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Opening Statements

Molinaro: “Pathways to Success: Supporting Entrepreneurs and Employees with Disabilities”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development is holding a hearing titled “Pathways to Success: Supporting Entrepreneurs and Employees with Disabilities.”

Subcommittee Chairman Marc Molinaro’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and welcome to today’s hearing. First, I want to thank our witnesses for joining us today. Your time here is very much appreciated, and I look forward to your testimonies.

I’m looking forward to hearing from Mr. Keith Wargo, President and CEO of Autism Speaks. Your leadership and vison for such an impactful organization does not go unnoticed. As the parent of a child with autism, I am interested in hearing more about the work your organization is doing to enhance the lives of those with autism and their families.

I’m also very excited to be joined by Ms. Iva Walsh. Iva is the founder and owner of Maeve’s Place, a popular coffee shop in Phoenicia, NY, located in my district. Earlier this month, I had the chance to stop by Maeve’s Place and present Iva with a well-deserved Congressional Certificate of Recognition for her amazing work and service to our community. Inspired by her daughter Maeve, who has Down Syndrome, Iva has made it her mission to employ and support those with intellectual disabilities through her small business. I am eager to hear your unique perspectives on the positive impacts individuals with disabilities bring to the workplace and I thank you for being here.

Today, the Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development hearing will focus on highlighting the pathways to success for our nation’s entrepreneurs and employees with disabilities.

Hiring people with disabilities is a sound economic investment for businesses of any size. Aside from the economic and cultural advantages, they also put forth a unique perspective and skillset that makes them attractive employees. Fortunately, with the current labor shortage, remote work opportunities, and tax incentives, we have seen a significant rise in the number of individuals with disabilities joining the workforce.

We must continue to encourage and provide resources to individuals with disabilities for job opportunities. There are various programs that exist for this purpose and do an outstanding job of assisting those who attend. Alongside many others, programs like the Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship (PIA) and Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) currently exist to help guide self-employed entrepreneurs.

The PIA has designed apprenticeship programs and works to fund and connect disabled entrepreneurs to mentors, employment opportunities, and training programs. Meanwhile, the PEAT program promotes employment, retention, and career advancement by fostering collaborations in the technology space to build an inclusive workplace for people with disabilities. Having access to these programs can make a world of difference for these entrepreneurs, creating a more productive and innovative environment on Main Street.

Furthermore, in the post-pandemic workforce, unique employment opportunities have arisen for people with disabilities. Research shows that people with disabilities are highly motivated to work, can create a more positive work environment, are more loyal, and less frequently absent than other employees.

While entrepreneurs and employees with disabilities may face additional barriers to entry when considering opening a business or applying for a job, it is crucial we continue to promote the opportunities available to them and ensure this community has access to the resources needed to thrive.

No matter the role, every unfilled position on Main Street represents a missed opportunity for a small business to serve its local community, increase their bottom-line, and grow its operation. As policymakers, we must improve our understanding of the barriers facing this area of the workforce as well as work to encourage future participation as we prepare the next generation of people with disabilities to enter the workforce

I hope this hearing can help shape how Congress can work to promote the initiatives that already exist and produce additional legislation and initiatives to pave pathways to success for entrepreneurs and employees with disabilities.

I want to thank all of our witnesses again for being here today. We look forward to the conversation ahead.

With that, I will yield to our distinguished Ranking Member from Kentucky, Mr. McGarvey.