Since launching the "Works for me" campaign in mid-October, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare announces that nearly 1,000 inquiries have been fielded via phone and email, and nearly 15,000 visits have been made to the Web site.
The ongoing campaign directs people with disabilities, including those receiving Social Security or Medicaid benefits, to resources and services provided by state and local government agencies, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), and stakeholders that can help them with training and employment.
"People with disabilities want to join the workforce and gain financial independence," Edward M. Butler, executive director of Gov. Ed Rendell's Cabinet and Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities, said. "But, many people are afraid of losing their social security and medical benefits which may not be the case at all."
According to Butler, the "Works for me" campaign was designed to quickly connect people with all types of disabilities to the appropriate resources across the state that can address their unique situation and determine how to become employed while still receiving benefits they may qualify for. "It's all about giving people with disabilities the tools and information they need to join the workforce and enjoy all the benefits a job provides like the opportunity for financial growth and security," he said.
Mr. Butler admits that without the proper guidance and assistance, navigating through the process can sometimes be confusing and complicated. "That is why the Department's action to initiate the 'Works for me' campaign is so vitally important to Pennsylvanians," he said. "And the response the campaign has generated in a few short months supports research suggesting that people with disabilities want to work and support themselves and their families just like most people."
As the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare announces campaign response figures, it also announces the decision to expand the program to reach more individuals that want to work. The campaign, which is funded by the CMS Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (CFDA# 93.768), will continue and expand its statewide advertising efforts. Newspaper ads, transit panels and television commercials will help generate more awareness as well as the distribution of posters, brochures and DVDs to targeted organizations across the state assisting people with disabilities.
"Works for me" is a resource for people with any kind of disability including mental health, physical, sensory or developmental. Through a hotline number (1-877-268-9894), an individual can quickly and easily connect with a coordinator to determine which program is best for them and receive the guidance they need to make a decision about employment. Information is also available at www.WorksForMe-PA.org.
In Pennsylvania, there are over 530,000 working aged individuals with disabilities (ages 18-64), and over 60,000 youth receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration. According to a National Beneficiary Survey conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, 44% of beneficiaries reported a goal of getting a job or a better paying job within the next five years. Of these, over half were working or actively seeking employment during the prior year of the survey. This study and related initiatives contrast a common stereotype that people with disabilities cannot work and will rely on government benefits for their entire life. Mr. Butler also contrasts this stereotype explaining that he himself was born with cerebral palsy and has always been employed. "I've never collected a benefit," he said.
On an individual level, there are countless benefits associated with employment for people with disabilities. Employment gives a sense of purpose, pride, accomplishment and becomes part of a person's identity. It provides an opportunity to take part in the community, develop new relationships and give back to society. The "Works for me" campaign highlights many personal stories of individuals across Pennsylvania like Mr. Butler whom have gained both financial success and personal accomplishments through employment.
"Works for me" (www.WorksForMe-PA.org) is a free resource that can direct you to agencies and programs that help people with disabilities in Pennsylvania get a job. We will review your specific situation and guide you to resources that will help you find a job, training, education, assistive technology for work, or other support you may need for employment. There are many great reasons to work and, with the resources we have available, it is possible! And, contrary to what some people believe, you may be able to work without losing your financial security or health care benefits. "Works for me" is here to help answer your questions about working!
To learn more about personal stories or obtain additional information, please contact Karen Gross at (717) 432-2468 or visit www.WorksForMe-PA.org For organizations interested in receiving "Works for me" brochures, posters or DVDs to distribute to people with disabilities, please contact Stefanie Hare at (717) 432-2468 or via email at Stefanie@TheSuasionWay.com
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