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DLEG Grant Goes To Disability Advocates
GRAND RAPIDS — The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth awarded $249,719 in state and federal grant money to Disability Advocates of Kent County earlier this month, and is adding staff after waiting for the state Legislature to sort out its budget.
Most of the grant comes from the federal government and is used for Disability Advocates’ work with Michigan Rehabilitation Services in helping those with disabilities gain employment. Disability Advocates Executive Director David Bulkowski said the federal portion is a stable funding source for the $1.3 million nonprofit.
But about $110,000 of the recent grant award is state money, and Bulkowski said uncertainty over the budget convinced Disability Advocates to delay hiring staff. Bulkowski said he was confident that his agency would receive state money, but cash flow was disrupted. He said the final payment from the last fiscal year was delayed.
“The biggest downside for us is that we chose not to hire for a couple vacant positions until everything was figured out,” Bulkowski said.
He said he expects Disability Advocates, which has 20 staff members, will have 25 by mid-January. People with disabilities comprise 65 percent of the staff, he said.
“Our primary mission is to help people with disabilities find and secure whatever support they need to be engaged in the community,” Bulkowski said.
In addition to employment services, that includes finding housing and home assessments, and advocating for transportation services and universal, barrier-free design. He said Disability Advocates served 2,800 people last year.