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Federal Regulations Could Phase Out Workshops Employing the Disa - KOAM TV 7

Federal Regulations Could Phase Out Workshops Employing the Disabled

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act became federal law in July 2016 and is meant to strengthen the country's workforce. But provisions of the law will phase out workshops that employ the mentally or physically disabled over the next 3 years. In Missouri, that would impact 6,600 disabled people
Without the staff at the Joplin Workshops laundry, a stay at a local hotel or hospital wouldn't be as comfortable or clean. Richard Snider has worked there for 3 weeks.
“Here I’m actually making a difference because I’m helping other companies that send their laundry to us so that we can help them,” says Snider.
He has autism and before this job was frustrated he couldn't find an employer to accommodate his needs. Provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act aim to give everyone, regardless of ability, access to the same jobs and pay which means integrating disabled workers into the workforce outside the segregated and often lower paying workshop settings.
“The competitive workforce certainly offers a lot of advancement potential for people that are able to navigate the challenges that competitive employment would provide,” says Jasen Jones, Executive Director of the Southwest Missouri Workforce Innovation Board.
The Joplin Workshops employ 85 individuals with disabilities. Officials say the environment it provides workers is the key to its success.
“If you talk to our employees and if you talk to their parents, they'll be the first to tell you that many of the people that work here have tried competitive employment and they failed,” says Susan Adams, Executive Director of the Joplin Workshops.
Adams says while many employees make below minimum wage it's a common misconception that all do. She says some even make more than minimum wage but many are dependent on their family members and the job is more about getting out of the house than earning a living.
“I don’t think Rich really even has a concept of money like you and I do. He just likes the social interaction he likes to be out and have things to do,” says Alan Snider, Richard’s father.
Of all of the jobs he's had, Snider enjoys working at the Joplin Workshops the most.
“I love working here and I love working around these other people and I like knowing I’m making a difference and it’s something I would miss if the workshop were to close,” says Richard.
If they were to close, his father says they’d be forced to get back into the cycle of finding Richard a low level job that he would likely lose simply because he can’t work fast enough.
Susan Adams says workshops in Missouri have the support of local and state legislators and that Missouri is the only state that doesn’t depend on federal funding to keep them running. There are 90 in the state and a campaign has been started to educate people on what the workshops provide. For more information visit:
http://www.dignityhasavoice.com/

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