A generous new grant to the state of North Carolina should go a long way toward helping those with disabilities find the work they desire. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has been awarded $13.8 million from a federal grant that’s meant to “help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities access inclusive jobs with competitive wages and benefits.”

The grant is part of $177 million awarded across the country by a US Department with a 50-cent name and a lot more money than that to give out to help those with disabilities. The money comes from the “Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration for Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment” – SWTCIE for short.

The NCDHHS Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services is one of 14 state vocational rehabilitation agencies that’s getting funding from the Disability Innovation Fund.

Needless to say, state officials were very enthused by the grant supporting a good cause. NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley said the funding will help the department meet an important goal.

“Building a strong and inclusive workforce is a top priority for our department and our state,” Kinsley stated. “Working a community job, alongside people with and without disabilities and earning the same wages and benefits as others doing the same job, has a positive impact in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The program will begin with the creation of three regional pilot sites to help those with disabilities work in the community alongside other employees who don’t have disabilities.

Those taking advantage of the program will earn at least minimum wage, and they’ll receive the same workplace benefits and opportunities as other employees who are doing the same job.

According to a description of the program from the NCDHHS, “The demonstration project includes enhanced training for NCDHHS partners, including service providers and employers, to increase their capacity to effectively support individuals with complex needs … A key feature of North Carolina’s demonstration project is the formation of a stakeholder advisory council, including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, service providers, employers and other key system partners.”