To help reduce barriers that can prevent residents with disabilities from working, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Louis Greenwald, Angela McKnight and Raj Mukherji seeks to provide loans to businesses to help them arrange accommodations for employees. The legislation was advanced by the Assembly Human Services Committee on Thursday.
Under the bill (A-6062), the Economic Development Authority (EDA) would be required to establish and administer a loan program that provides low-interest loans to qualified small and medium-sized businesses. To qualify for the program, businesses would have to meet certain requirements such as earning no more than $1 million per year and employing no more than 100 workers.
The EDA’s program would offer lower interest rates with more flexible repayment terms than private lenders for qualified businesses that are approved for a loan to fund the costs of providing reasonable workplace accommodations.
The loan could go towards any change to the way in which the job is performed, the application process, the hiring process, or the work environment to accommodate employees with disabilities who are qualified to perform the essential functions of that role. Examples could include providing screen reader software or adding wheelchair ramps to workplaces.
Upon the bill advancing, Assembly sponsors Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington), McKnight (D-Hudson) and Mukherji (D-Hudson) issued the following joint statement:
“People with disabilities often struggle to find employment at higher rates than their non-disabled peers. Although there are several factors that contribute to this disparity, one major reason is a lack of accessibility. People with disabilities are excluded from countless job opportunities when employers do not or cannot provide the tools necessary to perform the job. Enabling business owners to provide those accommodations would help more residents find work that could adapt to their unique needs, while expanding the pool of qualified candidates from which employers could hire. Ensuring equity in the workplace is not only beneficial for everyone, but is ultimately our responsibility.”