Turns out the Wednesday, Senate/House Hearing on the 1115 waiver was cancelled.

Friday, I will attend the Conflict Free WorkGroup of the 1115 waiver will meet in Chicago.

I was pleased to learn that the Task Force on Employment and Economic Opportunity
for Persons with Disabilities is moving forward on a strategic plan to implement
Employment First.  Tuesday, Phil Milsk, our Governmental Affairs Consultant, attended
a meeting of a small ad hoc strategic planning group convened by the co-chair of the
Task Force.

The first step in the process is a draft of a preliminary plan that is due on 12/31/14. It is
likely, given the short time-frame, that the report from the January, 2012, Employment
First summit will be the starting point for this report and we will just make changes as
deemed appropriate.

There will be 5 or 6 working groups that the Governor’s office is creating.  The
Governor’s office is also appointing the co-chairs of each working group.  Phil was asked
to co-chair the Workforce Development working group with Director Dave Hanson.   One
of the other working groups deals with post-secondary transition.

Other than representatives from various State agencies, we don’t know as yet who will
be named to the various working groups.  Membership is not limited to members of the
Task Force, so some of us may end up being invited or asked to recommend people.

We would be interested in any ideas you have as to how Illinois can improve its policies
and services to implement employment first, especially with respect to transition and
workforce development.

Below are two recent news stories on the future of sheltered workshops.


New federal rules could close sheltered workshops for people
with disabilities


Winkler does this three days a week in a warehouse in an industrial park in eastern

Barb Winkler of Lee’s Summit is grateful that her 33-year-old daughter, who has Down
syndrome, has a place to go and be productive, even if she earns only $1.85 an hour
at the JobOne sheltered workshop.

“You want them to optimize their potential and do everything they’re capable of doing,”
Winkler said of people with disabilities.

Leslie Winkler, 33, of Independence, got her purse out of her locker before heading
home after working her shift recently at JobOne, a sheltered workshop for adults with
disabilities in Independence.

The question is whether this warehouse is the best way to do that.

The future of such places — sheltered workshops that pay subminimum wage to
workers with various disabilities — is uncertain in light of a new Medicaid rule and a
new law signed last month. Based on a 1999 Supreme Court decision, the two actions
confirm the government’s commitment to integrate people with disabilities into the
larger community as much as possible.

That’s a big federal finger pointed at sheltered workshops, which by definition isolate
workers with disabilities.

The Civil Rights Division of the federal Department of Justice took Rhode Island to
court and this spring secured a settlement that will overhaul that state’s sheltered
workshops. Other states, including New York and Oregon, have chosen to phase
out the workshops completely without waiting to be sued.


What Happens When Sheltered Workshops Close?


The sheltered workshops that are still prevalent across much of the country were
shut down in Vermont more than a decade ago. And now, the employment rate of
people with developmental disabilities in the New England state is twice the national

Vermont resident Bill Villemaire, who has an intellectual disability, benefitted from
the state’s major policy shift, a change that states throughout the nation are mulling.

Villemaire, 58, said he felt claustrophobic and worn out while working for a pittance
at a sheltered workshop. He is now a seasoned employee at a Sweet Clover grocery
store, checking for products that have expired or have been damaged.

With that paycheck, he enjoys trying new restaurants and buying Christmas gifts for
friends and family. “My life has taken a turn for the better,” he said.


Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)