Jobs are critical to help improve the lives of people with disabilities. These are real jobs, with real purpose and real pay. Workers with developmental disabilities have the toughest time finding and keeping jobs.
That’s why I went to the State Capitol yesterday, to help our state do better. Our lobbyist for All About Developmental Disabilities (AADD), Elizabeth Appley, introduced me to some key players who can boost supportive employment in the state of Georgia.
The pilot project would help graduating seniors get and keep jobs. The good news is that the state is doing well, helping students with disabilities graduate. But too often they are graduating to the home couch or basement, to watch television and play video games. Georgia ranks 49th in the nation in the money it spends to support people with disabilities.
This supportive employment program would actually be an economic plus. Most states in the nation have a similar program. The economic return on investment to the state from investing in supported employment programs exceeds $3000 per employee, and over $1.60 for every $1 spent.
We are asking for an investment. The $1.9 million program would help 250 high school graduates find and keep jobs. The money goes to match jobs to people with disabilities, get them placed, and then provide them with the support to keep them successful on the job for the long term. The state lawmakers we met with yesterday got it. My state senator, Sen. Hunter Hill, was slammed in committee meetings yesterday, but graciously squeezed us in between meetings to see us. We had held a “kitchen table meeting” with Sen. Hunter Hill earlier this fall to discuss supportive employment and other issues. I think it was this earlier contact that made him willing to not only see us again, but lend his support.
Then we met with Sen. Butch Miller, chairman of the majority party. He also agreed to help. As the parent of a son with a disability who is attending the Academy for Social Inclusion at Kennesaw State University, Sen. Miller deeply understands the need for better opportunities in the workplace.
Across the nation, there are tremendous stories of success. In the Atlanta area, AADD already has successfully placed adult workers at Kroger, P.F. Changs, Popeye’s, and Publix. But we need this pilot program to help the graduating seniors find a lifetime of employment, rather than dependency on state support.