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Job services for deaf Minnesotans expanding from Twin Cities across state

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A program that helps Minnesotans who are deaf or hard of hearing find jobs is about to expand from the Twin Cities to six other locations, thanks to a state grant.

For more than 20 years, the Minnesota Employment Center for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (MEC, for short) has been providing its services in St. Paul.

A $500,000 grant through the Department of Employment and Economic Development will extend those services to six other parts of Minnesota, the Pioneer Press reports: Duluth, St. Cloud, Rochester/Faribault, Moorhead, Mankato, and Virginia.

An MEC official tells the newspaper the non-profit group was among the first in the country to use job coaches who are trained in American Sign Language, instead of having its coaches work through interpreters.

How does MEC help?

Besides helping with resumes and job interviews, MEC says it provides on-the-job training once people are hired and works with managers and co-workers on how to communicate with employees who are deaf or hard of hearing (or in some cases both deaf and blind).

The group shares several of its success stories here.

It's based at Lifetrack Resources in St. Paul and is a joint venture with Rise, Inc. Both of those non-profit groups help people who have disabilities overcome barriers to jobs and housing.

DEED says the money comes from a grant approved by the Legislature this year. While the funding runs only through next June, it's renewable for another year depending upon outcomes, DEED says.

A separate $500,000 grant is going to a program called VECTOR, which is operated by the Brooklyn Park school district and helps young adults with disabilities make the transition from education to living and working as independently as possible.

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