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State Nets $2.5M Grant to Help People with Disabilities Find Jobs

BOSTON — Massachusetts was one of only six states awarded $2.5 million this week by the federal government to help people with disabilities find employment.

The grant will target youth and young adults, ages 14 to 24, in Hampden County and the Greater Lowell area by expanding access to credential-based education and training. The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday announced $14.9 million in grants to six states as part of the Disability Employment Initiative.

“We know that, unfortunately, people with disabilities face much higher rates of unemployment, and we have been developing plans to tackle that problem for over a year now. One of the first executive orders I signed was to create a task force to look at ways to help people with barriers to employment find and keep jobs,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “This award from the federal government will help us continue that important work, and create more opportunities for young people with disabilities to find fulfilling careers.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, people with disabilities make up only 19.8% of the nation’s workforce. In Massachusetts, it is estimated that 15% of people with disabilities are unemployed. The grant is expected to serve more than 350 youth and young adults with disabilities.

“We look forward to partnering with employers to create jobs, training, and education opportunities for people with disabilities,” Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said. “The Commonwealth is fortunate to be one of six states to receive this grant, and will use these funds to increase the access to our growing economy for disabled workers in Massachusetts.”

In Massachusetts the funds will also be used to create partnerships with local employers to increase hiring opportunities for young people with disabilities, and expand short-term subsidized work programs. The grant will provide job-retention and placement services to young people who have difficulty finding work due to their disability.

“This is the first initiative where we will completely focus on youth and young adults with disabilities in order to help them find and keep employment,” Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II said. “We are thrilled to be one of only a few states to receive this grant, and it will enable us to continue the work started by the task force for people facing higher employment.”

The other states to receive grants were Connecticut, California, Idaho, Minnesota, and Maryland.

While Massachusetts’ unemployment rate is lower than the national average, at 3.9% in August, certain populations face chronically higher rates of unemployment, including African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, people with disabilities, Native Americans, and recently returned veterans.

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