Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed an executive order to establish the Employment First Commission, tasked with creating an Employment First policy for New York, which makes competitive, integrated employment the first option when considering supports and services for people with disabilities. The initiative aims to increase the employment rate, and decrease the poverty rate, for New Yorkers who are receiving services from the State, as well as register 100 businesses as having formal policies to hire people with disabilities as part of their workforce strategy.
“Equality and inclusiveness play a central role in the history of New York State, and today we are continuing that legacy by standing up for the employment needs of people with disabilities,” Governor Cuomo said. “This Executive Order relays what we stand for as New Yorkers—it will help provide fair opportunities to all people, and I am proud to move our state forward by signing it.”
The Employment First policy is part of a national movement to support the employment of people with disabilities. The employment rate for a New Yorker with a disability (aged 18-64) is 31.2% compared to 72% for a person without a disability, resulting in a gap of 40.8 percentage points. In addition, the poverty rate for New Yorkers with disabilities aged 18-64 living in the community is 28.6%, which is more than twice that of people in New York State without disabilities (12.3%). The Governor has set a tentative goal of a 5% increase in the employment rate and a 5% decrease in the poverty rate among this population.
The Executive Order can be viewed HERE.
According to a Cornell University study, “A Review of Recent Evaluation Efforts Associated with Programs and Policies Designed to Promote the Employment of Adults with Disabilities,” the low employment rates among people with disabilities have negative economic effects on the individual, their family, and the macroeconomy. A person’s self-esteem may be lowered, the pool of qualified talent available to employers is reduced, tax revenue is lessened, and society loses aggregate productivity. The study notes that government policies aimed at increasing the employment of working-age people with disabilities can reverse each of these effects.
New York State Independent Living Center Executive Director Brad Williams said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo for taking leadership on an issue vital to New Yorkers with disabilities. An Employment First Executive Order will provide a structure to reduce the employment gap for our peers.”
New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services Executive Director Harvey Rosenthal said, “Employment for New Yorkers with disabilities is the pathway out of poverty and towards fulfilling lives in the community. Once again, Governor Cuomo is leading the way on disability policy in New York State and across the nation.”
Coalition of Mainstream Employment Programs President Edmund O’Donnell said, “Making employment for individuals with disabilities a priority for New York State is a crucial first step in improving their lives. Unemployment and accompanying poverty are the millstones holding back lives of independence and dignity. Employers need to be the focus. They are the keys success. The Governor should be commended for his support and advocacy.”
New York State Rehabilitation Association President and CEO Michael Seereiter said, “As NYSRA’s recently issued white paper entitled “Getting the Job Done” outlines a series of actions state government can undertake to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities, we applaud the Governor for exercising this type of executive leadership, unprecedented in recent history. The Employment First Commission outlined by the Governor is an excellent step toward improving the deplorable employment rate among people with disabilities that has existed for decades.”
Self-Advocacy Association of New York State Director of Policy and self-advocate leader Clint Perrin said, “Members of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State support the Governor’s Employment First initiative. We believe every New Yorker with a developmental disability has the right to work with the supports they need to be successful at a job in their community. We believe people should also be supported to engage in activities of their choice, including inclusive volunteering and community service, educational and vocational pursuits, and other meaningful opportunities that lead to connections with members of their community.”
NYS Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare Executive Director Lauri Cole said, “The New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare applauds the Governor on taking this important step. All New Yorkers deserve the opportunity to engage in meaningful employment that enhances their sense of self-worth and dignity while also making valuable contributions to their local community. We stand with the Governor and all system stakeholders dedicated to improving work opportunities for New Yorkers living with physical or behavioral health conditions and we look forward to working with the Administration on this important endeavor.”