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Sen. Roberts and Sen. Kennedy Introduce Legislation To Create More Jobs for People with Severe Disabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 27, 2007) — Approaching the Anniversary of the Americans withDisabilities Act, U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) todayintroduced legislation aimed at reducing the high unemployment rate for people with severedisabilities. “The experiences of the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas show that severelydisabled people can be an asset to their employers and help their companies to remaincompetitive in their industry,” said Senator Roberts. “Yet despite the tremendous progressdisabled people have made in the last fifteen years, nearly 78 percent of all severely disabledpeople in the U.S. today are unemployed.” “Government and the private sector must work together to provide all Americans with theopportunity to achieve personal and economic self-sufficiency. Individuals with disabilitiesdeserve the dignity and satisfaction that comes from earning a living wage,” said SenatorKennedy. “This legislation encourages companies that do business with the federalgovernment to truly open their doors and employ these individuals.” The “Employer Work Incentive Act for Individuals with Severe Disabilities” will offer eligiblebusinesses that competitively employ people with severe disabilities the opportunity toparticipate in the performance of federal contracts and receive a procurement advantage. asMore than 9.4 million Americans have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limitstheir life activities (e.g., mobility, communication, self-care, self-direction, work tolerance orwork skills). The legislation will expand competitive employment opportunities for thoseindividuals by offering businesses an incentive to employ severely disabled individuals andoffer them a both competitive salary and good health care benefits. “Senator Kennedy and I introduced this legislation because we are deeply committed to doingwhat we can to help severely disabled Americans seek and maintain competitive employment. “It is time for a change in the way we think about employing individuals with severedisabilities,” said Senator Pat Roberts. “We must create job opportunities for the severelydisabled in the national workforce, not just in government-operated programs.” “This legislation can help our disabled citizens become full and participating members of theircommunity, while creating the employment opportunities needed to fulfill that dream”,Kennedy added. “I urge my colleagues to pass this important initiative.” In addition to providing greater employment opportunities to the severely disabled, thelegislation will also save taxpayer dollars. If just 94,000—or one percent—of severely disabledpeople now receiving federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), SupplementalSecurity Income (SSI) payments and related health benefits were to become gainfully andcompetitively employed, the projected ten-year cost savings to the federal treasury would bemore than $45 billion. ###