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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bill would give state contractors incentive to hire workers with disabilities

BY BRENT D. WISTROM
Eagle Topeka bureau

The state might be able to move some people with disabilities off its troubled waiting lists if it creates a new program that gives state contractors an incentive to hire people with disabilities.

A program being considered by the Senate Ways and Means Committee would give contractors that employ people on the physical or developmentally disabled waiting lists — and that have at least 20 percent employees with disabilities — a better shot at getting state contracts.

Those certified companies would win state contracts as long as their bids were within 10 percent of the lowest qualifying bid.

“There has never been a great incentive for those in the private sector to look at the possibility, or be very serious about, employing folks with disabilities,” said Pat Jonas, president of the Wichita-based Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation.

Under Senate Bill 444, someone on a waiting list for services would be employed by a company, and as long as the employer provides enough hours for the employee to get health insurance and other benefits, the new employee would come off state assistance or off the waiting list, which has grown long enough to draw an investigation from federal authorities.

The move could save the state money as newly employed people stop taking state assistance. But it’s unclear when that savings would be realized since as each person exits state assistance another person from the waiting list would enter.

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