Suzanne Crouch, Lieutenant Governor of Indiana
As we celebrate Disability Awareness Month throughout March, I want to use this time to bring attention to the fact there are hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers living with disabilities who simply want the opportunity to live, learn, work and be active in their communities.
As chair of the Indiana Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Task Force, I am reminded all too often of the challenges and obstacles these Hoosiers face to live as independently as they can and want. In my role as Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, I travel our state weekly and often talk to people with disabilities. The number one thing they ask for is…a job!
This population of Hoosiers simply wants an opportunity to earn a good wage in a job that provides access to the benefits they need to be healthy and successful for themselves and their families.
Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development recently reported that nearly 130,000 jobs need to be filled in Indiana. Yet, the 2023 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium indicates that, in Indiana, more than 160,000 people with cognitive disabilities are not working. Those numbers are far too close!
Employers need workers, and people with disabilities want to be employed.
House Bill 1160, which unanimously passed the Indiana House of Representatives in February and is now in front of the Senate’s Family & Children Services committee, takes a big step in addressing this issue.
The aim of HB 1160 is to encourage manufacturers to work together to skill up current workers who want to move into higher paying jobs. Then, people with disabilities and those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services can be hired to fill those open entry level positions.
It is fitting that I kicked off Disability Awareness Month at Muncie’s Erskine Green Training Institute (EGTI), a post-secondary vocational training program for people with disabilities, founded by The Arc of Indiana. Since opening in 2016, nearly 80 percent of EGTI graduates have gone on to find success in hospitality, food service, healthcare and inventory distribution. Employers have found a source for loyal, hard-working, committed employees.
By enacting HB 1160, Indiana would fully utilize EGTI’s expertise in training people with disabilities by creating a pilot program that would help them acquire the skills needed to be hired for the thousands of open entry level manufacturing jobs in our state.
It is a win-win for all, something I am proud to support, and something we all need to be promoting.
Suzanne Crouch, from Evansville, Indiana, is in the middle of her second term as Lieutenant Governor of Indiana.
In addition to overseeing four state agencies and serving as president of the Indiana Senate, Crouch is the state’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. She also chairs the Intellectual and Development Disabilities Task Force, the Indiana Roundtable on Mental Health and the Civics Education Commission.