More than $20 million is headed to states to expand a program designed to help people with disabilities gain a foothold in the workplace.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Labor said the new funding announced this week will establish the so-called “Disability Employment Initiative” in seven new states — Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island.

The federal program — which is already in place in 16 states — offers grants to enhance training and educational opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed or receiving Social Security benefits.

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With the funding, states are encouraged to increase collaboration among multiple programs including vocational rehabilitation, developmental disability agencies and independent living centers in order to help ensure the best outcomes for those with disabilities seeking employment.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to contribute to today’s workforce,” said Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “Enhancing the workforce system’s ability to provide effective coordinated and collaborative service delivery will help to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the employment training and supports they need to achieve self-sufficiency.”

Each of the seven states added to the program will receive between $1.8 million and $4.8 million.

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