Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced Wednesday that the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services awarded $500,000 in federal funding to 12 Employment Services Organizations with projects designed to increase employment for Virginians with disabilities.
The funds were made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a portion of which serves as recovery funding directed to the state’s vocational rehabilitation system. The projects range from expanding a laundry service operation, to purchasing a multi-passenger van for transporting workers, to creating local community enclaves (small mobile crew of workers with disabilities).
“People with disabilities have always faced a high unemployment rate compared to those without disabilities, but this economic downturn has created an even larger gap as people with disabilities struggle to compete in this tight labor market,” says Kaine. “All Virginians deserve the opportunity for a better life through a better job, and I am pleased this recovery funding will create more than 200 jobs for Virginians with disabilities.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the rate of unemployment among people with disabilities reached 14.3 percent in June, the highest rate since the government began tracking monthly disability employment data.
NW Works, Inc. in Winchester is getting $36,810 to purchase shredder equipment to expand its existing document destruction operation to allow individuals with the most severe disabilities to gain paid employment. An additional ten positions will be created with this effort.
Other organizations across the Commonwealth are getting some of this money including ones in Richmond, Chesapeake, Farmville, Hampton, Fredericksburg, Lexington, Falls Church and Arlington.
Employment Services Organizations work in partnership with the Department of Rehabilitative Services to provide employment and vocational training to individuals with disabilities. Additionally, ESOs supply competitive services and products to public and private industry.
The statewide program has been responsible for increased revenue for numerous employment providers and for expanded job opportunities for thousands of individuals with disabilities.
“It is a partnership that has enabled us to help those with more severe disabilities find jobs that fit their skills and abilities,” says DRS Commissioner Jim Rothrock. “These funds will be a great aid in our ability to respond to our customers’ specific needs.”
Kaine announced the recipients of the grants Wednesday at Rappahannock Goodwill Industries, themselves a recipient of a grant, as part of his Fredericksburg Cabinet Community Day.
A total of 34 grant proposals amounting to more than $1.3-million dollars were submitted for consideration.
The Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services is the state agency that provides and advocates for the highest quality of services to help persons with disabilities maximize their employment, independence and full inclusion into society.
Through its four regional and 39 field offices, DRS provides a comprehensive array of services such as vocational counseling, career exploration, training, assistive technology and other specialty programs that meet individual needs, interests and abilities.
For more information about DRS, call 800-552-5019 (v), 1-800-464-9950 (TTY) or click on the link below.