The program was established by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1991 (T.C.A. 71-4-701 -- 71-4-705). The program seeks to employ Tennesseans with disabilities in providing goods and services to state and local government agencies. People with disabilities often face unemployment levels of 60% or more. Currently there are more than 300 people with disabilities across the state productively employed staffing rest areas, cleaning offices, inspecting and cleaning government vehicles, maintaining kitchen equipment and facilities, packaging drug-testing kits, and becoming increasingly self-sufficient thanks to the benefits of stable employment, thus reducing their need for public assistance.
Governor Haslam's Commitment to Employing Tennessean's with Disabilities
On June 19, 2013, Governor Haslam signed Executive Order No. 28. , an order establishing The Tennessee Employment First Initiative to Expand Community Employment Opportunities for Tennesseans with Disabilities.
The order directs that state agencies coordinate efforts to increase opportunities for integrated and competitive employment for Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, substance abuse disorders and disabilities.
Studies have estimated anywhere from $1.34 in savings for every dollar of purchasing to $2,200 per individual worker annually. Few programs manage to benefit so many citizens without dedicated funding and/or increased costs, but Tennessee's program works within the most efficient processes of government procurement while fostering good business practices.
Thanks to the efforts of many professionals, nonprofit community rehabilitation agencies, for profit businesses and advocacy groups across the state, Tennesseans with disabilities play an integral role in the effective function of state and local government as a result of their meaningful employment contributions.