New York lawmakers should embrace “Make the Change” and update the 40-year-old Preferred Source law to ensure equity in employment for people with disabilities. Mainly, the law needs to increase the value on contracts on which agencies can bid. As it stands, the threshold is unreasonably low.
Fixing this law has no impact on the budget and helps people with disabilities who are eager to support themselves while contributing to society and the economy.
The Preferred Source program’s core goal is to employ individuals with disabilities on contracts for vital goods and services procured by state and local government, public authorities and the State University of New York. But the state Office of General Services has reinterpreted the law in a way that complicates the worthy efforts of the 122-member agencies of New York State Industries for the Disabled Inc., known as NYSID.
Albany can fix that.
NYSID, in collaboration with The Arc Erie County New York, is part of a movement to secure jobs for individuals with disabilities. The organization wants to combat the 70 percent unemployment rate among this work force. To do so, the governor and the state Legislature need to implement changes in the Preferred Source law. The “Make the Change” campaign has five objectives:
• Increase the value of projects that NYSID members can bid out to $200,000 from $50,000.
• Expand jobs by creating more opportunities for people with disabilities.
• Support the original legislative intent of the Preferred Source law.
• Empower workers by improving the legislation, leading to timely approvals of contracts and greater employment of an underserved work force.
• Create livelihoods by helping people with disabilities become taxpayers.
Advocates say that achieving these goals is becoming more difficult due to bureaucracy, legislation and regulations. Easing those problems is the point of Make the Change.
State Sen. Catharine Young, an Olean Republican, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Mid-Hudson Valley Democrat, have sponsored legislation that would simplify contract review and administrative processes, clarify pricing definitions and return the ability for minimal subcontracting by NYSID agencies.
The Preferred Source program has proved to be successful, now employing about 7,000 people with disabilities. It offers its participants job experiences that can be a stepping stone to competitive, integrated employment in the community. To limit the opportunities for these individuals makes no sense.