Governor Signs Bill to Improve Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services

On Friday, May 8, 2015, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill transferring the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, formerly a part of the Department of Human Services, to the Department of Labor and Employment.
The move affords Colorado an opportunity to better respond to the requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  That new federal law specifically identifies Vocational Rehabilitation as a required workforce partner.  WIOA mandates that workers with disabilities be provided access to high-quality workforce services so they are better prepared for employment.  The legislation signed into law today affords Colorado an opportunity to better respond to the new federal mandates.
But at the heart of the matter, the move supports Governor Hickenlooper’s call to better serve individuals who have previously struggled to participate in the workplace, including thousands of Coloradans with disabilities for whom employment has remained completely out of reach, as well as other groups, such as youth, recently discharged veterans and the long-term unemployed  More than two-thirds of Americans with disabilities do not participate in the workforce at all and disabled job seekers have an unemployment rate more than double that of the general population.
“A job means more than a paycheck,” says Ellen Golombek, Executive Director of the Department of Labor and Employment.  “It means independence, confidence and dignity.  The Governor’s signature on this legislation today calls for us to capitalize on the talents of an important talent pool and to help those workers succeed.  Aligning DVR with the Department of Labor and Employment is a natural fit with our mission to help people succeed in the job market, whatever their barrier to employment may be.”

“The Department of Human Services is proud of the progress we have made in getting people with disabilities reemployed,” says Executive Director Reggie Bicha, “but housing these services with the labor department whose focus is on getting people to work will allow even greater potential.”
Since reorganization is considered a substantive change that affects the provision of vocational rehabilitation services, public meetings must be conducted throughout the state to allow the public, including individuals with disabilities, sufficient opportunity to provide input.
“Much work lies ahead,” Governor Hickenlooper says, “but with this legislation, we are about to take some important first steps.  Housing the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Labor and Employment is a strategy that will strengthen Colorado’s level of service to people with barriers to employment and make Colorado workplaces more inclusive.”

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For immediate release

Date: May 8, 2015
Contact: Office of Government, Policy and Public Relations
Bill Thoennes at (303) 318-8004 or Cher Haavind at (303) 318-8003
Fax: (303) 318-8070