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Harkin Calls for 25% Growth In U.S. Disability Workforce

February 27, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC (February 27, 2013) -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) called for the U.S, disability workforce to grow 25 percent, to six million, by 2015 during a special hearing yesterday of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Harkin, the commiteee chair, called the hearing to follow up on his 2012 committee report, "Unfinished Business: Making Employment of People with Disabilities a National Priority."

On Sunday, the National Governors Association (NGA) conducted a special session on the issue which it has made a priority. The current NGA chairman, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, was called as the Senate committee's first witness.

Harkin said, "I have set the committee's sights on twin goals: to make up the ground we have lost since 2008, and to increase the size of this workforce to at least six million by 2015. I am happy that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed that goal."

The HELP committee report noted that labor market participation rates for working-age Americans with disabilities had not improved "in any significant way" since the late 1980s. During the recession, the nation's disabilities workforce shrunk by about a million workers, from 5.8 million to 4.8 million.

"This decrease, on a percentage basis, was five times greater than the impact of the recession on workers without disabilities," said Harkin. States can play a prominent role in increasing job opportunities, he said.

To view the HELP hearing, go here

To view the NGA session, go here