TAC believes the absence of people with disabilities in the workforce is a silent crisis that has negative consequences for individuals, families, and society. Across the nation, many individuals with disabilities are either unemployed or underemployed, despite their desire and ability to work in the community. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of working age people with disabilities in the labor force is about one-third that of persons without a disability. Lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities and people who experience homelessness has a negative impact on individuals' income and ability to afford housing, behavioral and physical health outcomes, as well on their community integration and recovery.
Consistent with the principles outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, government agencies are increasingly viewing the rights of individuals with disabilities to not only live but also work in integrated settings in the community as a civil rights issue. The increasing risk of Olmstead litigation related to employment along with implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law by President Obama in July 2014, present an opportunity for state and federal government agencies to align policies, practices, and funding across systems to prioritize integrated, competitive employment opportunities and services for people with disabilities.
In 2015, TAC was tasked by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide technical assistance on employment strategies to prevent and end homelessness to 11 communities, along with the City of Baltimore, who participated in the HUD, DOL, and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Partnerships for Opening Doors Summit, to help advance their efforts to integrate employment and homeless services.
With support from the Melville Charitable Trust, TAC and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) are engaging states to get more people with mental illness competitively employed. In December 2015, five states have been identified to participate in an employment symposium aimed at increasing employment opportunities for people with mental illness within states. Participants will include representatives from state mental health, Medicaid, Vocational Rehabilitation and other relevant state agency partners, as well as national employment experts, to address the need to make employment a policy priority in states.