Maryland Customized Employment Project:
Grant number, name, and location: Maryland Customized Employment Project, 101 Monroe Street Suite 1500, Rockville, MD 20850, #E-9-4-3-0106
Grant recipient: Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board
Project lead: TransCen, Inc.
Subcontractors: MontgomeryWorks One-Stop, Independence Now (ILC and BPAO), WayStation
- Supports for housing, medical assistance, and transportation were just as important as those for job search and acquisition.
- WIA services often required prohibitive eligibility requirements before assistance.
- Leveraging resources could require a degree of intensive case management and service coordination.
The Maryland Customized Employment Project proved that leveraging of resources could come in many different forms. This project worked with multiple agencies and entities to coordinate multiple support resources applicable to an individual's whole life, including housing, medicine, and transportation. The inflexibility of these systems and supports, and the difficulties entailed in coordinating them to accommodate a flexible working schedule, often precluded employment for individuals receiving intensive and diverse supports. As such, the lessons learned from the project's work with these various support services were highly significant.
Leveraging Resources from Other Employment Providers and Agencies
As with many Customized Employment projects, the Maryland grant held a regular meeting of major stakeholders. This meeting served as a vehicle to system-level coordination and problem solving, and became the foundation for leveraging funding from Vocational Rehabilitation and other state agencies.
While this top-down approach was very valuable, this project found it critical to also provide training and education (click here for examples) to each individual service counselor. Due to the high degree of autonomy from counselor to counselor (especially in systems such as Vocational Rehabilitation), grant staff needed to build multiple relationships rather than just one with the agency as a whole.
Coordinating with WIA Services
The MontgomeryWorks Intensive Service unit, a group of staff dedicated to services for individuals who required more support than standard self-service offered by the One-Stop, was the project's primary point of contact for these issues. They were working through issues of eligibility for WIA Adult services. This unit could then become the gateway to leveraging funding and resources on the customer's behalf.
Many challenges surfaced in this effort, particularly around new local policies that dictated that a customer must be determined "eligible" to access WIA individual funding and thereafter make five visits to the One-Stop over the course of a thirty-day waiting period. This policy necessitated project staff to work closely with new customers to ensure their continued retention in the system, despite the difficulties they might have finding value in participating in the required Core activities.
Coordinating Multiple Support Services in the Employment Search
Customers who approached the Maryland Customized Employment Project typically received a wide variety of public support. Support included those directly relevant to employment as well as housing, transportation, and medical assistance. While these other concerns were not directly relevant to an individual's employment search, they nonetheless impinged upon it. Each support required adjustment; e.g., transportation and housing concerns would need to adjust to accommodate a work schedule, and care would need to be altered to include preparation for work.
While these concerns were not typically a piece of the employment discussion, they nonetheless often served as significant barriers to individuals with disabilities searching for employment. In addition to their efforts assisting an individual to find employment, the Maryland Customized Employment project effectively coordinated these various services for individuals who required that level of case management. Although leveraging resources is typically associated with the acquisition of new funds, services, or equipment, this type of coordination was even more important for those individuals who required it.
Example of Leveraged Resources in Individual Job Searches
The following is a practical example of the grant's efforts around leveraging resources for customers. The key element of this creative resource braiding was that it was initially time consuming, as one staff person must work to coordinate multiple systems. Eventually resource leveraging was quite rewarding to the customer. In this equation, the employment specialist began to take on a role typically associated with a case manager while maintaining much of the responsibility for the job search. However, the time consumed by this process was paid back in the stability of the job and life situations (click here for more information). Without this level of intense coordination, the numerous supports an individual requires would often collapse, putting the new job opportunity at risk.
For example, one customer with a significant disability who approached the MontgomeryWorks One-Stop Center also qualified for dislocated worker services. He worked at first through core services and was also routed to the Customized Employment project, as his family expressed a need for job coaching. The individual also received special education support. The employment plan and profile developed for this job seeker included a plan to reach out to the Developmental Disabilities Administration for long-term job supports and to the Division of Rehabilitative Services for additional short-term job coaching beyond what the grant could provide. The job seeker was also directed to the Benefits Planning, Assistance, and Outreach (BPAO) organization to secure medical coverage through Medicaid and SSI until he became employed. (Note: During the grant period, the Social Security Administiration changed the name of BPAO to Work Incentive Planning and Assistance [WIPA].)
With the support of these multiple partners, the job seeker secured a customized position and received short- and long-term job coaching (from the Division of Rehabilitative Services and the Developmental Disabilities Administration, respectively), benefits planning from Independence Now (a grant partner and the provider of WIPA services for the area), and support and assistance from Dislocated Worker and core WIA services. The service coordination offered by the grant project was a necessary precursor for securing each of these supports.