The federal government is sending more than $21 million to a number of states to address the specific needs of people with disabilities who are looking for work.

California, Hawaii, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin will each receive between $1.8 and $6 million of the new funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, officials said this week. The grants represent an expansion of a disability employment initiative that’s already underway in nine other states.

Under the program, states are expected to use the money to boost “education, training and employment opportunities and outcomes” for young people and adults with disabilities who are unemployed or underemployed, including those receiving Social Security benefits, federal officials said.

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Specifically, the grants are intended to enhance coordination on employment issues between various agencies including vocational rehabilitation services, independent living centers and local nonprofits. In addition, the funds will help ensure that the Labor Department’s One-Stop Career Centers in the states are better equipped to aid job seekers with disabilities who currently rely on Social Security.

“During these difficult economic times, it is important to ensure that all workers, including those with disabilities — who as a group face employment barriers even during times of prosperity — are able to benefit from the Labor Department’s employment and retraining services,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “These federal grants will help to provide services and support to individuals with disabilities in seven additional states, and put them on the path to permanent and secure jobs.”

Nine states — Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Virginia — already receive similar grants.

In addition to the new funds directed at states, the Labor Department is also sending $3.78 million to four centers located in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. that conduct research and provide technical assistance on employment issues for people with disabilities.

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