Sen. Volk Presents Bill to Encourage State Hiring of Qualified Persons with Disabilities

Contact:
Krysta West
Communications Director
Senate Republican Office
(207) 287-1505
krysta.west@legislature.maine.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AUGUSTA – On Monday, April 24, Senator Amy Volk (R-Cumberland) presented LD 1361, “An Act Regarding State Hiring and Retention for Persons with Disabilities,” to the State and Local Government Committee.

If enacted, LD 1361 would ensure that qualified job seekers with disabilities are offered an interview for open positions in state government and, if not selected, provided guidance and referral to other opportunities for which they might qualify. As was done two years ago for our veterans, many of whom have a service-connected disability, this bill provides a preference in the retention of those same employees with disabilities when there is a need to reduce the state’s workforce.

Using the latest 5-year estimates, the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information indicates an unemployment rate of 16.8 percent among Mainers aged 18 to 64 with a disability, compared to a rate of 6 percent among Mainers with no disability. The comparable U.S. rates are 17 percent (with disability) and 7.6 percent (with no disability).

“I have been involved at a national level on this issue to identify the best practices for getting people with disabilities into the workforce for a number of years, largely due to my personal experience,” said Sen. Volk. “My adult son on the autism spectrum struggles mightily with keeping a job. At 25, he has held at least 30 different ones. Yet, he is very intelligent, enjoys working and feels better about himself when he is employed.

“Although he probably could qualify for SSDI, we can’t imagine telling him he should give up on his dream to find a job that works for him when working provides so many more benefits beyond a paycheck. His experience is not unusual. People with disabilities have much to offer employers, as well as much to gain, personally and economically, from working. All of our young people, with or without disabilities, should grow up with the expectation they will work and the knowledge that their contribution is important and will be valued. Adults who experience a disabling condition through accident or illness also need to be encouraged to get back into the workforce.

“No matter how that happens, employment has to begin with the first step of a person with a disability deciding they want to work and disclosing that they have a disabling condition. This bill creates an opportunity for them to do that. Employment provides a better quality of life and greater economic security for that individual with a disability and his or her family. Maine needs every person who can work to do so to help us meet our workforce needs.”

The State and Local Government Committee will hold a work session on this bill, likely within the next few weeks.

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