Tuesday November 24th, 2015 11:18PM

Disabled Georgians waiting months for job training

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- Budget and staffing issues have left unemployed and disabled Georgians looking for job training waiting months for help from a state agency tasked with providing vocational assistance.

After the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency was carved out of the state Department of Labor two years ago, lawmakers reduced its funding, which prompted the federal government to do the same.

GVRA Director Greg Schmieg told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ( ) that he's aware of case backlogs and is disappointed with the wait times clients are faced with.

Schmieg said the state isn't providing enough funding for the agency to get the maximum amount of federal money. He says the federal government spends about $4 on the program for every $1 the state does.

The department has been slow to refer clients to contractors supplying the specialized training programs, but Schmieg said he expects the pace to increase at the end Georgia's fiscal year, which ends June 30. Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, said the agency's situation could soon improve since a hiring freeze it had implemented was lifted Feb. 1.

"We're working with our providers to expedite the backlog, so that these clients will receive services as quickly as possible," Robinson said. "We're looking at all areas the governor has purview over to maximize federal draw downs, in an appropriate fashion."

However, some contractors have said funding issues have also had an impact on their organizations and they've had to lay off or furlough employees as well.

"We kept trying to hold on to our core people because they are hard to replace because of their specialty," said Connie Kirk, CEO and President of Nobis Works. The Marietta-based nonprofit laid off half of its rehabilitation staff and instituted furloughs for other employees when it's work with the state dried up. "There were so many Georgians who did not get served just because funding has been cut," Kirk said.
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