New law expands employment opportunities for disabled and economically disadvantaged

The Kennedy Center and Connecticut Community Providers Association (CCPA) thanked state Rep. Tony Hwang and the Connecticut General Assembly for the passage and signing of Public Act (PA) 14-188 that will expand job opportunities for individuals with disabilities and who are economically disadvantaged.

The preferred purchasing program was first established in 1977 by the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to promote employment through state contracts. It was intended to address poor employment rates for people with disabilities. In 2011, only 38% of people with disabilities in Connecticut were employed.

In 2013, the program was expanded to include 160 government contracts, resulting in 750 jobs and $2.4 million in wages earned by employed individuals. The preferred purchasing program is overseen by the state Departments of Administrative Services and Rehabilitative Services.

During the 2013 legislative session, Hwang worked with CCPA and DAS to pass a law converting a pilot program for janitorial and custodial jobs into a permanent one. The program expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The legislation passed this year, PA 14-188, further broadens the program to include document management, data entry, food services, call centers and landscaping.

“It was rewarding to work collaboratively with our community nonprofits in developing a legislative solution that will empower individuals with disabilities with opportunities toward gainful employment,” Hwang said. “Jobs and economic security create a foundation that will allow these individuals to experience personal fulfillment and ultimately lead to independent living and engagement in our communities.”

“Helping people with disabilities and economic disadvantages gain employment is good for the individuals, and it is good for the economy of Connecticut,” said Morna Murray, CCPA president and chief executive officer. “We are very grateful to the Connecticut legislators who have pushed this legislation, particularly Rep. Tony Hwang, and all supporters who know and understand the many advantages this program has for people with disabilities and for our communities across the state.”

“This bill will provide more job and vocational opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities,” said Martin Schwartz, Kennedy Center president and CEO. “Our goal is to assist in helping individuals with disabilities in becoming more independent and productive in their everyday life. We are appreciative of the tireless advocacy of Rep. Tony Hwang in support of our mission.”

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