Mass Cultural Council

Work Without Limits is proud to partner with Mass Cultural Council.

Mass Cultural Council

Mass Cultural Council advances the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s creative and cultural sector by celebrating traditions and talents, championing its collective needs, and equitably investing public resources.

In partnership with Mass Cultural Council, Work Without Limits provides benefits counseling services for creatives and gig workers who have applied for and/or been awarded grants from the Mass Cultural Council. Benefits counseling services will help artists to understand the impact a grant may have on any public benefits they may be receiving.

As a first step to receiving benefits counseling, we kindly ask that you complete and submit our Referral Packet by following the instructions found on page one. If you need help with this process, feel free to contact us and we will gladly help you. Please note that the current deadline to apply for benefits counseling services under Mass Cultural Council's Grants for Creative Individuals is May 31, 2024.

The Work Without Limits benefits counseling program specializes in assisting individuals to understand how earned income (e.g., from work) and unearned income (e.g., guaranteed income, grants) may affect eligibility for public benefits, such as:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
  • Subsidized Housing

 

Our team of benefits counselors have extensive knowledge and training in public benefit programs and in providing benefits and work incentives counseling services to individuals and families, primarily in Massachusetts and New York. Our benefits counselors have been trained and certified by the U.S. Social Security Administration and Virginia Commonwealth University.

For more information see our FAQs below.

 

As a first step to receiving benefits counseling,
please complete and submit our:

Referral Packet

The deadline to apply for services is May 31, 2024.

Please note: Depending on the public benefits you receive, you may need to print and sign some forms found in the Referral Packet in order for us to verify your benefits. After printing and signing, we recommend the following Apps to scan and email the signed document/s to us.

PDF Scanner Apps:

iPhone: Evernote Scannable

Android: Simple Scan  |  CamScanner

CONTACT INFORMATION

Toll Free:
1-877-937-9675 (877-YES-WORK) Press Option 1

Email:
WorkWithoutLimits_BenefitsCounseling@umassmed.edu

Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant Program for Creative Individuals 

Benefits Counseling FAQ’s

Download FAQ pdf 

What is a benefits counselor?

A benefits counselor has extensive training in public benefit programs including but not limited to Social Security's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); Medicare and Medicaid (called MassHealth in Massachusetts); local, state, and federal subsidized housing; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps; and Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC).

Work Without Limits benefits counselors have been trained and certified by Virginia Commonwealth University in conjunction with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).  Our job is to provide high quality counseling regarding the impact of income, earned or unearned, on an individual’s public benefits.  The benefits counselors who are working with the Mass Cultural Council have over thirty years of combined experience and work for ForHealth Consulting at UMass Chan Medical School.  The Mass Cultural Council has contracted with UMass Chan to provide benefits counseling services for artists who have applied for or who have been selected to receive a grant and have questions or concerns about how this income and any other income they may have could potentially affect their public benefits.

Do I have to fill out the Referral Packet to get services? Why is it helpful?

Prior to meeting with one of our counselors, it would be extremely helpful if you complete our Referral Packet the best you can.  The reason we ask you to do so is that it helps us collect basic information about your income, public benefits, employment status, and living situation. It also grants us permission to formally verify your benefits, if applicable. Gathering this information and verifying your benefits enables our benefits counselors to provide you with the most accurate information possible regarding how the Mass Cultural Council grant may impact your benefits. For more information about the Referral Packet, please review the questions towards the end of this fact sheet or download the Referral Packet.

If needed, is there someone that can help me fill out the Referral Packet?

If you need help filling out the Referral Packet, you can contact us. See the contact information at the bottom of this page. Our intake coordinator will be more than happy to assist you. Please note that instructions on how to complete the Referral Packet along with our contact information is available on page 1 of the Referral Packet.

Do I need to wait for grant announcements to get services?

No, you don’t have to wait. If you applied for the Massachusetts Cultural Council grant and have questions or concerns about how this income will impact your public benefits, you can contact us. See the contact information at the bottom of this page.

How can I get a benefits counseling meeting scheduled?

To schedule a meeting with one of our counselors, you can either wait for our intake coordinator to contact you after grant announcements are made or you can contact us at any time. See the contact information at the bottom of this page. Once scheduled, we will send you a meeting invitation via email, which will give you all the information you need to access and participate in the meeting successfully. If you feel it would be helpful to have someone from your support circle join the meeting, please let the intake coordinator know, so they can include them in the meeting invite as well.

What if I need a reasonable accommodation, such as a Sign Language Interpreter?

We are more than happy to arrange accommodations for you.  Please contact us and let us know exactly what you need. See the contact information at the bottom of this page. There is also a section on the Referral Packet for you to request a reasonable accommodation.

What should I do if I can’t make the meeting?

We understand that plans change, and unexpected events arise. If you need to cancel the meeting, please notify the intake coordinator as soon as possible, so they can help reschedule the meeting. See the contact information at the bottom of this page.

What should I expect to happen on the day of my meeting?

On the day of the meeting, you should receive a friendly email reminder an hour before the scheduled time of your meeting. The benefits counselor will contact you at the scheduled time over the phone or via Zoom where you can have the chance to see and speak with the counselor. How you meet with your counselor will be based on what you prefer. During the meeting, the counselor will review the information you provided in the Referral Packet, along with any benefits we formally verified for you, update any information as needed, discuss your concerns about how the grant may impact your public benefits, and, if applicable, inform you of any special programs that may help your income and public benefit situation.

Will I receive written information regarding how this grant will affect my benefits?

Yes.  Shortly after your meeting with a benefits counselor, you will receive a summary of the discussion along with relevant materials.  If applicable, you will also receive a copy of any formally verified benefits for your records.

If I have further questions about my benefits, can I meet with a benefits counselor again?

Yes. You will have access to a benefits counselor for the duration of UMass Chan’s contract with the Mass Cultural Council, which is currently through June 30, 2024.  Once that contract has ended, we have two additional Benefits Counseling programs that you may be able to access as well.

Will you report to any public benefit agency that I am getting this grant?

No, we do not share your information with any public benefit agency. Our responsibility is to assist you.  We are not mandated reporters, so anything you share with us is strictly confidential.

How will you protect my personal information?

All information gathered by us for this project is kept in a secure folder on a UMass Chan Medical School server.  Only those who need access to your information, such as our benefits counselors, have access to this folder.  Additionally, any personal information we send electronically (email or fax) is done so through a secure and encrypted system.  Lastly, our benefits counselors undergo a Tier 2 Suitability Clearance from the federal government so you can be assured we will hold your information in strictest confidence.

On page 3 of the Referral Packet, what is the Consent for Release of Information form? How does it help?

Only individuals who receive SSI and/or SSDI need to complete and sign this form. By doing so, you are giving us permission to contact your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to request your Benefits Planning Query (BPQY).  The BPQY is an official SSA report that verifies information, such as the benefits you receive, how much you receive each month, and when you started receiving them.  The BPQY is an essential tool for our counselors to provide you with the most accurate information, resources, and guidance possible about your SSA benefits. When we contact SSA to request your BPQY, we do not tell them why we are requesting it or anything else about your personal situation, including the Mass Cultural Council grant.

On page 4 of the Referral Packet, what is the Massachusetts SSI State Supplement Program (SSP) Request for Access to SSP Recipient Record and Information form? How does it help?

If you receive SSI monthly cash benefits, you most likely receive two payments - a larger one and a smaller one. The smaller payment is typically paid through the Massachusetts State Supplement Program (SSP). The amount you receive for your SSP payment is based on your living situation. By filling out the form on page 4 of the Referral Packet, we will be able to get a letter from the state verifying the amount you receive in SSP. This will allow us to verify that you are receiving the correct SSP amount to which you are entitled.

I don’t get SSI or SSDI benefits; do I need to fill out pages 3 or 4 of the Referral Packet?

No, you will only have to fill out page 2, which captures basic information about your income, public benefits, employment status, and living situation.

Contact Information:

 

 

An initiative of ForHealth Consulting, the consulting and operations division of the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Work Without Limits is a network of employers, educational institutions, employment service providers, state and federal agencies, and individuals served and their families. Work Without Limits was established in 2008 to increase the employment of people with disabilities until it is equal to those without disabilities.

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Disability as a Qualification

Work Without Limits consulted with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) to gain a better understanding of the career opportunities available for MCB clients that will support their areas of interests, independence and growth.

The project encompassed a three-phrase approach:

  1. Job Market and Labor Data Research and Analysis
  2. Analysis and Text Simplification of Job Descriptions
  3. Employer Engagement and Feeback

Using job market and labor data, job description analysis and simplification, understanding of minimum qualifications, and employer focus group feedback, Work Without Limits identified in-demand occupations and employer partners with whom MCB clients would be a particular asset.

Project Overview

In 2020, to raise disability inclusive employment awareness, the MCB contracted with Work Without Limits to conduct focus groups and interviews with individuals with disabilities and employers to create a resource that outlines how disability can be promoted as a qualification for employment.

In 2022, MCB extended its engagement with Work Without Limits to further examine the learnings from the original project specific to the lived experiences of individuals with visual impairments. Using job market and labor data, job description analysis and simplification, and employer focus group feedback, Work Without Limits seeks to identify in-demand occupations and employer partners with whom MCB clients would be a particular asset.

Opportunity

Our research has shown that the following occupations are projected to be in demand over the next 10 years and match the skillsets MCB clients currently have or could be trained in:

  • Digital Accessibility Specialist
  • Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists
  • Fundraisers
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers
  • Computer Network Architects
  • Marketing Managers
  • Computer Systems Analysts
  • Editors
  • Compensation and Benefits Managers

Creatives Rebuild New York

Work Without Limits is proud to partner with Creatives Rebuild New York Guaranteed Income for Artists

Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY), a workforce initiative for artists across New York State, provides artists with employment opportunities and guaranteed income to mitigate the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In partnership with CRNY, Work Without Limits will provide artists with benefits counseling services. These services will help artists to understand the impact employment and guaranteed income may have on any public benefits they may be receiving.

The Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling program specializes in assisting individuals to understand how earned income (e.g., from work) and unearned income (e.g., guaranteed income) may affect eligibility for public benefits, such as:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Subsidized Housing

Our team of benefits specialists have extensive knowledge and training in public benefit programs and in providing benefits and work incentives counseling services to individuals and families in Massachusetts and New York. Our benefits specialists have been trained and certified by the U.S. Social Security Administration and Virginia Commonwealth University.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Creatives Rebuild New York

Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling

Toll Free: 1-877-937-9675 (877-YES-WORK)

Email: WorkWithoutLimits_CRNY@umassmed.edu

An initiative of ForHealth Consulting, the consulting and operations division of the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Work Without Limits is a network of employers, educational institutions, employment service providers, state and federal agencies, and individuals served and their families. Work Without Limits was established in 2008 to increase the employment of people with disabilities until it is equal to those without disabilities.

Woman working on a laptop

Everyone is searching for talent, but are you looking in the right place, and are you ready?

Diversity is not just nice to have in business – it is imperative to drive innovation, deliver relevant products and services that resonate with customers, and enhance corporate culture and productivity. Work Without Limits, an initiative of UMass Chan Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine, knows businesses are working hard to enhance their efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) yet often struggle with their comfort level and capacity to include individuals with disabilities. This untapped talent pool frequently consists of highly educated, skilled, and eager individuals seeking an employer who sees their ability instead of their disability – as the national What can YOU do? campaign states, “It’s what people CAN do that matters.” Highly qualified individuals with disabilities are actively seeking your jobs. Are you seeking out their skills?

The pandemic has lowered some previously high employment hurdles for people with disabilities. The increase in remote opportunities has reduced the transportation barriers felt by some with mobility or regional limitations. Individuals are no longer limited to working for employers that can be accessed by bus or train in their town or even their state. The “normalizing” of flexible work schedules have benefited those with family and/or routine medical needs. Technology is catching up with accessibility needs – such as virtual meetings with closed captioning – and easing the integration of sign language interpreters or translators. Though there is still much to be done, great, inclusive things are happening to reduce employment barriers for individuals with disabilities and facilitate employers’ capacity to include individuals with disabilities in their workforce.

Do you need help in your search for talented individuals with disabilities? Work Without Limits offers three specific services to guide employers and help them gain confidence and increase their capacity and comfort level when including individuals with disabilities in their organizations.

  1. The Work Without Limits Business Network is a robust consortium of public and private employers committed to the inclusion of people with disabilities as employees, customers, and suppliers. The business case for including people with disabilities in business is well documented. Through organizational membership, Work Without Limits provides practical guidance, education, opportunities, and connections to help you achieve your disability inclusion goals regardless of your self-assessed beginner, intermediate or advanced status. All are welcome!
  2. Disability Inclusion Trainings grow your staff and leadership’s disability knowledge, comfort level, and capacity to include individuals with disabilities in your workplace. Through one-hour, highly interactive, virtual workshops, you will learn about the value disability inclusion brings to business, disability etiquette and the importance of language, how to interview and conduct performance discussions with individuals with disabilities, and more.
  3. The Jobs Ability Jobs Board was created by a certified Disability Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) and provides the opportunity for employers to have their jobs automatically posted daily for thousands of candidates with disabilities to explore. Employers can also actively source candidates via keyword searches and job description profile matches.

To learn more about Work Without Limits’ services for employers, please reach out to Bonnie Rivers, Director, Employer Relations.

About Us

Work Without Limits is an initiative of Commonwealth Medicine, the consulting and operations division of UMass Chan Medical School. Our goal is to position Massachusetts as the first state in the nation where the employment rate of people with disabilities is equal to people without disabilities.

Riverview School’s Customer Service Training Program (CSTP)

Riverview School is an independent, coeducational boarding/day school, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Riverview is a leader in educating students with complex language and learning challenges. We’re committed to helping each of our students gain academic, social, and independent living skills to achieve their goals.

Riverview School's Objective

Work Without Limits consulted with Riverview School to develop a Customer Service Training Program (CSTP) for young adults with disabilities in their GROW (Getting Ready for the Outside World) program.  The CSTP provided students with valuable skills that are transferable to future employment settings.

Advisors

Seven employers participated as advisors on core customer service competencies to be included in their CSTP curriculum.

Presenters

Six employers participated as presenters in the program on topics related to customer services and vocational topics.

Questions? Contact Kathy Muhr.

Disability Supplier Diversity

Disability Supplier Diversity Overview

There are an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities in the world and the U.S. Census Bureau reports people with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed as people without disabilities. Further, a Cargill study states leading procurement organizations generate 133% greater return on the cost of procurement operations, with a higher adoption rate of supplier diversity programs, than average performers. Conversely, companies that limit their supply chain flexibility place themselves at risk for poor performance and potential supply disruptions. Disability:IN empowers business to achieve disability inclusion and equality.

The Disability:IN Supplier Diversity program is the leading third-party certifier of disability owned business enterprises (DOBEs®) and empowers corporations and government agencies to diversify their supply chain with increased contract opportunities. A certified DOBE is a for-profit business that is at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a person with a disability.
– source: Disability:IN, 2019

Disability Supplier Diversity Forum

From 2018-2019, Work Without Limits was one of 8 Disability:IN affiliates that was a Wells Fargo grant holder to advance Disability:IN’s Supplier Diversity Program locally. Partnering with Disability:IN and the MA Supplier Diversity Office, Work Without Limits held two Disability Supplier Diversity Forums for our Employer Network in November 2019 and 2020.

Learn more about Supplier Diversity on our Resources page.

Culinary Career Academy

food service worker handling food with gloves on

The Culinary Career Academy

A culinary training program, brought to you by a grant from the Commonwealth Corporation

Candidates who are interested in the food service industry will be referred to the Culinary Career Academy by their respective agencies. A formal interview, information on program outline and schedule availability, along with benefit counseling from a Representative of Work Without Limits will be provided to each candidate.

The program will be offered 2 times a year for cohorts of 12-15 participants.

July 2021 Update

Congratulations to the 10 recent graduates of the Culinary Career Academy! After graduation all candidates will continue to receive support for two years to seek out employment or work on skills for employment. Graduates continue to receive ongoing benefits counseling through Work Without Limits as well.

Curriculum

The curriculum has three segments of training and a fourth, if feasible, based on the COVID-19 pandemic, may be added:

Interpersonal “Soft” Skills

  • Customer Service
  • Communication, enthusiasm and attitude
  • Introduction to the food service industry
  • Basic culinary skills
  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Professionalism and self advocacy on the job

Interactive Virtual Classroom

  • Industry training and the ServSafe Food Handler’s curriculum
  • Basic kitchen safety and utility/housekeeping
  • Equipment use and maintenance
  • Food handling and cross contamination
  • Storage and product orders
  • Covid-19 Guidelines

Hands-on Experience Externship*

  • Hands-on experience of working in a fully operating kitchen within the community
  • Each participant will participate in 40 hours of Externship training to enhance the skills obtained during the classroom hours.

* Depending on feasibility due to community Covid-19 guidelines

Job Search Support

Participants will be supported for their future job search with:

  • Resume review and updating
  • Mock interviews
  • Search plan
Candidates will receive a food service certificate, with a focus on Covid-19 food handling, upon graduation. Support will be provided in obtaining employment in food service with our partner companies.

Culinary Career Academy logos

Interested applicants should contact Jillian Correia.

Kristianne Widman
Assistant Director
Riverside Employment Collaboratives
617-352-2040

Email

 

Jodie Toure
Project Manager
Culinary Career Academy HMEA
508-298-1157

Email

Jillian Correia
Culinary Career Academy HMEA Case Manager/Job Coach
508-422-9550 office
508-918-4787 cell

Email

MCB Disability as a Qualification for Employment

Disability as a Qualification for Employment

July - September 2020

The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) was interested in learning more about the type and number of employment opportunities for which having a disability would help make a job candidate qualified.  MCB partnered with Work Without Limits, an initiative of Commonwealth Medicine, the consulting and operations services division of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to collect this information through focus groups and interviews.

Results:

People with disabilities have life experiences that can help them succeed in the labor market. These life experiences can benefit any workplace.
Read the MCB Disability As A Qualification for Employment Report

Project Overview

The goal of the MCB Disability as a Qualification for Employment (DQE) project was to develop a Business Case for Individuals with Disabilities, which will answer the question:

How can individuals leverage their disability to help them stand out in the labor market and secure and succeed in employment?

This business case will bring to light the many reasons employers want to include people with disabilities in their workplaces and tell the story of how individuals who are successfully working have leveraged their disability to contribute to their employers and advance their careers. It will help educate and inform individuals with disabilities of the following:

  • why employers value them
  • that their voices and life experiences are essential in any workplace

This business case will also replace the traditionally detrimental stigma that surrounds individuals with disabilities with a persuasive argument for Disability as a Qualification for Employment.

Work Without Limits conducted focus groups and interviews with disability-inclusive employers and successfully employed individuals with disabilities, combined these unique perspectives and provided information to MCB that will educate and inform job seeking candidates with disabilities of the value they bring to the workplace.  Below are the key facts of this project:

Project Goals
  • Gain the perspectives of employers and employed individuals with disabilities
  • Develop the business case for individuals with disabilities
  • Provide a resource for MCB and other vocational rehabilitation professionals
  • Educate, inform and empower job seeking individuals with disabilities
Key Stakeholders to be Engaged During this Project
  • Disability-inclusive employers
  • Employed individuals with disabilities
  • Employed individuals with visual impairments
  • Former and current consumers of MCB vocational rehabilitation services
Benefits of Participating in a Focus Group or Interview
  • Provide a rich understanding of the opinions and beliefs of employers and employees with disabilities
  • Educate, inform and empower vocational rehabilitation professionals and job seeking candidates with disabilities for years to come
Project Outputs
  • A resource that educates, informs and empowers job seeking candidates with disabilities of the value they bring to the workplace
  • Estimated to be available in October 2020
Data Collection and Engagement Modes
  • Focus groups and interviews conducted virtually via Zoom and/or by phone
  • Outreach by Work Without Limits and MCB staff and providers

Questions?

If you have any questions about this project, please reach out to:

Nathan Skrocki, MCB,  nathan.w.skrocki@mass.gov or 413-781-1290 x7817203

or Kathy Muhr, Work Without Limits, Director of Community Engagement, Kathy.Muhr@umassmed.edu or 508-856-3533

Polus Center Employment Now Initiative

Polus Center logoWork Without Limits partnered with the Polus Center on the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Employment Now Initiative (ENI)

Employers attended a robust, 1-hour networking and practice webinar and met 4 Employment Now Initiative (ENI) candidates.

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Commissioner, David D’Arcangelo spoke about the benefits associated with employing individuals with visual impairments.

Candidates “practiced their pitch” and employers asked follow up and interview-like questions.

22 employers attended, representing 13 organizations!

Employers: If you are interested in forming a relationship with the Polus Center and the ENI for future cycles of candidates, connect directly with Jen Whitmore at jen_whitmore@meei.harvard.edu.

Participating Organizations and Employers:

 

AllWays Health Partners, Bay Cove, Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston University, Citizens Bank, CVS Health, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston,  Harvard University, Public Consulting Group

Learn more about the Polus Center and ENI.

Continue reading

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Employer Challenge

MCB Employer Challenge logo

There is an enormous untapped talent pool of job seekers in Massachusetts. They happen to have disabilities. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities in MA is 2x higher than it is for those without disabilities.* The unemployment rate specifically for people with visual impairments is even higher.

For that reason...

The MCB Employer Challenge will ask employers to Do One More Thing to reduce stigma and increase employment for people with visual impairments.

Special thanks to the Employer Advisory Group (EAG) that continues to provide invaluable campaign feedback and direction:

 

*U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy