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Workers with Disabilities are Focus of New Wisconsin Initiative

People with disabilities face a number of challenges in the workforce—from barriers to hiring to low wages—but an initiative proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker would help to change that, The Wisconsin State Journal reported in January.
Data from Disability Rights Wisconsin indicates that people with disabilities comprise 9 percent of the state’s workforce; however, the employment rate is less than half that of the nondisabled workforce. Workers with disabilities also average 30 percent lower wages that nondisabled workers.
In his State of the State address in January, Walker announced a new program, called “A Better Bottom Line,” to address the challenges for workers with disabilities. The initiative will aim to increase the employment rate of individuals with developmental disabilities by working with companies to encourage hiring. Walker proposed $800,000 to expand an on-the-job training program for disabled workers from seven to 27 companies within three years.
Through the effort, Walker also will order state agencies to focus on building, recognizing and promoting programs and organizations that enhance job opportunities for those with disabilities.
According to Beth Swedeen, executive director of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, hiring managers often are unaware of the many ways in which individuals with developmental disabilities can contribute to their business.
“This is not about a charity program or a pity model,” said Swedeen. “This is about what makes sense for businesses and what makes sense for taxpayers in the state of Wisconsin.”
The new effort is based on a program developed by Gov. Jack Markell in Delaware.
 
PENSION DEBT
New data on a recent pension reform law in Illinois indicates it will reduce pension liability $24 billion over 30 years, the Associated Press reported. Officials say that number is $3 billion more than originally expected. The law cuts benefits and increases the retirement age for younger state workers, while reducing employee contributions and offering a state funding guarantee.
 
PUBLIC BUILDINGS
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad hopes to turn abandoned public buildings into new opportunities for economic development, the Quad-City Times of Des Moines reported in January. A proposed initiative by the governor, filed as House Study Bill 540 and Senate Study Bill 3050, would provide state tax credits to rehabilitate old schools and other public buildings into businesses.
 
SCHOOL VOUCHERS
The number of Indiana students using vouchers to attend private schools has reached 19,800—more than double the number from last year, The Indianapolis Star reported in January. The state’s school choice program started three years ago and has quintupled in size since then. The program was expanded last year to allow more students to qualify for vouchers. Indiana is issuing vouchers to an increasing number of students who have never attended public school. Those students represent nearly 40 percent of the state’s voucher student population.
 
IMMIGRATION REFORM
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, citing studies that a healthy level of immigration creates jobs, reported the Detroit Free Press. Snyder recently opened an Office for New Americans that will work to recruit highly skilled immigrants to Michigan, and announced plans to request 50,000 visas for highly skilled or entrepreneurial immigrants who agree to relocate and remain in Detroit for five years.
 
ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates health care providers in North Dakota are more likely to use electronic records to manage their patients’ records than in any other state. According to the Grand Fork Herald, 82.9 percent of the state’s office-based physicians have adopted an electronic health record system. The national average for adoption of a basic system in 2013 was 48 percent. Other states with significantly higher adoption rates include Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

 

 
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