Our bill will help grow Wisconsin jobs: Sen. Shilling and Rep. Shankland


With the fall session upon us, it’s time for the Legislature to finally focus on jobs.
Our national economy is showing strong growth — or was before the government shutdown — but Wisconsin still has a long road to recovery. In an effort to spur job creation and economic development, Democrats have introduced numerous job creation and workforce development bills since last January and we call on the Legislature to act now.
As of July, more than 200,000 Wisconsinites still could not find work. Thousands more are underemployed, and still more have simply stopped looking. Wisconsin has plummeted from 11th to 37th in the nation in job growth under the Republican majority and unemployed workers have been given false hope with Gov. Scott Walker’s promise of 250,000 jobs.
Wisconsinites with disabilities have been hit particularly hard by our lagging economy. Many have turned to the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which provides important job training and employment assistance services for people with disabilities who are looking for work. The DVR offers career guidance and counseling, job search and placement assistance, rehabilitation technology, job training, transportation and more. And it has proven its efficacy, providing a return of $2.10 for every $1 invested.
However, the recent biennial budget fails to fully fund the DVR — leaving millions of federal tax dollars on the table rather than putting them to good use here in Wisconsin. Over 4,000 people with disabilities remain on the waiting list for DVR employment assistance, with some waiting up to four months. At the same time, employers are struggling to find well-trained, reliable, and qualified job applicants. By investing in services to help people find work and eliminating barriers to employment, we can empower individuals and improve workplace opportunities for thousands of people with disabilities.
Together, we have authored legislation, Senate Bill 274 and Assembly Bill 131, to shorten the waiting list by making a smart investment to capture full federal funding for the DVR. Under our bill, Wisconsin will be able to take full advantage of federal incentives for the state’s successful vocational rehabilitation program. This will provide employment assistance to thousands of unemployed Wisconsinites with disabilities, and will restore hope to those waiting for help.
We were proud to introduce this legislation with bipartisan support and the endorsement of advocacy groups including Disability Rights Wisconsin and the Board for People with Developmental Disabilities. We are pleased our bills have received interest from both parties and we encourage Republican leadership to quickly move these bills through the legislature.
Working across the aisle to put people back to work should be the focus of the legislature this session. By providing support for the successful vocational rehabilitation program, we can take an important step toward our goal of getting people back to work and helping those with disabilities receive valuable job training services.
Too many families continue to struggle to find jobs and get back on their feet. Together, let’s stand up for Wisconsin’s working families and get our economy back on track.
State Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, represents the 32nd Senate District and state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, represents the 71st Assembly District.