Rochester, NH, Dec. 23 – Sen. Marco Rubio stressed the importance of early intervention and education when asked on Monday how he would help people with disabilities achieve employment success and the American Dream by RespectAbility Fellow James Trout, who has Asperger’s syndrome.
“You get those first few years – if a child does not receive the therapy and care that they need, their chances of being functional dramatically reduce,” Rubio said during a town hall at the Governor’s Inn in Rochester, N.H., on Monday. “It is that quick intervention that is very critical.”
Rubio talked about his record while he was Florida’s Speaker of the House of ensuring that insurance would cover early intervention. He also promoted school choice for children with disabilities to find a school system that provides proper services and proposed a federal corporate scholarship fund.
“Parents should be able to send their children to the best setting for them, especially if they have a disability,” the presidential hopeful said. “One of the things I proposed at the federal level is a corporate scholarship fund which allows corporations to pay a portion of what they owe the federal government in taxes – instead donate it to local not for profit scholarship organizations that give out school choice scholarships not just for poor and needy families but also for families of those who are disabled.”
As the child grows up, however, there is a need for employment opportunities. The Florida senator said the disability fund is being abused by people who do not need it and has become the “new long-term unemployment.” While he stressed that some people may need it for their entire lives, most do not. His solution, he said, is education and skill training leading to independence.
“I want to see in both our disability fund and our safety net programs both a requirement and a path so that everyone on it is either going to school, unless you are permanently disabled, everyone who is on it is either going to school or working, so you can acquire the skills for a job that pays more and you never have to be dependent on government again.”
There are 2,583,910 Floridians with disabilities, 1,116,00 who are working-age (21-64), and of that number, only 30.5 percent are employed. More than double that number – 72.2 percent – of people without disabilities are employed. Florida’s vocation rehabilitation services received more than 32,000 applications for help with employment in 2012 but only placed 6,797 people with disabilities in jobs. In the same year the total expenditure on Social Security Disability Insurance benefits for people in disabilities in Florida was $7,882,500,000.