal is to develop a structure to increase these services to maximize positive outcomes for both job seekers with disabilities and workforce programs.

Learn more about the DEI program at the Technical College System of Georgia.

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