OKLAHOMA CITY – The Department of Rehabilitation Services has transferred 3,424 job seekers with significant disabilities from waiting lists to active caseloads since January 1.
DRS’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services staff began providing career planning and employments services to 505 new clients in the most recent group moved from waiting lists on November 7.
In 2017, VR and VS staff helped 2,014 clients successfully prepare for and find employment and served 11,765 Oklahomans with disabilities working towards that goal. The new taxpayers earned an average of $22,212 per year and paid $3,332 in average taxes, while reducing or eliminating dependence on disability benefits and government services.
DRS’ waiting lists have been in place since March 13, 2017, due to prior year revenue reductions.
DRS received $11.6 million dollars in state appropriations for the 2019 Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which allowed the agency to begin moving people from the waiting list to receive services on a first come, first served basis.
“This state funding is eligible to match federal funds at a 4 to 1 rate, which means DRS earns $4 federal dollars for every state $1 appropriated for VS and VR employment programs,” DRS Executive Director Melinda Fruendt said. “With the restored funding, we are able to maximize federal and state funding to serve more job seekers.”
On November 6, 2,131 eligible clients remained on waiting lists. The agency expects to continue moving groups of jobseekers onto active caseloads when are funds are identified to pay for their services.
“We’re thrilled to begin serving so many people who have been waiting to go to work,” Visual Services Administrator Tracy Brigham said. “This success is due to support from the Oklahoma Legislature. When they match federal funds with state dollars, we can prepare clients to become taxpayers who give back to the system.”
When waiting lists are in place, VR and VS staff continue to process new applications, determine eligibility for services and place applicants on waiting lists in three groups based on the significance of their disabilities.
“Going forward, we want to completely clear the waiting lists of clients with significant disabilities so they can reach their goals for employment and independence,” Vocational Rehabilitation Services Administrator Mark Kinnison said.
DRS’ Visual Services serves Oklahomans who are blind or visually impaired. Vocational Rehabilitation staff help those with all other types of physical and mental disabilities.
The divisions provide counseling, training, job placement and other services that build jobseekers’ skills and qualifications needed in the workforce. As a result, successfully employed clients become taxpayers who no longer need government assistance.
Staff also assist Oklahoma employers with recruitment and placement, technical assistance, staff development and financial incentives in some situations.
For more information visit http://www.okdrs.gov or phone 800-487-4042.