New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York State Senate and Assembly
Re: Support of modifications to Section 162 of State Finance Law
Dear Governor Cuomo and Member of the Legislature,
I am writing in support of changes to the Preferred Source legislation on behalf of individuals with disabilities looking to find and retain meaningful employment. Today, too many people with disabilities in our state face increasingly difficult hurdles to finding employment. To address this ongoing challenge, New York State created and has supported the Preferred Source law, a vital piece of legislation dating back over 40 years which has provided rewarding opportunities for employment to tens of thousands of individuals with disabilities.
Unfortunately, over the last few years the Preferred Source Program, and by extension the individuals served, are losing critically important job opportunities and existing jobs are threatened because of unilateral changes in the administration of the program. For example, contracts are being denied because of an unfair methodology in determining market price; contracts that meet statutory requirements are being lost because of the burdensome price-approval process; and the Preferred Source Program’s discretionary threshold for service offerings has not been set at the same level as other populations identified by the state to receive preferential contracting.
To address this ongoing threat to this viable workforce, I am writing to ask for your support in including the bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Cathy Young and Assembly Member Aileen Gunther in the 2018 budget (S 5096 / A 6832).
Inclusion of this legislation in the 2018 budget will provide clear guidance to those agencies given oversight over parts of this process. It will eliminate the cumulative bureaucratic effect that now stymies this program, which has led to numerous years of stagnant job growth. Implementation of this language will greatly improve both existing and future employment opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities.
Without this legislation, it will be more difficult to support the Preferred Source Program's core goal: employing individuals with disabilities on contracts for vital goods and services procured by State and Local Government, Public Authorities, and SUNY.
Thank you for your consideration and for your ongoing support of New Yorkers with disabilities.
John is a veteran with disabilities who has overcome mental illness to become the custodian at the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ (OPWDD) Westcott Day Habilitation Center. He bicycles to and from work, missing just one day of work in four years. “Don’t let your disability be an absolute barrier…you never know what you can achieve unless you try,” he says.
Crystal initially lacked confidence in her employment capabilities. After becoming involved in the Arc’s drug test kit operation for Preferred Source customers, she’s now the key individual handling invoicing and quarterly inventory and also fills in for the line supervisor. Work has empowered Crystal’s employment range and confidence. She says, “When I first walked in, it felt like I was in the right place to work.”
Rich persevered through Allegany Arc’s support programs and employment opportunities. As his work ethic and skills improved over the years, so have his opportunities to become independent. Today, Rich uses his enhanced wages to maintain an apartment with his twin brother in the community, where he enjoys walking to improve his health. “I am proud to pay my own bills,” he says.
Tommy is proof positive of how Preferred Source employment opportunities change lives. Jumping into an intensive training program in custodial maintenance over several months, Tommy built up both his capabilities and soft skills. Tommy is considered a leader among his peers, and says, “TRI saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Because of that, it opened up doors for me as a person.”
Wendy brings exceptional capabilities to her job as a document imaging specialist through a partnership with The Arc of Rensselaer and eBizDocs, a NYSID corporate partner. Work is therapy to her, and she also volunteers at a peer support program for individuals receiving mental health services. Wendy likes her job because “it gives me an opportunity to be an outstanding employee who is valued for my hard work and dedication.”
Justine’s attention to detail is an invaluable asset to the Preferred Source products sourced at Herkimer Industries, from hardhats to LED lighting products. When a job requires thorough quality control, she can be counted on to do her best. The right job in a positive environment has helped Justine open up to her co-workers and become a key player to the team’s success.