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NYSID News Blog

June 15, 2017

My WORK, My SERVICES, My CHOICE: NYSID and Workers With Disabilities Visit Washington for New York Day on Capitol Hill

Category: General — NYSID @ 12:50 pm

Preferred Source workers from across New York State joined NYSID staff on visits to members of the US Senate and House of Representatives in Washington DC to advocate for choice in employment opportunities and service providers during New York Day on Capitol Hill on June 14.

Pictured l-r: Congressman Paul Tonko is all smiles with Amy Levandosky and Russell Porath from NYSID member agency Liberty ARC during New York Day on Capitol Hill

Six NYSID member agencies — AHRC New York City, The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, Center for Disability Services, Heritage Centers, Liberty ARC and The Osborne Association – including several individuals with disabilities who have been honored by NYSID in recent years, accompanied NYSID staff to our nation’s capital.

Donald McCall, a porter for the Metropolitan Transit Authority through AHRC New York City’s Hudson River Services, proudly participated in New York Day on Capitol Hill with his fellow Preferred Source workers. “We have to spread our voice to keep the government from cutting our programs,” he said. “I like my job because it puts money in my pocket and helps to pay my bills and rent. Without these programs, where am I going to go?”

Specifically, the New York contingent asked legislators to assist with an amendment of the definition of “competitive integrated employment” and recognize the right to employment choice in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regulations, published August 19, 2016 by the Departments of Labor and Education.

They also urged legislators to inform the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to clarify how in-facility settings are compliant with the Medicaid Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) rule so facility-based programs may continue as a services choice for New Yorkers with disabilities.

Without amending WIOA or clarifying HCBS, jobs and services for NYSID Preferred Source workers across New York State could be in jeopardy.

NYSID participants included Ron Romano, Corey Heritage, Jennifer Lawrence and Megan Tatro. They were joined by the following member agency participants:

AHRC New York City: Donald McCall, Kalsang Nyima, Barbara Olk, Steve Towler, Benjamin Zisfein

The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming: Robert Douglass, David France, Kellie Kennedy

Center for Disability Services: Jahseim Dobbs, Ki Whaley, Rich Whaley

Heritage Centers: David Foster, Kathleen Medley, Tiana Medley, Romental Ray, Clarence Rose, Liz Torres

Liberty ARC: Lisa Butterfield, Dawn Jacksland, Amy Levandosky, Russell Porath

The Osborne Association: Carolina Dyer

Among the legislators/staffers with whom the NYSID contingent visited: Senator Chuck SchumerSenator Kirsten GillibrandRep. Chris CollinsRep. Adriano EspaillatRep. Brian Higgins; Rep. Peter King; Rep. Jerrold NadlerRep. Tom ReedRep. Elise Stefanik; and Rep. Paul Tonko.

“The differently-abled are one of my favorite communities because it’s about courage and meeting challenges,” Congressman Tonko said. “We’re all challenged in life, and no one teaches me that lesson better than the differently-abled community, as to how to meet those challenges and make life work abundantly well.”

Steve Towler, assistant executive director, AHRC New York City, emphasized the importance of choice in employment opportunities as it pertains to WIOA. “The Preferred Source Program is essential and provides nearly 500 life-changing, well-paying jobs,” he said. “If WIOA goes through as written, people like Donald McCall would lose their job coach. The job Donald McCall is now doing would be at risk. This would undermine the success of hundreds of workers.”

Several NYSID member agency participants in New York Day on Capitol Hill have been honored by NYSID in recent years for employment excellence on Preferred Source contracts:

Richard Whaley, a mail processing clerk at the Center for Disability Services, offered heartfelt perspective on his Preferred Source job and his right to employment choice. “My job really helps me personally with my bills and helps me be a normal person in society,” he said. “I really think we need a choice and need these jobs to stay open.”

A 2015 Joslin Outstanding Performer, Rich received special recognition at NYSID’s 2016 Annual Meeting for advocating toward keeping these job choices and bringing to life the importance of his job for himself, his family and his community. He had testified at the NYS Procurement Council meeting about his mail processing job, as Preferred Source mail processing services were coming under scrutiny.

Kathleen Medley, a day porter at the Buffalo City Court Building, was named 2014 NYSID Employee of the Year working on Heritage Centers’ contracts. Last year, she was selected to work at the Buffalo City Court Building, a prestigious and long-standing NYSID Preferred Source contract.

“A job coach taught me how to look for jobs and guided me through life,” she said. “I provide for my whole family with my job. People with disabilities work hard. We want our children to have a normal life like everyone else.”

David France, 2014 Joslin Outstanding Performer, typically juggles multiple community cleaning jobs, including the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT)/Livingston County site and the Finger Lakes DDSO Dogwood Day Services location.

For more photos and videos from New York Day on Capitol Hill, visit NYSID on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Thank you to our member agencies, Preferred Source workers and federal legislators for participating in our hugely successful New York Day on Capitol Hill.


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