HARRISBURG – After receiving unanimous approval from the General Assembly, legislation sponsored by Reps. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) to benefit both individuals with disabilities and improve the state’s workforce shortage heads to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature.
“The Employment First Act is designed to provide people with disabilities a range of job options, all at fair compensation – unlike the pay they receive now, which is often well below minimum wage,” Cutler said. “I’m calling on the governor to support this important group of people by allowing them to fill vacant positions in their communities, rather than keeping them in segregated facilities.”
House Bill 1641
would call for state agencies to employ individuals with disabilities in at least 7 percent of the overall state workforce. It, however, would not require state agencies to give preference in hiring to people with disabilities.
“Both morally and financially, we need everyone who can work, to work, and addressing institutional and unintended boundaries are key to opening the doors of opportunity to everyone,” said Miller.
An oversight commission, with people who have disabilities making up more than half of its members, would set measurable goals for improving the percentage of workers with disabilities in Pennsylvania. It would also issue an annual progress report.
The bill would not require additional state funding. Instead, Commonwealth agencies would be required to shift priorities within existing budgets.
Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24) offered Senate Bill 21 as a companion bill to the Employment First Act.
“Under our current system, many people with disabilities – especially those with intellectual disabilities – spend their days working in segregated facilities where they are often paid wages well below the minimum wage,” said Mensch. “It is past time to provide people with disabilities the opportunity to work at competitive wages in a wide range of jobs in the private and public sectors across the Commonwealth.”
The Employment First Act now advances to the governor for his signature.
Representative Bryan Cutler
100th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Evans