Ray Finger, writing in the Elmira Star Gazette,” writes that local sheltered workshops for the disabled may close if NYS and the Federal Government fail to act. Tom Reed, who wants the disabled to work, should take note. Ray Finger wrote:
Some developmentally disabled individuals who are currently employed will find themselves without a job by 2020 if the state and federal government don’t change the direction they’re heading.
“The federal government has decided that they don’t like that (Sheltered Workshops) anymore,” he (Michael Doherty, Executive Director of Southern Tier Industries) said. Consequently, the state has mandated all work centers, such as the sheltered workshop at the Arc of Chemung, be closed by 2020, he said.
State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, blames “an extreme reading of the 1999 Olmstead ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. According to that ruling, unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Clearly the Americans with Disabilities Act needs to be clarified so that sheltered workshops are not forced to close. Here is a chance for Tom Reed to take the lead in addressing a problem he says he cares about.
Doherty goes on to explain:
The biggest issue they have faced is the ongoing challenge of recruiting and retaining staff but only being able to offer a low pay level, Doherty said.
The average wages of a direct support professional is $10.86 an hour, with a median wage of $10.76 an hour, he said. According to 2014 data, only seven of 238 direct support professionals, or 3 percent, earn more than $15 an hour. They consistently average 20 to 28 openings per month, and the No. 1 reason for resigning has been for another job, he said.
Here is a chance for Tom Reed to help. If an overall increase to the Federal minimum wage isn’t achievable at this time, at least Congress could set a higher wage for workers in government funded programs serving the disabled. If Tom Reed really cared about the disabled, he would push for this.