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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 16, 2006

IDHS announces $700,000 in federal funding to help more people with disabilities find jobs
Governor Blagojevich recognizes October Disability Employment Awareness Month in Illinois

CHICAGO - The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) today announced an additional $700,000 in federal funding to help more people with disabilities find jobs.  The funding increase comes as Governor Rod R. Blagojevich recognized October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Illinois.

“A few years ago in Illinois, we had a largely untapped workforce of dedicated, qualified and valuable employees.  Over the past four years we’ve made great progress in utilizing those resources by putting good people to work.” said IDHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D.  “We’re pleased that the federal government has recognized Illinois’ commitment to helping businesses hire workers with disabilities.  The additional funding will mean another 70 or more people with disabilities will get jobs and become Illinois taxpayers.”

Secretary Adams said the $700,000 in federal funding is for the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program administered by the IDHS Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS).  The VR program provides counseling, job placement and other services to assist customers in finding quality employment and a living wage.

Secretary Adams and DRS Director Robert F. Kilbury, Rh.D. are honoring numerous companies this month for their commitment to hiring persons with disabilities. Recognition events are being organized by many of the department’s 50 field offices.  Employers were selected to receive awards for their willingness to hire, retain, and promote significant numbers of persons with disabilities in quality jobs.

”We want to personally thank all employers who have hired individuals with a disability.  The positive relationships our DRS staff has cultivated with many employers throughout Illinois have helped thousands of people with disabilities to become self-sufficient members of society,” said Kilbury.  “I encourage other Illinois companies to follow the example of these businesses and join us in building a stronger workforce.”

In the past four years, 27,619 Illinoisans with disabilities entered into competitive employment, according to statistics from DHS/DRS.  Each Vocational Rehabilitation customer who became employed in fiscal year 2006 is expected to earn approximately $11,770 more per year after receiving DRS services.  Based on this estimate, DRS customers who became employed in fiscal year 2006 can expect to earn a total of $58 million more in the next year than their level of earnings prior to coming to DRS.  In addition to helping these individuals move towards becoming self-sufficient, the tax revenue generated by these earnings has an estimated value of more than $6 million.

According to DHS/DRS statistics, the average hourly wage for DRS customers has steadily increased from $8.36 in 2003 to $9.44 in 2006.  Equally important, the percentage of people with disabilities who receive employer-provided health insurance increased from 27 percent in 2003 to 30 percent in 2006.

In May, Gov. Blagojevich celebrated the kick-off of “disabilityworks”, a unique public-private collaboration with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, City of Chicago and a number of other partners, to increase the economic and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  The initiative, which will eventually be expanded statewide, is helping to connect employers with prospective employees with disabilities, and targets youth with disabilities to facilitate inclusive secondary and postsecondary education programs.  The Governor has provided almost $650,000 in support of this initiative.

Gov. Blagojevich has also supported the Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities (HBWD) initiative that helps people with disabilities return to work with full health care benefits.  Many persons with disabilities fear that a return to work means losing Medicaid health care coverage because private insurance is costly and difficult or impossible to obtain.  HBWD allows people with disabilities to return to work with full Medicaid health care benefits, which not only encourages enrollees to work, but also increases the number of hours they are working.  In Illinois, the HBWD program allows individuals with income between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty level to pay a monthly premium based on their income to receive a medical card.

During this administration, the number of wheelchairs approved/repaired by the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services (HFS) has also increased significantly.  The Department pays for customized, motorized wheelchairs.  In the past, there were reports of delays in Medicaid-eligible nursing home residents getting medically requested wheelchairs.

 However, since 2003, a record number of 2,711 individuals received wheelchairs or had existing custom chairs repaired.

Last month, IDHS announced the appointment of Dan Dickerson of Springfield to the position of manager for the Disability Recruitment program.  Dickerson will work with DHS managers and Central Management Services (CMS) to increase the number of people with disabilities who are hired by the state’s largest agency. 

As Illinois’ lead division serving individuals with disabilities, DRS helps people with disabilities prepare for and find quality employment that pays a living wage and offers opportunities for advancement.  DRS works closely with employers through its Corporate Business Partner initiative to match them with qualified individuals with the skills and qualities they need.  DRS also offers a wide range of support services to assist eligible individuals with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment.

For more information about hiring persons with disabilities and other services provided by DHS/DRS, call 1-800/843-6154 (Voice) or 1-800/447-6404 (TTY).

Upcoming events:

October 17 - Bloomington Employer Recognition Event- Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) in Bloomington  8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

A copy of the Governor’s proclamation is attached below:

WHEREAS,  people with disabilities represent a largely untapped workforce of dedicated, qualified, valuable employees; and
 
WHEREAS,  people with disabilities are leaders in major businesses and corporations throughout the state of Illinois; and
 
WHEREAS,  Illinoisans with disabilities have an unemployment rate of nearly 70 percent, even though 7 out of 10 unemployed working-age citizens with disabilities indicate that they would prefer to work; and
 
WHEREAS,  most citizens with disabilities in Illinois live in poverty at a rate roughly three times the state average; and
 
WHEREAS,  Illinois is home to over five hundred local and statewide Corporate Business Partners who have partnered with the Division of Rehabilitation Services to assist Illinois residents with disabilities in attaining stable employment that leads to economic self-sufficiency; and
 

WHEREAS,  there are numerous tax credits and deductions for Illinois employers to hire and provide accommodations to qualified workers with disabilities; and

WHEREAS,  the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) helped more than 4,950 individuals find quality employment last year alone. They also helped increase the average earnings of successfully employed customers; found more customers jobs that included health insurance as a benefit; reduced the time it takes to achieve employment; and expanded vocational services to customers with the most significant disabilities; and

WHEREAS,  Illinois' Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities (HBWD) initiative helps people with disabilities return to work with full Medicaid health care benefits <http://www.hbwdillinois.com/coverage.html>; and

WHEREAS,  the Department has a goal of promoting full time employment and reduced reliance on government benefits such as social security disability payments; and

WHEREAS,  National Disability Employment Awareness Month began in 1945 by President Harry S. Truman as "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and renamed it National Disability Employment Awareness Month; and

WHEREAS,  DRS will be holding numerous statewide events during the month to promote the employment of citizens with disabilities and to thank employers who have excelled in employing workers with disabilities:

THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim October 2006 as NATIONAL DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT AWARENESS MONTH in Illinois, and reaffirm the commitment of my administration to helping those with disabilities.



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