Employment initiative begins second round

The Department of Labor is accepting applications for a second round of grants for a program aiming to boost employment figures for people with disabilities.

As part of its Disability Employment Initiative, the department will make $20 million available in funds for programs operated by state workforce agencies that “will improve education, training and employment opportunities,” for people with disabilities, according to a U.S. Department of Labor news release.

The department announced the first round winners in September 2010, awarding more than $21 million for programs in Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. The other 41 states are eligible in the latest round of funding.

“Workers with disabilities suffer from one of the lowest employment rates of any group in the American population, even in times of prosperity,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, in the news release. “It is vital that state and local agencies work together with private sector partners to improve these statistics. Through this second round of funding, we are expanding the Disability Employment Initiative to include programs in additional states.”

The initiative is a joint project with the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration and its Office of Disability Employment Policy.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities in April 2011 was 14.5 percent, compared to 8.4 for people with no disability. However, the percentage of people with disabilities in the labor force overall was 20.6, compared to 69.6 for people without disabilities.