June, 2023

MASWM’s Board of Directors reviewed potential threats to workshop services for people with disabilities during a Zoom meeting June 12.

Legislative consultant Lynne Schlosser, Legislative Chair Kit Brewer and DESE Workshop Division director Dan Gier all noted inclusion of a $3.7 million increase for workshops in the 2023-24 Missouri state budget. Unfortunately, that good news was accompanied by an increase in national proposals that would limit or put an even bigger spotlight on workshops.

Brewer said that initiatives like the federal, Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) grant program and even some SB40 board discussions are among initiatives that could limit or terminate workshop services for people with disabilities – services that are especially vital for people with moderate and severe disabilities.

On the state level, concern is growing as some SB40 organizations and individual boards have discussed withholding money from workshops. The SB40 board issue mainly relates to rules which could lead to reductions in funding for shops in certain counties.

“That would be disastrous, especially in rural areas where there is not a lot of active advocacy,” Brewer said.

Misinformation on Workshops

Workshop opponents often try to label workshop employment as a form of segregation, although nearly all workshops were founded by parents who sought to provide their adult children with disabilities in a safe working environment free from bullying, verbal abuse, and even physical and sexual assault. Parents, guardians, and many professionals also recognize workshops offer an environment where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be with peers, work at an appropriate pace and experience a minimum of change.

Brewer noted other challenges involve attempts to prevent workshops from serving people with a mental illness. While the overall numbers are small and some people with disabilities also face mental illness, Brewer said that workshops have always served people with full range of disabilities.

Good News, Too

Brewer and other members brought some positive news, too. A recent Government Accounting Office (GAO) report found 90 percent of those certified for 14(c) are intellectually and developmentally disabled. For this population, community employment is often not an option and can even expose individuals to problems like those cited above.

Nationally, Brewer, Past President Bruce Young and other board members are active in the Coalition for the Preservation of Employment Choice which works to counter many of these issues. In Missouri, MASWM also enjoys a positive relationship with the state legislature, thanks to efforts by Brewer, the legislative committee, Schlosser, and the many efforts by managers like outreach and visits with local elected officials, providing shop tours for legislators and other initiatives. Another effort involves MASWM’s Advocacy Committee chaired by Heather Pugh.

These efforts get results like the Missouri legislature’s inclusion of the $3.7 million increase for workshops in the 2023-24 state budget. That single result will bring an approximately 46 cent per hour increase in workshop reimbursement rates.

Other Issues

Vice President Jeff Jones, who chaired the meeting, said the Transportation Committee is beginning to examine next year’s contract renewal for maintenance services at Missouri highway rest stops. The work has been an important employment opportunity for several, mostly rural shops. Over the past year, however, several of these opportunities have been reduced or eliminated because some rest areas are being converted into truck parking areas with few amenities to maintain.

Event Chair Charlie Fischer outlined planning for the Sept. 24-26 Fall Conference in Branson. So far, training tentative training sessions include managing wages and benefits, and a follow-up to the popular board government session in April. He also said planning for a manager mentor program continues.