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Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson met today with employees and employers in downtown St. Paul to highlight portions of Gov. Mark Dayton’s Reform 2020 budget package that support employment for Minnesotans with disabilities, especially young Minnesotans.
“We want to provide people with disabilities, especially people at the age where they’re entering the workforce, every opportunity for employment,” said Jesson. “This is good for individuals and good for taxpayers, as research shows that when people are working and more fully integrated into the community their assistance needs decrease.”
The governor’s Reform 2020 budget package invests close to $400,000 in the next biennium to help young Minnesotans age 18-26 with disabilities maintain employment, and is projected to save the state more than $500,000 in the following budget cycle. Through the proposal, navigators employed by community organizations will help participants with job issues, benefits planning, including health insurance benefits, and integration of other services they receive.
Jesson toured Securian Financial Group where she met several employees with disabilities as well as representatives from Lifeworks Services, a company that provides employment opportunities and other services for individuals with disabilities in the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Mankato areas. Lifeworks began its employment partnership with Securian Financial Group in 1997. Currently, eight individuals are employed by Securian directly and receive assistance from an on-site Lifeworks job coach.
“Employment makes such a big difference in a person’s life,” said Judy Lysne, president and CEO of Lifeworks Services. “They can live in their own home, have their own friends – have a life. We are so lucky to work with so many great companies that recognize the potential of our clients and the benefit they bring to their business and the community.”
Lifeworks works closely with over 300 businesses to help create work opportunities to meet participants’ employment and learning goals, and the employers’ need to fill positions with long-term, dedicated workers, including Travelers Insurance in St. Paul, which also participated in a roundtable discussion following the tour. In 2012, 698 individuals earned over $3.9 million, with an average wage of $8.50 an hour.
“Lifeworks has made a huge difference,” said Scott Strohman, a 12-year employee at Securian. “I’m able to live downtown. I’m able to get to work through the skyway. I keep myself pretty independent but I have help when I need it.”
The governor’s proposal will fund a demonstration project that over five years will enroll up to 7,600 participants, helping to delay or prevent the need for these individuals to qualify for disability services.