The MSRC works with state and federal legislative representatives to promote the public vocational rehabilitation (VR) program as a sound investment in the workforce and our citizens.
The demand for public VR services – services that enable people with disabilities to find jobs and go to work – has increased dramatically over the last decade. This increase is in part due to the economic downturn and elevated unemployment rate. During this time, DORS has received minimal increases in its federal funding due to inequities in the federal funding formula. State increases in funding and funds made available to VR programs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made it possible for the Division to substantially reduce its waiting list for services. However, since those stimulus programs ended, the waiting list has grown again: as of the beginning of Fiscal Year 2015, more than 2,300 individuals with significant disabilities are waiting up to 16 months to begin VR services.
The Council continues to have concerns about funding due to Sequestration and similar drastic budget cutting efforts, and those disparities in how federal VR funds are distributed between the states still remain. The Council was active in promoting research into the federal funding formula, resulting in a 2009 Government Accounting Office (GAO) study confirming that Maryland is very adversely affected by the formula. GAO recommended three courses of action to address the inequities, none of which have yet to be acted on by the Congress. The Council continues to advocate for more equitable support of individuals with disabilities in Maryland seeking employment through the VR program.
An additional issue affecting the ability of Marylanders with disabilities to receive VR services has emerged with the economic issues in the State. DORS has experienced extended vacancies in rehabilitation counselor ranks which have resulted in diminished capacity to serve consumers. The State of Maryland hiring freeze and efforts to reduce the total number of employees in State service have resulted in a more than 10% reduction in the number of VR counselors and other staff who directly serve DORS consumers.
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