Stimulus funds give boost to California's disabled worker program

Federal stimulus dollars will expand an on-the-job training program for California's disabled workers.

The state Department of Rehabilitation will spend nearly $6 million on outreach, attracting more businesses to the longtime program, said Michelle Alford-Williams, the department's work force development manager.

In all, the department received $61.8 million in stimulus funding this year that will go to a variety of programs, from those that provide business opportunities to the visually impaired to independent living programs, paid internships and career development.

The on-the-job training is part of the department's vocational rehabilitation program, the largest vocational program in the country, providing counseling, job placement and other services to about 115,000 people at more than 80 locations across California.

"We're very much in the community – one-stops, career centers, job fairs," Alford-Williams said, focusing on job-seeking clients with visual, hearing, developmental and learning disabilities.

To date, about 185 employers have on-the-job training agreements with the department statewide – 18 in the Sacramento area – and more are being developed, according to department officials.

The department pays employers a stipend up to $1,500 to train and hire disabled workers under the program.

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