CLEVELAND -- George W. Bush on Wednesday proposed $145 million in federal spending to help local governments and community groups make it easier for people with disabilities to find jobs and travel to them.
''It's one thing to have technologies to help people help themselves,'' Bush said at Vocational Guidance Services, a nonprofit organization that helps disabled people find work. ''But sometimes people have trouble getting from one place to the other.''
His proposal, Bush said, would better ''enable Americans with disabilities to live independently, hold jobs, and participate fully in their communities.''
The Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that public places be made more accessible to people with disabilities, should be improved upon by making it easier for them to get into the workplace and actually travel to work, he said.
--$45 million in funding for 10 pilot programs run by state or local governments in regional, urban and rural areas. The programs would be administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration and be funded at up to $1.5 million a year for three years. At the end of that period, Bush and Congress would evaluate the programs and possibly expand successful initiatives.
--$100 million in matching grants for community groups that promote access to alternative transportation for the disabled. Recipients of the dollar-for-dollar matching program could include the Centers for Independent Living, Assistive Technology Centers, vocational rehabilitation centers and other community-based organizations that seek to integrate Americans with disabilities into the work force. The funds would go toward the purchase and operation of specialty vans, assisting people with down payments for homes or costs associated with accessible vehicles.
Earlier this month, Bush proposed giving disabled people technology making it easier to work from home and allowing them to use federal rental vouchers for payments on a home.
The latest proposal is part of a three-day tour through the battleground states of New York, Michigan and Ohio, in which he is appealing to groups that don't traditionally vote Republican.
Bush also was raising money for the Ohio Republican Party. His presidential rival, Vice President Al Gore, also was appearing in the state Wednesday to discuss energy-saving technologies.
On Tuesday, the Texas governor distanced himself from House Republicans by rejecting their effort to allow American food into Cuba for the first time since the economic embargo nearly 40 years ago. President Fidel Castro, Bush said, might block it from reaching those who need it.
''I have opposed lifting the sanctions and I still continue to do so,'' Bush said. ''I am very skeptical as to whether or not Fidel Castro will let food get to his people.''
Bush said he appreciated the ''good intentions'' of the sponsors, but said ''we ought to keep the sanctions'' until Castro institutes free elections, a free press and releases political prisoners.
He commented after being asked about the deal House Republicans cut Tuesday to allow direct sales of U.S. food to Cuba as hard-line anti-communists yielded to pressure from the farm and business lobbies to ease the embargo on Castro's government.
The agreement, however, may be largely symbolic since it would bar both the federal government and U.S. banks from financing food sales. The House is expected to attach the agreement to pending legislation this week. It still must be approved by the Senate.
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