Providing opportunities for everyone

Posted on September 26, 2017 16:20 pm CDT

Billy Long (Long's Short Report)

 

Every year a large contingent of workers with intellectual and developmental disorders make the trek to Washington to lobby me and other members of Congress. For what do they lobby? Simply to communicate how much it means to them and their families to be productive members of society and to be allowed to continue working. They live in constant fear that we in Congress are going to pass new laws to prevent them from doing so.

Missouri is home to more than 500,000 small businesses which employ more than 1 million people. In the United States, 99.7 percent of employer firms are small businesses. These small businesses employ almost 50 percent of the private-sector workforce and are 63 percent of net new private-sector jobs. Small businesses play a vital role in our economy — one that can’t be ignored. However, a part of our population is disproportionately underrepresented.

According to the 2016 Disability Statistics Annual Report, only 35 percent of individuals with intellectual and developmental disorders were employed compared to 76 percent of individuals that did not have intellectual and developmental disorders. Over time, the gap between individuals with intellectual and developmental disorders and those who don’t has increased. In 2008 the employment gap was 38.8 percentage points. In 2015 it was 41.1 percentage points. In Missouri alone, the employment rate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disorders is 35 percent.

Thankfully, in southwest Missouri we have excellent small business leaders in our communities working to close that gap. One such organization is SWI Industrial Solutions located in Springfield. I’ve had the chance to visit this business numerous times. I couldn’t be more proud of the work it is doing and the opportunities it is providing for individuals with special needs. This business offers packaging solutions, assembly solutions along with a variety of other solutions to businesses in need.

Another great business in southwest Missouri providing opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disorders is Joplin Workshops, Inc. This business has two branches, the Mid America Solutions and Healthcare Linen Specialists, that specialize in health care linens and industrial-based work. Not only does this business help the local community, this business provides services to businesses nationwide.

It’s organizations like these that help encourage other businesses to expand job opportunities to individuals with intellectual and developmental disorders that they otherwise would not have. I will continue to visit these businesses in southwest Missouri to hear what does and does not work. Each American should have the opportunity to contribute to our economy in a meaningful way. It’s possible. Numerous businesses have proven this to be the case.

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