DWD: State’s Success Yields Additional Dollars to Expand Disability Navigator Program

Rose Lynch (608) 266-6753

Program assists people with disabilities to obtain resources, employment assistance

Madison – Governor Jim Doyle and Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Roberta Gassman announced today that Wisconsin will receive $1.8 million in federal dollars to continue and enhance the Disability Navigator Program. Wisconsin is one of 17 states to receive continued funding, and one of only four states to receive bonus funding for program enhancements. The Disability Navigator Program, established in 2003, operates within Wisconsin’s Job Centers. The program connects people with disabilities to services and work supports to assist them in meeting their career objectives.
Based on 2000 Census information, one in five people in Wisconsin reported a disability, compared to one in 10 with a disability a decade ago. Navigators are trained Job Center staff with expertise in various disability programs and services, particularly in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability and blindness benefits; Social Security Administration (SSA) work incentives; and other employment support programs, including Ticket to Work programs.
“The goal of the Navigator Program is to increase employment and self sufficiency for people with disabilities by linking them to employers and connecting them to the labor market,” Governor Doyle said. “Navigators work directly with people with disabilities to cut the red tape and access needed services.”
“The Navigator Program has had a great first year. Navigators are increasing their collaborative efforts to encompass more programs to increase opportunities so people with disabilities can gain, return to, or retain employment,” Secretary Gassman said. “In an effort to expand the capacity of the State’s Job Centers to increase the employment rate for people with disabilities, Navigators will train other Job Center staff on resources available through Wisconsin’s workforce investment system, Social Security Administration employment support programs, and other available programs for individuals who want to work.”

Enhancements to the project will include three Specialty Navigators. The focus of the Specialty Navigators is to help people with disabilities within targeted populations reach their employment goals. The Milwaukee PIC will operate with a W-2 Navigator, who will serve as a Navigator for W-2 participants with disabilities. The North Central Workforce Development Board will oversee a South East Asian Navigator grant to provide services for the newly relocated Hmong population, and three American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Programs will provide a Native American Navigator to provide services for Native Americans with disabilities.

The federal award requires no state dollars and no new state positions need to be created. The Department of Labor (DOL), Employment and Training Administration, and Social Security Administration continue to jointly fund and train the Navigators.