PDT Staff Writer
Maybe it slipped by you, but National Disability Employment Awareness Month, is in full swing, and Goodwill Industries is shining a light on the effectiveness and importance of the programs built around training and hiring people with disabilities.
Employees, employers and the public gathered at Goodwill corporate offices and Vocational Rehabilitation Center, 324 Chillicothe St. in Portsmouth Wednesday afternoon.
“We are having an open house to invite employers from the community and to make them aware of hiring people with disabilities, and the advantages of that,” Michell Baker, Human Resource and Program Director, said. “By hiring people with disabilities, it makes your attendance go up, your retention up, your training costs down and your productivity up.”
Sharon Smith, General Manager of Comfort Inn, in Portsmouth, agrees with Baker.
“I have Gina (Chinn) and Christy (Pennington) that came to work for me through the Goodwill program,” Smith said. “They are very reliable, do whatever is asked of them, and then some. Gina was here first before Christy, and I put Gina as her trainer, and it seems to have worked out a whole lot. In addition, it has built up both women’s confidence, and I don’t have call-offs from either one of them. They are reliable.”
Chinn and Pennington are employed in housekeeping at Comfort Inn.
“I learned my skills through training,” Chinn said. “It prepared me a lot for this job.”
It’s our Vocational Rehabilitation program,” Baker said. “We train them on how to get jobs in the community. We help them get jobs in the community. We do interview skills. We do social skills.”
“We also do mock interviews,” Kyle Davis, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist, said.
Baker said clients are referred through Rehabilitation Service Commission. The staff can also help clients sign up for services. She said anyone interested in learning more about the program can contact Goodwill Industries of Southern Ohio - Vocational Rehabilitation Services, at 740-353-4394.
Andrea Jones-Newman, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist, said the program has worked with 54 clients so far this year, and are currently working with 28 clients.
“We have some clients that are placed,” Baker said. “We have some clients that are in placement right now that we are working on trying to get placed.”
Davis said there is a Work Opportunity Credit offered to employers through the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employees who work at least 120 hours, but less than 400 hours will entitle the employer to a tax credit of 25 percent of the first-year qualified wages up to $6,000, for a maximum credit of $1,500.
He said employers may claim a credit of 40 percent of first-year wages up to $6,000, for new employees who work at least 400 hours, for a maximum credit of $2,400 per employee. The employer must apply for and receive certification from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services before they can claim these tax credits on their federal tax returns.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org