Delaware Gov. Jack Markell officially became chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) today during the closing session of the NGA Annual Meeting. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was named vice chair.
Gov. Markell announced his chair's initiative, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities, which aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. Specifically, the initiative will focus on the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities and the role that both state government and business can play in facilitating and advancing opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.
"The bottom line is that there are so many people with disabilities who have the time, talent and desire to make meaningful contributions to interested employers," Gov. Markell said. "More companies are recognizing that creating greater economic opportunity for these workers improves their own bottom line as well. It doesn't matter whether you were born with additional challenges to face or -- in the case of our wounded veterans for example -- acquired them later in life. What matters is what you have to offer."
Successfully achieving this goal will require not only attention to appropriate training, job placement and work-based support, but also advancing best practices and meaningful engagement of the business community. This includes informing the business community about how productive, loyal and valuable these individuals can be to both the company's culture and its bottom line.
A major emphasis of the initiative will be on people who have significant intellectual and developmental disabilities and may require supports like job coaches and personal attendants in order to live and work in the community. The chair plans to convene governors, businesses, disability leaders and other thought leaders throughout the year to share ideas and move forward with support for this population.
"It's inspiring to see how many leaders from the public and private sectors are committing themselves to this cause and pledging to work together on something that builds both economic and social capital. There are major employers in every state who recognize the value of creating opportunity," Gov. Markell said. "Let's bring the attention of the public and private sectors to bear this year to create meaningful opportunities for these future employees and the companies that will grow from their efforts."
In addition to providing governors and other state policymakers with better policy options to assess the environment in their state and strategies designed to support this population, the initiative will:
Create a blueprint for businesses and states that identifies best practices and outlines steps that can be put in place to increase employment of people with disabilities; and
Heighten awareness and launch a campaign to help governors put in place the practices that fit best in their states' efforts to increase employment for people with disabilities.
The goals behind A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities will draw support from several sources. Last month, Gov. Markell joined a dozen senior leaders of some of the nation's largest companies and bipartisan federal leaders including Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Congressman Pete Sessions, vice chair of the House Committee on Rules and co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, to announce a public-private partnership to remove obstacles to employing people with disabilities.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT