Inclusive Community College Career Pathways: Career Services

This is the final installment of the Inclusive Community College Career Pathways blog series. Read the previous blogs here.

Systems of Support that Work Together

Colleges can collaborate with disability services, career services and community rehabilitation professionals to create customized supports that help students with disabilities find employment after finishing school. These supports include self-advocacy instruction, mentorship opportunities and tailored training and assistance. Together, customized supports help students develop skills to direct their own careers.

As part of their U.S. Department of Labor demonstration model grants, Onondaga Community College and Pellissippi State Community College offered customized supports to help students with disabilities build their confidence and success in the career development process. Supports included career assessments, goal-setting exercises, one-on-one counseling, group workshops and work-based learning experiences. The projects also aligned career supports with academic services, disability services and community partners to build coordinated systems of support for students with disabilities.

Supports that Lead to New Careers

Onondaga and Pellissippi State offered supports that addressed three key components of career development: (1) self-exploration, (2) career exploration skills and (3) career planning and management. The schools provided these supports through individual counseling, small group activities and campus-wide events. The projects also fostered student ownership of the process by encouraging them to identify their own work-based learning opportunities.

Onondaga offered one-on-one career and soft skills assessments to help students identify their employment interests, strengths and objectives. Students were then given a menu of opportunities, which included on-campus career fairs and job shadowing weeks, to advance their goals. The project also provided regular career readiness trainings for groups of students covering topics like choosing whether to disclose a disability to potential employers.

At Pellissippi State, project staff met weekly with students to help them pursue their career development goals. Career coaches helped students understand their career assessment and connected them with career readiness activities and work-based learning opportunities. Small group sessions covered topics like resume and cover letter writing, interviewing and self-introductions. The project also offered sessions specifically for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, covering interpersonal interactions, self-advocacy and other relevant topics.

Coordinated Services Are Stronger

The projects coordinated career services with other college and community services to develop stronger student support systems. This included collaborating with college academic and disability services, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Workforce Recruitment Program, and state vocational rehabilitation and workforce programs.

Onondaga integrated services on campus by placing disability and career services offices alongside one another and by adding a disability-specific staff member to the Career Center. The college also partnered with New York’s vocational rehabilitation agency, ACCESS-VR, to provide on-campus services for students with disabilities.

Pellissippi State career specialists served as case managers guiding students through the program, including coordinating weekly meetings with academic and career coaches. They also worked with instructors, coordinated documentation for students (such as accommodation requests) and served as the students’ primary point of contact.

State Examples

States can play a key role in supplementing and expanding the career supports provided at specific colleges. Below are examples of how states are providing or encouraging such support.

California Assembly Bill 504 requires community colleges to develop student equity plans in order to receive specific state funding. These plans must identify underrepresentation for specific categories of students (including those with disabilities) in access to, and completion of, basic skills, career technical education and workforce training. Community colleges must address any underrepresentation through the coordination of services using evidence-based practices.Delaware’s Supported Education at the Delaware Technical & Community College Program is a collaboration between the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Delaware Technical & Community College. It helps students with disabilities achieve objectives such as employment in their area of interest.

Previous Inclusive Community College Career Pathways Blogs:

OverviewAccessUniversal Design for LearningCOVID-19Work-Based Learning

Inclusive Community College Career Pathways: Work-Based Learning

This is the fifth of six installments in the series, “Inclusive Community College Career Pathways.” It discusses how the U.S. Department of Labor Pathways to Careers demonstration grants developed and provided work-based learning (WBL) experiences to prepare students with disabilities to join the workforce.

Work-based learning prepares youth with disabilities for work

Work-based learning (WBL) refers to real-world work experiences that allow youth and young adults to strengthen their employability skills. It can take many forms, including service learning, job shadowing, job tours, pre-apprenticeships, internships and summer jobs.

WBL plays a key role in preparing youth with disabilities to find and maintain work as adults. It can help them build their workplace confidence, identify and explore strengths and interests, develop hard and soft job skills, build their resumes and expand their professional networks. WBL experiences can even become full-time jobs.

WBL in the Pathways Projects

The U.S. Department of Labor Community College Pathways to Careers demonstration grants at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee and Onondaga Community College in New York provided various WBL experiences to help students with disabilities prepare for employment after college.

At Pellissippi State, students developed increasingly ambitious WBL goals in individualized student contracts. Staff supported students as they progressed from job shadowing to internships. Students also took progressively greater responsibility in arranging their WBL experiences so that by their third year they took the lead in finding their own internships with minimal assistance from project staff. By taking on greater responsibility arranging and engaging in WBL opportunities, students developed confidence and skills to find and maintain work after college.

Onondaga also provided several WBL experiences to students. The project held a job shadowing week and arranged a series of job site visits, informational interviews, internships and practicums. These opportunities were listed in a “student menu,” which students could use to identify and engage in WBL experiences that corresponded with their career goals.

Engaging employers

The two projects engaged and built strong networks with local employers to develop these WBL opportunities. They focused on developing WBL experiences that varied in intensity and scope and mapped to the majors, credentials and interests of their students. In addition, they collaborated with local employer networks as well as individual businesses and public-sector agencies to identify and develop WBL opportunities.

At Pellissippi State, business liaisons, career coaches and students reached out to businesses to develop and expand WBL opportunities. Pellissippi State worked with its local Employment Consortium to identify WBL opportunities and to educate businesses about hiring individuals with disabilities. The project also developed an employer toolkit to educate companies about disability etiquette and accommodations.

Onondaga engaged with the Central New York Employment Network to identify WBL partners. They focused on finding businesses across the nine industry tracks that students were pursuing and created a digital tool to organize this information. Onondaga also developed a brochure to educate employers about the advantages of hosting WBL experiences for students with disabilities.

Lessons learned

Onondaga and Pellissippi State encountered early challenges securing enough WBL opportunities and developed strategies to encourage more employers to host WBL experiences.

The project teams needed to take multiple approaches to engaging employers. Some businesses readily agreed to host WBL experiences for students, while other employers were more reluctant. Project staff learned to develop champions by first asking for small commitments (such as doing informational interviews with students) and eventually asking for bigger commitments (such as hosting interns).

The project teams further realized they yielded greater results by framing the initiative like other WBL programs, rather than as a disability-specific program. They focused on conveying the value of hiring credentialed, well-qualified candidates. This allowed students to disclose their disability if they chose and to practice asking for accommodations, if needed.

State examples

All states offer WBL experiences to youth with disabilities as a component of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS), which state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies are required to provide to students eligible or potentially eligible for VR services. Below are a few examples of state WBL programs offered in a college setting.

Florida’s Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program provides grants to help institutions develop “inclusive and experiential postsecondary education” opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities, which include internships, work-based learning and employment opportunities.Louisiana’s Postsecondary Apprenticeship for Youth (PAY Check) is a three- to five-semester program that allows students with disabilities to take classes at a community college and gain employment experience through paid internships or apprenticeships.Nebraska’s Certificate Programs allow students to take community college classes, tour businesses, and work part-time or participate in an internship with employer partners.

Previous Inclusive Community College Career Pathways Blogs:

OverviewAccessUniversal Design for LearningCOVID-19

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Rule to Increase Minimum Wage for Federal Contract Employees

By Abeer Sikder, Policy Analyst

On November 24, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor published a final rule that increases the hourly minimum wage to $15 for federal contract employees beginning January 30, 2022, up from the current rate of $10.95 per hour. The rule also eliminates the exemption for federal contractors with disabilities to be paid less than the minimum wage.

Additionally, the rule eliminates the tipped minimum wage for federal contract employees by 2024, meaning federal contract employers will be required to pay the full minimum wage to employees – not counting tips – at restaurants and other businesses. The order also restores minimum wage protections to outfitters and guides operating on federal lands. 

The Department’s ruling can lead to future pay increases (starting January 1, 2023), which will be determined by the Secretary of Labor based on rates of price increases throughout the economy. (The rule continues to index the federal contractor minimum wage in future years to inflation.)

The rule also implements Executive Order 14026, signed by President Biden on April 27, 2021. “Executive Order 14026 states that the Federal Government’s procurement interests in economy and efficiency are promoted when the Federal Government contracts with sources that adequately compensate their workers. The Executive Order raises the minimum wage paid by those contractors to workers performing work on or in connection with covered federal contracts to $15.00 per hour.” The EO applies to all new federal contracts, as well as renewals and extensions of existing federal contracts in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and specified territories.

In recent years – and especially in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic – many Americans have called for increased pay to support essential workers, maintain standards of living and improve the economy for traditionally marginalized populations, such as the BIPOC population (black, indigenous and people of color) and individuals with disabilities.

The goals of the wage increase are to raise worker productivity, reduce employee turnover and absenteeism, and decrease recruiting and training costs. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh stated that the adjustment to $15 per hour “improves the economic security of these workers and their families, many of whom are women and people of color” and “ensures that the federal government leads by example” in creating good jobs across the country.  

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates this new increase will provide a wage boost for hundreds of thousands of employees working under federal contracts, and annual pay increases of thousands of dollars for low wage federal contractors. It comes after movements in states and localities throughout the nation to increase the minimum wage.

The rule also clarifies that workers with disabilities whose wages are governed by special certificates issued under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (subminimum wages) must receive no less than $15 minimum wage for work on federal contracts, effective January 30, 2022. Section 14(c) does not apply unless the disability actually impairs the worker’s earning or productive capacity for the work being performed. The fact that a worker may have a disability is not in and of itself sufficient to warrant the payment of a subminimum wage.  

It should be noted that fourteen states have prohibited or are phasing out subminimum wages for employees with disabilities through legislation or executive order. In 2018, Alaska eliminated subminimum wages for workers with disabilities. Earlier this year, Hawaii repealed the “disability subminimum wage” for employees in the state. Minnesota recently established a task force on eliminating subminimum wages by August 2025.

Review these links for more information about the new minimum wage increase:

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh on The Federal Contractor Minimum WageSecretary Walsh stands with workers in Alabama to announce final rule to raise minimum wage to $15 for federal contract workersUS Department of Labor announces final rule to increase minimum wage for workers on federal contractsPresident Biden’s Executive Order on Increasing the Minimum Wage

Review these links for minimum wage guidance for workers with disabilities:

Employment of Workers with DisabilitiesSubminimum WageState Subminimum Wage Policy

Review these links for examples of states increasing their minimum wage:

D.C. Minimum Wage Increase24 U.S. States Will See a Minimum Wage Increase in 2021

Review these links for background information about minimum wage:

State Minimum Wage LawsHistory of U.S. Minimum Wage LawWage and Hour Division | U.S. Department of Labor

National Apprenticeship Week

By: Chip O’Connell

The seventh annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) takes place November 15-21, 2021. NAW is a nationwide celebration where industry, labor, workforce, education and government leaders host events to showcase the successes and value of Registered Apprenticeships for re-building our economy, advancing equity and supporting underserved communities.

Apprenticeships are employer-driven programs that provide hands-on technical training for individuals seeking new skills and employment. Training and instruction are tailored to help the apprentice master skills needed to succeed in a specific occupation. Apprenticeship is a high-quality career pathway, with 92% of apprentices retaining employment in their field and earning an average starting salary of $72,000. Employers utilize these programs to train new employees as well as reskill their existing employees to meet changing demands, resulting in a steady pool of qualified workers. These programs also benefit state governments by lowering unemployment rates and attracting new industries. The Job Corps website contains examples of apprenticeships from programs in industries ranging from automotive and machine repair to homeland security.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has taken several steps to increase inclusion and accessibility in apprenticeship programs. According to DOL, between 2017 and 2019 the number of apprentices who identify as having a disability increased 550%.  Research shows that participation in apprenticeship programs produces a number of benefits for students with disabilities, including experience, employability skills and nationally recognized credentials. An apprenticeship can be a viable career pathway for more than 1.3 million young people with a disability between the ages of 16 and 24.

States are increasingly enacting policies engineered to increase the inclusion and engagement of youth with disabilities in apprenticeship programs. Below are a few examples:

New Jersey’s Youth Transition to Work (YTTW) Program provides multiple financial incentives for employers hiring youth apprentices, with an emphasis on targeted industries such as health care, information technology or public service.Louisiana’s Postsecondary Apprenticeship Pilot for Youth (PAY Check) is a three-to-five semester program that allows transition age youth with disabilities to take classes at Delgado Community College related to specific apprenticeship areas, participate in career development activities, learn community and work skills, and gain employment experience through a paid apprenticeship at the University Medical Center.Oregon’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Plan specifically outlines identified issues and how agencies can strategize to make apprenticeships more inclusive and useful in the state.

Apprenticeship programs are a proven way for individuals to discover exciting career pathways and for states to secure employment for their workforces. Be sure to check out National Apprenticeship Week events happening near you

CAPE-Youth Releases Research Web Page

The Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) is excited to announce the release of our new research web page

This page outlines opportunities to get involved with CAPE-Youth’s research initiatives on innovative policy and programmatic approaches to improving outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities.  Input from policymakers, professionals and state agencies who serve youth and young adults is vital to these efforts.

Visit CAPE-Youth to learn how states are promoting workforce inclusion for more than 1.3 million 16–24-year-olds who have a disability. 

To learn more about CAPE-Youth and our publications, visit www.capeyouth.org.

CAPE-Youth Launches Apprenticeship Web Page

The Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) is excited to announce the release of our new apprenticeship web page. This page offers examples of inclusive apprenticeships in states and resources for expanding diversity and inclusion in apprenticeship, such as recently published briefs from the Apprenticeship Inclusion Model (AIM).

Apprenticeship is an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway where employers can develop and prepare their future workforce and individuals can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction, and a portable, nationally-recognized credential. Inclusive apprenticeships provide numerous benefits to states.

Visit CAPE-Youth to learn how states are promoting workforce inclusion for more than 1.3 million 16–24-year-olds who have a disability. 

To learn more about CAPE-Youth and our publications, visit www.capeyouth.org.

National Disability Mentoring Month

By: Luke Byram, CAPE-Youth O’Connor Scholar Intern

January is National Disability Mentoring Month.

According to Partners for Youth with Disabilities Mentoring Director Kristin Humphrey, mentoring is a critical disability inclusion strategy that promotes positive academic, employment and independent living outcomes. Partners for Youth with Disabilities indicate that mentored youth:

are more engaged in school,know more about their career options,raise stronger voices as self-advocates andfind supportive communities more often.

The results of a 2014 study by MENTOR National show “that young adults who were at risk for falling off track but had a mentor were 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.” The same study shows that “mentored youth were 78% more likely to volunteer regularly and 90% were interested in becoming a mentor.” When youth have positive experiences with mentoring, they are more likely to become mentors themselves.

Students with disabilities benefit from work-based mentoring as much or more than their peers without disabilities. Work-based mentorship helps students with disabilities:

clarify academic and career interests,fund education expenses,apply knowledge gained in the classroom,learn to navigate disability disclosure,develop interpersonal and job search skills, andnetwork for employment after graduation.

Started in 2002 by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, National Disability Mentoring Month focuses national attention on how mentors create positive outcomes for youth with disabilities. It also shows that when everyone works together, mentoring efforts can make an even bigger impact in young people’s lives. National Disability Mentoring Month aims to:

raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms,recruit mentors andrecruit organizations to engage constituents in mentoring.

During National Disability Mentoring Month, national partners work with local leaders to organize special events in their communities and invite local media outlets and public officials to attend. These events also help engage adults who are interested in becoming mentors.

Every year, MENTOR holds an event called the National Mentoring Summit that brings together public and private-sector leaders who support the mentoring movement, including:

youth leaders,government and civic leaders,practitioners,researchers,philanthropists,MENTOR Affiliates andsupporting partner organizations.

The National Mentoring Summit is an opportunity for the mentoring movement to advocate for a policy agenda that strengthens mentoring programs and practices. The 12th Annual National Mentoring Summit will be held as a hybrid event from January 26-28, 2022, in Washington D.C. 

Transition Services for Justice-Involved Youth & Young Adults with Disabilities

By Abeer Sikder

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that between 30-60% of youth involved in the juvenile justice system have a disability. This means that of the 36,000 youth in juvenile facilities in 2019, around 10,000 to 22,000 of them were likely to have a disability. With so many incarcerated youth and young adults with disabilities, the juvenile justice system should be prepared to provide the accommodations and supports necessary for youth and young adults with disabilities in its care to access educational and workforce training opportunities.

To understand and promote the needs of justice-involved youth with disabilities transitioning into the workforce, the Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth), a grantee of Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, held a virtual roundtable onTransition Services for Justice-Involved Youth & Young Adults with Disabilities with the White House Office of Public Engagement on November 15, 2021. The roundtable discussion focused on understanding the lived experience of justice-involved youth and how the intersection of justice-involvement and disability impacts access to employment, education and more.

Participants included justice-involved youth, community based organizations, elected officials and public administrators in the juvenile justice, youth advocacy and disability rights space. Roundtable participants shared experiences, successes, system barriers and other challenges in serving justice-involved youths and young adults with disabilities.

Below are key themes from some of our guest speakers:

Sarai Cook, founder of the National Trauma Awareness Initiative, discussed her personal experience as a justice-involved youth with disabilities. She stressed the importance of supporting youth to better understand the justice system and their rights within it. She also suggested that state juvenile justice systems should proactively identify necessary accommodations for justice-involved youth with disabilities. 
Kathy Wright, Executive Director of the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus, emphasized the importance of engaging stakeholders, including youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system, and improving access to educational services: “Strategies and activities should be developed and delivered by those with lived experience who reside in the targeted community.”
State Senator Whitney Westerfield of Kentucky highlighted the connections between justice-involved youth and young adults and the resulting socioeconomic impact. He noted how the justice system and the lack of early support services predetermine the fate of future generations and can initiate future workforce problems throughout Kentucky and many other states.

This event will contribute to an upcoming report on transition services for justice-involved youth. The report will examine opportunities to increase the education and employment success of justice-involved youth and young adults with disabilities, including identifying stakeholders and how they can better meet the needs of impacted individuals.

For more information on advancing employment policies for youth with disabilities please visit www.capeyouth.org or contact [email protected].

The American Rescue Plan Act: State Recovery Plans Outline Intent to Support Workers with Disabilities

By Rachel Wright, Policy Analyst

In March 2021, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The $1.9 trillion package is intended to combat the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARPA established the State Fiscal Recovery Fund (SFRF), allocating $195.3 billion to the states, District of Columbia and U.S. territories for COVID-19 relief and recovery. SFRF funds are intended to support government programs that respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its negative economic impacts.

The State Fiscal Recovery Fund: Planning and Allocation

People with disabilities have disproportionately experienced the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 due to the strain the pandemic has placed on employment opportunities.

For example, many workers with disabilities have medical statuses that put them at risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection, thus straining their ability to remain at work. Workers with disabilities were also faced with restricted public transportation routes and hours, making it difficult for them to arrive at work.

Workforce development programs intended to support these workers have also faced pandemic-related hardship. In 2020 alone, vocational rehabilitation programs providing employment supports services to people with disabilities were required to return $141 million in funding to the federal government due to an inability to meet matching requirements. As such, utilization of SFRF funds to support programs that address the challenges faced by workers with disabilities not only complies with federal guidelines but presents an opportunity for states to craft inclusive economic recovery policies.

State policymakers remain at different stages of the planning and approval process for utilization of SFRF funds. States such as Minnesota and Nevada have received approval to utilize SFRF funds to bolster disability-owned businesses and programs that facilitate workforce transitions among individuals with disabilities. States such as New Jersey and Vermont have submitted Recovery Plans[1], but have yet to receive formal approval for fund allocation.

As of January 2022, all 50 states have submitted recovery plans to the U.S. Treasury. An analysis of these plans provides valuable insight into the ways states are seeking to craft inclusive economic recovery policies. Of the submitted plans, only four states have outlined their intent to devote funds to programs that directly support workers with disabilities. Supported programs include those that provide job training or coaching to students with disabilities, and state Developmental Disability Services agencies that help improve employment outcomes of people with disabilities.

Plans for State Fiscal Recovery Funds: Employment Supports for People with Disabilities

According to the New Jersey 2021 Recovery Plan Performance Report, a portion of SFRF funds will be utilized to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. Funds will support additional or compensatory education and related services for students with disabilities who have exceeded or will exceed the current age of eligibility for special education or related services. Programs with this purpose provide students with “critical adult-living skills, job training or coaching, and other crucial independent-living skills,” which can lead to improved employment outcomes.

As detailed in the Maryland Recovery Plan Performance Report, the state will invest $5 million in Developmental Disability Providers (DDPs) throughout fiscal years 2021 and 2022 to assist with costs incurred from pandemic-related reopening, transformation and revenue loss. In Maryland, the Developmental Disabilities Administration partners with DDPs to offer employment support and career coaching to clients, empowering them to live independent and fulfilling lives.

In Vermont, $4 million in SFRF funds will support the establishment of the Expanded Capacity and Accessibility for Mental Health Services and Facilities Program. According to the state’s Recovery Plan, funds will be used to make existing housing and community-based facilities providing Developmental Disability Services (DDS) more accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wrap-around services[2] provided by these facilities help ensure people with disabilities have the critical skills and support to find and maintain employment. In Vermont, the DDS Division oversees the state’s Supported Employment Program, Post-Secondary Education Initiative and the Vocational Grant Program.

Despite the completion of state recovery plans, funds set aside for specific uses may still need to be formally appropriated or otherwise approved before they can be disbursed. Furthermore, even funds formally appropriated are subject to change. To keep up to date with these potential changes, please visit The Council of State Governments State Recovery Resource Center.

[1] State Recovery Plans are required by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and are expected to detail the goals of SFRF fund utilization and how programs will achieve these goals in an effective, efficient and equitable manner.

[2] Wrap-around service delivery is a collaborative case management approach used to describe a program that is flexible, family or person-oriented and comprehensive.

The American Rescue Plan Act: Utilization of Federal Funds to Bolster Employment Supports for Persons with Disabilities

By Rachel Wright, Policy Analyst

Despite earlier evidence of higher unemployment rates among persons with disabilities compared to those without a disability, more recent employment data shows that two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, employment rates among people with disabilities have rebounded faster.  

While 2020 data showed both a disproportionate decrease in the employment rate of working-age people with disabilities and a slowed economic recovery rate among people with disabilities who experienced pandemic-related job loss, data from December 2021 showed a labor force participation rate of people with disabilities that exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the seventh consecutive month. Analysts suggested that the pandemic has created a labor market where persons with disabilities, who are often characterized as resourceful, may be capitalizing on supply-side shortages.

However, it may also be an indicator that programs to support workers with disabilities are seeing success, which makes it incumbent upon state policymakers and their partners to ensure their longevity as part of an inclusive post-pandemic economic recovery. That means a continued focus on recovery policies that bolster employment supports for these individuals and efforts to address the learning loss experienced by young adults who are preparing to enter or re-enter the workforce.

The American Rescue Plan Act: Flexible Funding for State and Local Leaders

Funds made available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) can be leveraged by state policymakers to achieve and continue to support inclusive economic recovery in the states. Passed in March 2021, the ARPA provides approximately $350 billion in fiscal assistance to state and local governments through the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. State leaders have considerable discretion in how they can utilize State Fiscal Recovery Fund (SFRF) dollars, as long as they support programs that respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its negative economic impacts[1].

Given the demonstrated negative economic impacts of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities, funds appropriated through the SFRF can be utilized to establish and/or bolster existing employment support programs for persons with disabilities. States such as Minnesota and Nevada already have passed legislation appropriating funds for this purpose.

State Fiscal Recovery Fund: Appropriations to Support Inclusive Economic Recovery

On August 5, 2021, the Minnesota Department of Administration requested $960,000 in SFRF funds to support the work of the Office of Equity in Procurement. These funds will assist Targeted Group Businesses – small businesses owned by minorities, people with physical disabilities, and veterans – as they seek to do business with the state.

Also in Minnesota, the Department of Education (DoE) requested $1 million in SFRF funds for grants to school districts and charter schools. These DoE grants will support schools in providing, “secondary transition services to students with disabilities age 18 to 21 who lost instructional time in secondary transition programs during the pandemic.” Supported programs include Project Search, which provides internship sites in the private sector for students with developmental cognitive disabilities.

In Nevada, the legislature passed Senate Bill 461, authorizing the disbursement of $6 million in SFRF funds to the Collaboration Center Foundation. These funds will support services “implemented to address the negative or disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities.” Supported programs include Inclusion Fusion, an organization dedicated to providing programs for individuals with disabilities that allow them to achieve a successful, independent life.

Nevada Senate Bill 461 also allocated $5 million to the State Treasurer for ABLE Savings Program grants for persons with disabilities under 18 years of age. These grants are intended to assist persons with disabilities who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with expenses such as employment training and supports, assistive technology, personal support services, and other qualified disability expenses.

Tennessee is using ARPA funding to clear a 2,000-person waitlist for a program called Employment and Community First CHOICES that focuses on helping people with disabilities find employment and integrate into their community.

Throughout the states, legislation directing the use of SFRF funds is still under consideration.  To keep up to date with state fiscal recovery plans and related legislation, please visit The Council of State Governments State Recovery Resource Center.

For further information on how to craft economic recovery policies inclusive of persons with disabilities, please review:

Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Workers Throughout and Beyond the COVID-19 PandemicPreparing for Work in a PandemicFacilitating a Safe and Inclusive Return to the WorkplaceFrameworks for a Disability-Inclusive RecoveryPolicy Checklist for a Disability-Inclusive RecoveryGovernor’s Role in Promoting Disability Employment in COVID-19: Recovery StrategiesState ARPA Funding Utilization DatabaseThe Future of Apprenticeship: Inclusion, Expansion, and the Post-Pandemic World of WorkNew Resources Guide States Toward More Inclusive TeleworkThe Promise of TeleworkPromoting Employment for People with Disabilities Through Statewide CoordinationApprenticeship: A Pipeline for an Inclusive RecoveryBuilding Resilience: How Inclusive Apprenticeship Programs Are Responding to COVID-19

For further information on the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on workers with disabilities, please review:

COVID-19 and the Workforce: Impacts on Workers with DisabilitiesImpacts of COVID-19 on Access to Transportation for People with Disabilities2021 Progress Report: The Impact of COVID-19 on People with DisabilitiesThe Pandemic’s Effect on the Economy and Workers

[1] Three additional authorized uses of SFRF funds can be read in the full text of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, available here.