Recent federal and New York state announcements have revealed that sheltered workshops employing individuals with developmental disabilities, such as those in conjunction with Chautauqua County's two Resource Center locations, may close.
Approximately 150 people with developmental disabilities work throughout the county, making products for the U.S. military and other companies using special equipment and techniques.
"Workshops provide the opportunity for these people really to be gainfully employed and earn additional money, while being involved in a positive and constructive environment," said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown. "I think phasing out the sheltered workshops is a very serious mistake."
Goodell is co-sponsoring legislation with state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, to provide a means for workshops to transition into qualified employment centers to continue employing people with developmental disabilities.
Current requirements emanating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' new definitions for Home and Community Based Medicaid Waiver services, as well as efforts to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead Decision are the cause of the closings, according to Paul Cesana, CEO and executive director for The Resource Center.
The purpose of the Olmstead Decision, passed in 1999, was to expand opportunities for those with developmental disabilities.
The bill would require that the Commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities provide guidance to current providers regarding transitioning into approved, qualified entities to ensure doors remain open and workers remain employed.
"Empowering citizens with developmental disabilities to be able to live productive and fulfilling lives is a critically important mission," Young said. "This bill will help those who wish to work find suitable employment in their communities and achieve the sense of pride, purpose and self-worth that a secure job can bring. We must ensure that members of our community with developmental disabilities do not lose these important employment opportunities."
The bill would provide tax credits to providers making the transition into qualified entities, as well as other businesses which hire employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"The bill makes it clear that properly operated worksites are consistent with Olmstead and do in fact maximize the opportunity to be involved in positive, constructive activities," Goodell said.
The bill is also co-sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda.