Governmental activity from 2008-2016 revitalized existing employment policy and saw new initiatives characterized by collaboration across federal and state agencies. These initiatives promoted and prioritized inclusive lives in the community for individuals with disabilities and clearly defined competitive and integrated employment. Legislation, guidance, recommendations, and regulations were due to the leadership of the Obama Administration, the National Governor's Association, the Business Leadership Network, and state governments, with a strong focus on inclusion in work and community for people with disabilities.
In 2004, the State of Washington's Division of Developmental Disabilities established a Working Age Adult Policy stating that, "each individual will be supported to pursue his or her own unique path to work, a career, or his or her contribution to/participation in community life. All individuals, regardless of the challenge of their disability, will be afforded an opportunity to pursue competitive employment… Supports to pursue and maintain gainful employment in integrated settings in the community shall be the primary service option for working age adults." (County Services for Working Age Adults, Policy 411).
Using Washington as an example, advocates and policy makers began to champion "Employment First" for their communities, with competitive employment being the first option offered and funded by state agencies. By 2018, APSE identified 49 states having some type of employment first action such as legislation, policy statement, Executive Order, or memoranda of agreements.
National Governor's Association
On February 26, 2013, Delaware Governor Jack Markel testified on behalf of the National Governor's Association (NGA) before the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP Committee) about his initiative, "A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities."
Governor Markel introduced his initiative when he became Chair of the NGA in July 2012 and began a year long focus on the role of state government and business in employing and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities to be gainfully and competitively employed.
He had seen the difference that employment made in the quality of life for people with disabilities. He was aware of and understood the personal and economic impact – the vast majority of people with disabilities want to work, they want to be productive. Yet about $300 billion is spent annually providing supports to people with disabilities who aren't employed.
People First policies were beginning to be adopted. At the same time, strategies were also being developed around employment being the first and preferred outcome for people with disabilities.
Governor Markel referred to the Report as a blueprint to Governors and business, stating:
"Advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is the right thing to do. It's the smart thing for government to do. And it makes good business sense."