MORRIS COUNTY — Morris County Surrogate Heather Darling joined the many program participants, their families, and guardians in celebrating the reopening of state-funded extended employment programs for people with disabilities.
Surrogate Darling has been very vocal in calling on Gov. Phil Murphy and Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOL) Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo to restore the programs that employed thousands of individuals with disabilities until they were shut down in March under the Governor’s COVID-19 state of emergency directives. Extended employment providers were recently notified by Commissioner Asaro-Angelo that the re-opening process has begun.
“I am very pleased that the state will reopen these crucial programs that provide employment, jobs, and skills training to people with disabilities,” Darling said, thanking the Governor and Commissioner.
The programs will be reinstated as their written COVID-19 protocols are individually accepted by the DOL Providers are required to have approved re-opening plans to ensure that all appropriate precautions are being implemented to safeguard extended employees and staff.
On August 21, 2020, Surrogate Darling sent a letter to the Governor and DOL Commissioner requesting the programs be reopened. The Governor responded on September 2, 2020, by offering federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to reopen the programs, but no reopening dates were provided.
On September 3, 2020, Surrogate Darling issued a joint statement with Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (NJ-26) urging the Governor to provide a specific date for the reopening. Surrogate Darling also worked with extended employment programs, their directors, and advocates in a campaign for the reopening, sharing posts and videos on social media and calling for others to write letters or sign onto existing letters in support of reopening the programs.
“The lives of people in the disabled community have been severely impacted. It is crucial that they be able to return to work and resume as much of a normal life as every other citizen in New Jersey, and now they will,” Darling said.