Tuesday, May 5, 2009

55B Employment Program

For the past year, the NYAIL (New York Association On Independent Living) Employment Subcommittee has been looking into Section 55-b, a state program whereby people with disabilities can be deemed eligible for entry level state jobs without taking a civil service test. The problem has always been that after a person is declared eligible, they go into a kind of limbo, and it has been difficult or impossible to find out how to proceed after receiving a letter of eligibility.

The mystery has finally been unlocked, and below is a handy guide on how to navigate the process. We now have a golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, in that Section 55-b is exempt from the state hiring freeze! In other words, right now, just about the only people being hired for state jobs are those with disabilities under 55-b!

It is the intent of the legislation that the 55b/c Programs provide severely disabled individuals the opportunity to enter State service through 55b/c appointments. Thus any entry-level position that is normally filled through an open-competitive (not a promotion) examination may be converted to a non-competitive position for a 55b/c appointment. In order to qualify for the position, a person approved for the 55b/c programs must demonstrate that he or she meets the minimum qualifications for the position. The minimum qualifications for an entry-level position varies with each title - some have no minimum qualifications some require both experience and a certain level of education.

The responsibility to get an appointment lies with the individual. 55b/c clients are encouraged to send a cover letter, resume, and copy of their eligibility letter to any state agency in every location where they are willing to work. If an agency has a vacancy, they may choose to interview and appoint the
55b/c client. If that occurs, the agency notifies my unit that they wish to make an appointment, we verify that the person meets the qualifications and the Civil Service Commission reviews the request and approves the reclassification of the position. Agencies are not required to use the 55b/c Programs and when interviewing 55b/c clients they may also be interviewing candidates from the competitive lists. Being eligible for the 55b/c Programs is not a guarantee of an appointment. 55b/c clients compete with list candidates and other 55b/c clients for appointments. It is not unusual to have up to 75
55b/c clients apply for any single position.

While State agencies have positions around the State, the majority of positions, particularly entry-level positions are located in the Capital District area and the New York City Metropolitan region.

It turns out that there are no predestinated positions that are set aside as “55-b jobs;” any entry level position between grades 6 and 23 that is marked “competitive” is an eligible position to be filled through 55-b. When a person receives their letter of eligibility, it is important to make multiple copies to send with applications for various positions.

A person does not have to go through VESID or CBVH to apply for 55-b---they can do it themselves through an application at the Civil Service website
www.cs.state.ny.us .

Job seekers should indicate on a cover letter that 55B status permits hiring despite a general hiring freeze. Also, people on 55B should update their resumes as often as their qualifications change (e.g. a course, etc.) so that Civil Service can possibly match them with a position. The new Civil Service Recruitment department is trying to actually match applicants with open positions.

This whole process is unnecessarily long and complicated and could (and should!) be simplified and made more user-friendly. There is no way an applicant could figure it out on his/her own, so we must spread the news far and wide. We will also be advocating to simplify the process and compile a list of available 55-b eligible openings so people won’t have to scroll through the whole list.

NOTE: The 55-a program is for positions in county governments and eligibility is determined by VESID. The usage of this program varies wildly from county to county. 55-c is for veterans, and has recently had an increase in the number of allotments.

thanks to Fran Wishnick from the Resource Center For Accessible Living (RCAL) in Kingston New York for all of her research and legwork on this issue!



  1. I would like a job with the rome ddso.. I have a 55b and need someone to be an advocate for me.
    visit my blog. google eric's art work blog and I'll be the first on the list... thank you much Eric Reece

  2. I just found this posting, while doing a search for more information about 55b. I've got my letter, and right now I'm wondering if CUNY participates in the program. Whenever I call an HR office, the person who answers doesn't even know what the program is and they assure me that they're an equal opportunity employer. That's great, but it doesn't answer my question. Ugh. I'm really not sure where to turn.

  3. Hi, I know this is an old post, but I was hoping maybe you could help. I've had my 55b letter for some time, and I believe I'm qualified for a number of office positions. The state site for 55b suggests sending a copy of the letter along with a letter of interest to agencies where we'd like to work. I tried that with OCFS and they wouldn't accept it. Saying instead that I would have to apply for specific positions (there were none in my area that fit my skills or background). Why the contradictory information between agencies? What can I do to better my chances? Thanks

  4. Cindy July 6, 2017 - Getting the approval letter gives one the confidence of regaining their independence. However, the first sentence of the second para. contradicts the first para, which does not favorable for persons with 55-b approval letter. it says "This eligibility letter is not a guarantee of employment with New York State. Your eligibility status provides you with an opportunity to be considered as a candidate by State agencies for entry-level positions. You must meet the minimum qualifications for the position in order to be considered for appointment."
    Which means there is space for rejection, after restoring our confidence.