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logo of the EARN program at ILR's YTI

COVID-19 Employment and Disability Resources

By Susanne Bruyère,

More than one billion people – 15% of the world’s population – have disabilities. Yet even before the COVID-19 pandemic, they were disproportionately unemployed and underemployed compared to people without disabilities.

According to data from, a project of the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at the Cornell University ILR School (YTI), working-age people with disabilities in America are employed at a rate of 37%. The rate is 79% for their nondisabled peers. This results in lower household incomes, and a much higher poverty rate (26%, compared to 15%). People with disabilities are now in danger of falling even further into poverty and unemployment, in light of the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has funded YTI to run the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN). EARN is an information hub that provides free resources, technical assistance, and training to help public and private sector employers (including federal contractors) recruit, hire, retain, and advance people with disabilities.

On March 24, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, EARN released a special edition newsletter highlighting resources to assist employers and others in understanding the intersection between the pandemic and disability employment policies and practices. We are also working with companies like CVS, Walmart and EY, to gather information about how they are accommodating employees with disabilities during this time, and posting the information on EARN. The first of these posts highlights the efforts of DuPont’s Global EAP team and their “ICU Program” which addresses mental health in the workplace – especially during this time of crisis.

Other resources include EARN's Mental Health Toolkit which offers tools and resources that can help employers learn more about mental-health issues and foster a welcoming and supportive environment for people who may be facing mental health issues, now more than ever. It has an easy-to-follow framework for a mental health-friendly workplace, built around the “4 A’s”: Awareness, Accommodations, Assistance and Access.

You can also find information on:

You can email EARN staff for more resources and information by emailing us at:

Cornell University operates EARN as part of the National Employer Policy, Research and Technical Assistance Center on the Employment of People with Disabilities. Cornell’s partners on the project include the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Concepts Communication, Inc. and Disability:IN. The specific purpose of the Center is to: conduct research; engage with the business community; identify effective policies and practices that support business needs; and provide resources, technical assistance, and training to help public and private sector employers recruit, hire, retain, and advance individuals with disabilities.

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