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Trio of Sweeney Bills to Support Needs of Disabled Advance in Senate

Committees Approve Measures to Train Direct Care Workers, Establish Transitional Centers and Fund Workplace Accommodations 

TRENTON – Three bills authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney that would aid the disabled were approved by committees in the Senate today. The measures would set up training programs at county colleges to train the direct care workers who care for the disabled, establish college-based transitional centers for adults with disabilities, and provide loans to businesses to make workplace accommodations to facilitate the needs of disabled employees.

“These bills will ensure that New Jersey continues to make real progress in improving the lives and livelihoods of those with developmental disabilities,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “They will help improve the skills of the direct care workers who are so important to the disabled, facilitate the transition of the disabled at a critical time in their lives, and make reasonable workplace accommodations so they can maintain life-affirming employment. This is about equal opportunities for the disabled so they can live full, rewarding lives as contributing members of society.”  

The bill to train direct care workers, S-4102, would have the Secretary of Higher Education develop a training program that each county college would operate with grants from the state. Direct Support Professionals are critical caregivers who work closely with a person of any age who has an intellectual, developmental, mental, or physical disability, and whose work supports the client in making gains towards self-sufficiency and community integration. The measure, which includes $450,000 for its implementation, was approved by the Senate Higher Education Committee.

The bill establishing adult transition centers for individuals with developmental disabilities, S-4211, would allow the board of trustees of a county college to establish a county college-based adult center for transition for developmentally disabled individuals up to the age of 24. This would facilitate a more successful transition from secondary school to post-secondary education, adult employment, and independent living opportunities. The legislation, which would appropriate $4.5 million annually for its implementation, was approved by the Senate Higher Education Committee.

The bill to help facilitate the needs of the disabled in the workplace, S4210, would require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to establish and administer a low-interest loan program for small to medium-sized businesses to make “reasonable” workplace accommodations for their employees with disabilities. For use by companies with up to 100 employees, the low-cost loans could be used to modify the application or hiring process, the way the job is performed, or the work environment that allows an employee with disabilities who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job and enjoy equal employment opportunities. The measure was approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee.