Agency now involved in research project for Arkansas teens on SSI

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 143 views 

Teen workers with disabilities will have the opportunity for a job coach through a memorandum of understanding between the state’s University of Arkansas-based PROMISE program and Arkansas Rehabilitation Services.

The “Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income” or PROMISE program is a joint research project of the federal Social Security Administration and the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor. It involves low-income teens ages 14-16 with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income benefits. Its purpose is to improve career and education outcomes so those young people rely less on SSI.

Eleven states were awarded a total of $211 million in five-year grants in 2013. In Arkansas, a $32.5 million federal grant was awarded to the UA’s College of Education and Health Professions and the Department of Education. That grant pays for arranging work experiences for participants and pays for their salaries. It also funds training in education, employment, health and wellness.

In the summer of 2015, 278 PROMISE participants worked a total of 44,817 hours for 324 employers in 55 cities. Services are available in 25 counties, according to a press release from the University of Arkansas.

As part of the research project, the program is recruiting 2,000 teens by April and has already enrolled 1,765 as of Jan. 22. Half will be involved in two 200-hour work experiences over five years, while the other half will receive only the typical services. The results of the study could make PROMISE a model for future programs managed by those four federal agencies.

Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, a division of the Arkansas Department of Career Education, is the state entity in charge of helping Arkansans with disabilities be productive and independent.

The partnership will provide teens an integrated team from several agencies. PROMISE will refer youth to ARS for job coaching, if needed. It also will assist the agency in complying with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which requires ARS to serve more clients transitioning from school to post-secondary education or careers and to serve more clients with moderate to severe disabilities.

ARS also will provide PROMISE participants a transition specialist. A connector who works for PROMISE will help meet the teens’ needs at school and work. Other members of the PROMISE team include a benefits counselor available through Sources for Community Independent Living Services and a career development counselor employed by a local Workforce Development Board.