ADEN Member Profile: employU – Florida

employU is a nonprofit employment services company in Florida, which specializes in helping persons with disabilities find employment. After receiving its first client referral from Florida’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in June 2012, employU has grown throughout Florida, expanding into 33 counties. employU has added multiple services to include Work Incentive Planning services.

employU joined the American Dream Employment Network (ADEN) in January 2016 to participate in the Ticket to work (TTW) program. employU has established itself as a premier nonprofit employment agency for persons with disabilities and saw working with ADEN as an opportunity to diversify its programs. The company employs a team of Employment Specialists and job coaches, allowing them to serve the entire state of Florida.

Trish Reonas, employU’s Program Manager, who oversees their employment network operations, recognized that, by working with ADEN, she would have the opportunity to assist persons with disabilities in becoming self-supporting through the Ticket to Work program. Trish advanced her training and became a Certified Work Incentive Practitioner, with plans to grow this department for employU and ADEN.

“It is important, as well,” Trish says, “to educate employU staff working with referrals from various sources so that they understand the benefits of the ADEN structure. It is also good practice to request pay statements from the ADEN Participants so that you can provide accurate benefits and work incentive advisement. It can also help to determine when a payment is pending,” she advises, “because once the revenue starts to be deposited regularly, it’s easier to see the benefits.”

Because compensation timeframes for Ticket to Work participants can be different from other funded programs, it takes a lot of patience, trust and “buy-in” from team members and participants. Trish says it’s crucial to understand the EN payment structure so that the payments can be predicted and to see the “big picture” for long-term outcomes.

Diversification is important no matter what type of business you are in. As an ADEN Member, Trish says, “It is rewarding once the program has been sustained for long enough to build the ‘snowball effect.”

The typical Participant employU serves has health issues, which can be physical, emotional or mental – and sometimes a combination of some or all, Trish shares. They see the benefits of working, not only financially, but also for having a better lifestyle. Participants seem to be more aware of the rewards of working, but many aren’t sure how to take the first step. Many of those that have utilized the support and guidance of employU are much more likely to get beyond their fears of getting off Social Security benefits.

Trish appreciates that ADEN staff are always readily available to provide support and are quick to respond to any questions. She says that the regular meetings ADEN holds are helpful for educating their partners, and adds that the ADEN web portal is also user-friendly once you become familiar with using it.

A component of ADEN is a formal partnership with the state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency to promote the Ticket to Work program. ADEN entered into a Partnership Plus agreement with Florida VR. Partnership Plus promotes the referral of qualified customers of vocational rehabilitation to an Employment Network (i.e., ADEN) once their Ticket is no longer “in use” with Florida VR. Several people have become employU clients because of the Partnership Plus agreement between ADEN and Florida VR.

Working with ADEN also provides an opportunity to maintain a close relationship with Participants on a long-term basis, as the Ticket to Work program is designed for ongoing employment support for years after the participant starts working. Trish shares the example of a Participant who they helped advance from a good job into the job of his dreams. She says employU continues to provide him with follow along services through the Ticket to Work program, guiding him to grow further.

employU has also worked with older people that didn’t think they could get back into the work force and helped them do just that. Trish says she’s seen employU employees and persons with various disabilities work with employers in providing accommodations so they can perform their job to its fullest. employU helps instill the confidence in their clients that they need to get the job they want because people with disabilities are needed and wanted by employers. Trish says getting a job is life changing for their clients and employU feels rewarded by the gratitude they receive from its Participants.

employU has experienced success as a service provider of the Ticket to Work program under the American Dream Employment Network. They, and other ADEN Members, support individuals with a wide variety of disability types and ages, including referrals of successfully employed clients from vocational rehabilitation. With the provision of employment supports for many years after starting work, including advisement on disability benefits and Social Security work incentives, these combined services help SSA beneficiaries on the path of self-sufficiency. ADEN currently has a Partnership Plus agreement with eight state vocational rehabilitation agencies.  Employment service providers across the country are invited to follow the footsteps of employU and explore becoming an ADEN Member. 

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