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Schumer wants federal government to continue buying goods from non-profit employers

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Ellen Abbott
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WRVO News file photo
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) wants the federal General Services Administration to continue buying goods from non-profits that employ people with disabilities.

The Central New York Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, or CABVI, is one of many non-profits across the country losing revenues because the federal government is not fully complying with the law. The 1971 Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act requires the federal government to purchase certain products from non-profits that employ the blind and those with other disabilities.

Steve Gannon, the association’s director of development, says although the losses have an impact on some of the products the facility makes, there are large shortfalls nationwide.

“When you take all of the sales, it’s about $650 million nationally that organizations in the AbilityOne program sell to the federal government,” Gannon said. “And when you’re talking about a $4 trillion, $5 trillion federal budget, it’s not a whole lot. But for those agencies it is a lot of money.”

Gannon says when the government buys things like rubber bands, flashlights or exam gloves from non-profits, it helps those employers provide work for those with disabilities.

“They’re employing people who have a national unemployment rate that is 70 percent,” Gannon explained. “So three out of 10 people who are blind or visually impaired and want to work are working. The remaining seven want to work and can’t find work.”

CABVI employs more than 200 people at its facility in Utica, including more than 100 people who are blind or visually impaired.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) was recently in Utica to stump for the program, urging the General Services Administration to follow the law as it was intended.