In the past several weeks, Governors from California to New York have announced job creation initiatives and strategies that have included helping small businesses stay open and hire new staff; that look to recruit and retain industries vital to they state’s economy; that effect greater diversity in their state economies beyond traditional crucial industries; and that put a new imperative on workforce/education training to develop skilled workers to match industry needs.
While I remain optimistic that our nation’s Governors as well as President Obama have a renewed focus on jobs, it is highly likely that jobseekers with disabilities will remain marginalized when it comes to who benefits from publicly funded job investments. That is, unless there is persistent attention directed at insuring their inclusion in federal and state “Main Street" economic efforts.
For Americans with disabilities, the unemployment numbers over the years speak for themselves - they have never been part of any real economic recovery. What I see is decades of unemployment, underemployment, poverty and significant exclusion from the competitive labor market – in part enabled by out-of-date, exclusionary public policies and labor market practices.
For Americans with disabilities, gaining any significant job opportunities from the President’s first stimulus package or new gubernatorial strategies remains to be seen. A scan of grantees receiving green jobs training funds shows that less than a handful identified people with disabilities as a target population for training. A scan of state plans outlining new job creation strategies mention special initiatives to create job pathways for welfare recipients, youth, food stamp recipients and laid off workers, but with the exception of disabled veterans, no mention of insuring that all Americans have equal access to these opportunities.
In order to insure that Americans with disabilities, who want to work, can benefit from these new state and federal job creation investments, we should not be afraid to let our White House and our State Houses know that a jobs program for all should mean all. And that means improving who gets access to new publicly financed skills training, education, and jobs. Much more can be accomplished in new job creation strategies than just putting some people back to work. Federal and state officials have a tremendous opportunity to create, along with jobs, new policies and practices that removes barriers to work, and creates better access to jobs so that people with disabilities can truly participate in an economic recovery.
Director, NTAR Leadership Center