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Employment Supports

Minnesota has a history of funding successful employment supports programs for workers and transition-aged youth. Yet for a few years, the dedicated funding was relocated to a competitive funding pool and the funding levels dropped dramatically (from an average of $750,000 per year to an average of $400,000 per year. The decreased funds resulted in fewer workers with supports in place and fewer students with first-time competitive job experiences. Additionally, these programs were only operating in the Twin Cities metro area and Greater Minnesota was not being served.

In addition, without employment support, workers who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing are frequently not hired or face a revolving door due to these common scenarios:

  • Employers may be reluctant to hire employees if they are not sure they can communicate with them.
  • Even when workers who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing are hired, they and their employers need ongoing strategies to ensure they are communicating effectively.

Employment supports provides resources such as specialized staff who can:

  • train co-workers and supervisors about communication in the workplace with people who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing
  • resolve misunderstandings that can occur between co-workers and supervisors
  • foster advancement in the workplace 

Data shows that for every $1 spent in employment supports, $3 was returned in wages. 

Who this impacts

  • Working-aged adults and youth who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing
  • Businesses and organizations who have or will have employees who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing

Solution

During the 2014 legislative session, MNCDHH, along with community advocates, successfully amending a state law that requires employment supports for people with disabilities ( 268A.16 ). Services were available to people with mental illness and "severe disabilities", but no policy required supports for people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing.  The law now requires that the state offer supports to working-aged adults and youth who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing to the group of individuals with disabilities who can obtain supports without being Vocational Rehabilitation Services clients.  

During the 2015 legislative session, MNCDHH, along with community advocates, successfully advocated for the reinstatement of the funding dedicated to providing employment supports for working-aged adults and youth who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing. The Jobs Finance bill that passed during the special session that year included $1 million per year for grants to groups like VECTOR and MEC to provide employment supports for adults and youth who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing.

Who was involved

  • Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing (MNCDHH)
  • Representative Pat Garofalo and Senator Dave Tomassoni (bill authors)
  • Staff and students from VECTOR and Minnesota Employment Center (MEC) 
  • Alan Parnes
  • Aaron Gutkze
  • Barry Segal
  • Keith Alexander
  • Cynthia Benson
  • Kari Scanlon of JEM Technologies
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