New job opportunities will be available soon to local residents with disabilities thanks to a federal grant recently awarded to LCI Inc.
The $200,000 grant was provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — more commonly known as the “Stimulus Bill” — to preserve and create jobs across the nation.
LCI, which serves people with disabilities in Lee and surrounding counties, received funding for two major projects.
The first provides on-the-job training for jobs currently in high demand. Under the grant, which officially begins Aug. 15, LCI will pay the training wage for up to 15 weeks for new employees with disabilities and provide additional assistance throughout the training process.
“We work with both the business and the trainee,” says Meg Moss, executive director of LCI. “We help the business determine what the training goals are for each individual and then we provide a range of support to the trainee.”
If the trainee is hired at the end of the training period, LCI is authorized to continue providing consultation for another 90 days.
Under its second grant award, LCI is working with Innovate, a new product development company focused on products designed to enhance independence for people with disabilities. Already, the company has developed The Wheel Deal, an innovative fabric bag providing storage for people using wheelchairs.
Innovate is led by local business consultant Bob Jones, a lean manufacturing specialist who is serving as managing partner. Jones has applied the latest engineering and manufacturing practices to the new enterprise.
Under the partnership, Innovate designs products based on insight from clients who use wheelchairs. LCI clients with disabilities then test the products and participate in sales and distribution.
“Developing the products is extremely important, but this company offers a much wider range of benefits for LCI’s clients,” says Moss. “Our goal is to help people with disabilities move into more-independent employment and this company gives all of our clients a place to develop skills and begin that important transition.”
Each of the projects received about half of the total grant made to LCI. Stimulus funds under this particular federal program were distributed from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to state vocational rehabilitation offices. The North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, one of those state offices, made the award to LCI based on proposals submitted.
Groups like LCI helped more than 2,300 people with disabilities across the United States become successfully employed during the 2008 fiscal year. That’s important, Moss believes, because only 36 percent of people with disabilities were employed — compared to more than 80 percent of people without disabilities.
“We’re thrilled to get help from this grant,” she says. “We couldn’t pursue this opportunity without the financial assistance and the grant will allow us to generate more income for the future. That means helping more clients enjoy a better, more-independent life.”