A bill prefiled on December 10 by Able South Carolina, Rep. Neal Collins and Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell aims to create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
While 32 states have adopted policies to encourage businesses to hire people with disabilities, and the federal government provides the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to employers who employ individuals with physical or mental disabilities, South Carolina doesn’t currently offer any hiring guidelines or incentives to encourage employers to recruit employees with disabilities. The Employment First Initiative Act (H.4678) aims to change that.
“This legislation would be a positive and much needed step for advancing the employment of South Carolinians with disabilities,” said Kimberly Tissot, the executive director of Able SC, “and we look forward to having these discussions at the Statehouse in the new session. South Carolina has been behind other states for far too long, and it is time that we develop an employment culture that truly includes all people, with and without disabilities.”
A 2019 state report compiled by the Employment First Study Committee demonstrated both the need for and the positive impact of employing individuals with disabilities in South Carolina. Currently, of the 727,702 South Carolina residents who have a disability, 67% are unemployed—the 6th highest unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities in the nation.
If passed, the bill would help to fill this large employment gap in the state. The act would establish a commission that would recommend strategies to help state agencies, local government, and the private sector adopt a multifaceted approach to support individuals with disabilities obtaining employment.
Consisting of 17 appointed members, the South Carolina Employment First Oversight Commission would also track state agencies’ progress toward implementing aspects of the bill. The findings would be issued in an annual report to the governor and members of the South Carolina General Assembly.
“In a time where employers are struggling to fill vacant positions, we pose an easy solution to their problem,” said Robbie Kopp, director of advocacy at Able SC. “People with disabilities should have equal opportunities to work. This bill would help employers reach that untapped workforce.”