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May 18, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich Announces $648,000; City of Chicago $160,000 in Support of Initiative

CHICAGO – In collaboration with the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (MOWD), the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the kick-off of the disabilityworks initiative, which was celebrated at a breakfast reception at Harold Washington College. Gov. Blagojevich is contributing $648,000 to the initiative, which builds on a $160,000 investment from the city of Chicago, which includes grant funding to the Chicagoland Chamber to implement the disabilityworks initiative.

"We have consistently supported and stressed the importance of opportunity for people throughout Illinois, whether it is in the classroom, the workplace or at home. Everyone deserves an equal chance and an equal opportunity to not only earn a paycheck but to chase their dreams. We are very proud to be supporting disabilityworks because it is bringing the public and private sector together to increase opportunities for people with disabilities so they can turn a turn dream into a reality. By working together with Mayor Daley and the City of Chicago, as well as the Chicagoland Chamber and other valued partners, we are creating pathways for those left behind and helping them build better lives," Gov. Blagojevich said.

"We are committed to enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities by increasing employment opportunities – both in government and in the private sector," said Mayor Richard M. Daley. "With the support of Gov. Blagojevich, we will continue to break down barriers and achieve our shared vision of an inclusive, accessible city and state with opportunities for all its residents."

The disabilityworks initiative, which brings together businesses and service providers to increase the economic and employment opportunities for people with disabilities while meeting the workforce needs of Chicagoland

businesses, is a direct result of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Task Force on the Employment of People with Disabilities. The Task Force represents a three-year collaboration between City and State government officials, as well as representatives from the business, nonprofit and disability communities, which concluded in 2005. As a

result of the Task Force’s work, the disabilityworks initiative was established at the Chicagoland Chamber of

Commerce to connect employers with prospective employees with disabilities, as well as to target youth with disabilities to facilitate inclusive secondary and postsecondary education programs.

The City of Chicago provided $160,000 and the State of Illinois $230,000 to establish the program at the Chicagoland Chamber last year, and an additional $318,000 provided through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will extend the initiative from the City of Chicago into the Northeast region of Illinois and eventually statewide. DCEO has also provided $100,000 to six pilot Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) in the Northeast region to access assistive technologies and resources in order to better serve clients with disabilities. Through this collaboration, disabilityworks has transitioned from a social service perspective to a vehicle for workforce development for people with disabilities, employers and service providers.

The breakfast reception included a welcome from William Osborn, Chairman and CEO of the Northern Trust Corporation and Task Force co-chair, and featured Gerald J. Roper, President and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Commissioner David Hanson, from the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, Commissioner Karen Tamley, from the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and Jack Lavin, Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

"I am very excited that we have been able to establish disabilityworks within the Chicagoland Chamber, not only because we are increasing the awareness and linkages of the business community – including our own membership of 2,600 businesses – but also because disabilityworks is assisting people with disabilities in obtaining jobs. We are learning from businesses what their workforce needs are so that we may provide qualified workers with disabilities to fulfill those needs. I like the fact that disabilityworks represents government, the private sector and service and employment placement providers collaborating to make a real impact in increasing the economic and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. I want to thank Gov. Blagojevich, Mayor Daley and all of our partners who helped make this happen," said Jerry Roper, President and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

There are more than 38 million people with disabilities in the U.S. and, in Illinois, 17.6 percent of the state’s population over age 5 has a disability, which is more than one in six people. Among college graduates nationwide, only 54 percent of people with disabilities are employed, compared to 82 percent of their non-disabled peers. In Illinois, the unemployment rate of working-age people with disabilities (16 to 64 years old) was 62.7 percent, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau Employment Status Report.

disabilityworks efforts focus on three constituencies: people with disabilities, businesses and nonprofit service providers. disabilityworks provides education and outreach to people with disabilities through workshops, resources, and information and referral. The Chicagoland Business Leadership Network (CBLN) is a business-to-business consortium designed to help employers understand, utilize and benefit from people with disabilities in both the labor and consumer markets. The Chicagoland Provider Leadership Network (CPLN) is a network of more than 100 nonprofit service providers that enhances providers’ capacity to deliver services to their target populations for job placement, training and educational opportunities. Businesses can enhance their competitive edge by ensuring that people with disabilities are integrated into the workforce and customer base.

The six pilot SBDC locations in the Northeast Region involved in the disabilityworks initiative include: the College of Lake County, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber, the University of Illinois-Chicago, Joliet Junior College, Chicago State University and the College of DuPage. These SBDC’s will receive resources to better serve clients with disabilities, including an awareness and resource conference for SBDC counselors, and will host information workshops in collaboration with multiple community and regional partners.

"Through the creation of Illinois workNet™, a virtual One-Stop Career Center, we are already providing an entry point into career, education and work support services for business and individuals, which includes those

with disabilities. Through disabilityworks and the work of our SBDCs, we will not only continue to emphasize employment opportunities for people with disabilities, but we will also provide greater opportunities for self-

employment and entrepreneurship, as well as expanded career opportunities for youth with disabilities. This is an area of our workforce that we cannot afford to leave behind, and Gov. Blagojevich and I will continue to be tireless advocates for the many men, women and youth with disabilities throughout our state," said DCEO Director Jack Lavin.

"disabilityworks will provide a greater set of tools and resources for people with disabilities, as well as employers, to help qualified people with disabilities fill job openings. My hat is off to the Governor, the Mayor and all the many entities behind this," said State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago).

"Along with Gov. Blagojevich, Mayor Daley, the Chicagoland Chamber and all of the agency partners, I am excited to support disabilityworks and the impact it will have for people with disabilities. We cannot overstate the importance of access and information when it comes to helping people with disabilities find economic and employment opportunities, and this initiative will do just that," said State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago)

"This collaboration between the city, state, the private sector, non-profits, advocates and many more is what good public policy is all about. There is a lot to be done to increase employment opportunities and visibility for people with disabilities, and I stand strong behind disabilityworks to help lead the way," said State Representative Larry McKeon (D-Chicago).

In addition to those partners listed, other major state agency partners are the Illinois Community College Board, Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Higher Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services (DHS/DRS). For more information, visit the new Web site www.disabilityworks.org or contact Karen McCulloh, Executive Director, Disabilityworks 312/494.6713, Joe Chiappetta, Managing Director, CPLN, 312/494.6729 or Jennifer Schindl, Managing Director, CBLN, 312/494.6784.


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