Federal Contractors, are you ready?

How does Section 503 affect me? What is Section 503?  What happened with the final rule on August 27th, 2013?  There are a number of questions surrounding Section 503.  I’d like to answer some of them for you.

So who cares? Section 503 specifically affects Companies with government contracts of $10,000 or more.  This will also affect those subcontractors who work with these companies.  In addition, individuals with disabilities, their families, and their support staff will benefit from the Final Rule.

So what does it say?  Did you know that Section 503 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?  In August of 2013, Section 503 was not written or added, it was updated and a “Final Rule” was passed.  In summary, the Final Rule states, “Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal contractors and subcontractors to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities and prohibits discrimination against such individuals.”

What has changed?  The final rule has implemented a new set of regulations.  The most important changes are that Federal Contractors and Subcontractors must meet a 7% utilization goal.  That means that these employers must hire and retain 7% of their employees as self-identified individuals with disabilities (IWD).  They must collect data on the number of applicants with disabilities that have applied, were hired, and promoted.  The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will enforce these rules, and can access these records at any time.

I’m an individual with disabilities, what is important to me?  What you need to know is that these contractors will be looking to hire individuals with disabilities (IWD) to fill their 7% utilization goals.  They will start to implement new programs to attract IWDs.  If you need a job (or a new job) it would be a good idea to know who these employers are, and how to apply to them.

I am a Federal Contractor/ Subcontractor what is important to me?  If you are not aware of these changes you need to contact the OFCCP.  If you are aware, but have not reached your 7% utilization goals, please contact me.  We are able to help you meet those regulations and can support you through the process of becoming compliant.

If anyone has more questions or comments, feel free to email me at heather.riley@nebaworks.com and have a wonderful day!

Heather Riley

Project Coordinator

New England Business Associates

Overcoming obstacles and succeeding

My name is Richard. I was born with a medical condition which affects my leg muscles and to a more minor extent my upper body strength. Additionally I have balance issues and tend to trip more easily.

I started working at New England Business Associates (NEBA) in May of 2006. Previous to my employment I had been a client of NEBA’s services. I was referred to NEBA by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. I informed them that I was interested in a position which would let me utilize my computer skills, my verbal ability, and organizational skills. They recommended that I utilize the services that NEBA provides and I met Neil David, who would later become my case manager. Neil and I would spend some time in NEBA’s office job searching on the computer to see which positions were currently available. He would also arrange appointments to come to my house and from there we would drive to local businesses and submit my application and resume.

As fate would have it, I received a call from Neil saying that a temporary position became available at NEBA. I had seen over this time spent searching for employment, the services that NEBA provides to all of its clients and the kindness of all of the staff. I jumped at this opportunity and never looked back.was hired temporarily as the receptionist for NEBA.  As I was able to demonstrate the additional skills that would benefit NEBA, I was able to transition from temporary receptionist to permanent Administrative Assistant.  Working at NEBA continues to be a wonderful experience. Over the course of my employment I have seen the progression of so many of NEBA’s clients, either in the work that they do at their chosen jobs or in their social abilities and interactions with others in the office.   

As for myself, I have learned so much during the course of my employment at NEBA and feel that they have given me the opportunity to show my abilities and skills as well as gain office administrative experience and develop new skills. The staff here is very accommodating of any extra assistance I may need such as lifting heavy supplies off of shelves or any other physically demanding task I may need extra assistance with due to my disability.

On occasion, I give the clients their schedules and let them know who they will be working with during the week. I have also helped the clients order lunch by making the phone call for them if needed and then making sure that they receive their food. Client transportation is very important as many of the clients do not drive. I assist them by calling and making sure that their transportation is on time and make sure they know when the bus is coming.

The writer’s workshop at NEBA is working with a client to write a book. When needed, I will assist the client by working with him to develop his ideas and help him put those ideas in writing. I also monitor our classroom when the instructor is out of the room.

I feel that the work I do here at NEBA is the perfect fit for me and my abilities. Having a physical disability, I feel that the goal’s that NEBA accomplishes empowers all of the people that they serve.  The clients have become more productive members of society by gaining employment in their chosen fields of interest.  In other cases NEBA helps the individuals learn skills to become more independent both at their job and in their living situations. These goals that NEBA strives to provide are very much needed in society and truly inspirational. It is, and has been a wonderful experience for me to work at New England Business Associates.

Written by NEBA employee Rich G. 

Are you interested in learning more about NEBA and what we do… visit http://www.nebaworks.com or follow us on Facebook.

Meet Jesse

When I was asked to write about a successful autistic consumer for Autism Awareness Month, immediately, I thought of Jesse. I tried to write about Jesse with the very standard “struggles to success” plot line. While what I wrote was all very accurate, it just didn’t seem to do Jesse any justice. He is simply too dynamic for a formulaic article.

However, background is important. Jesse has been diagnosed with autism. He came to NEBA about two years ago to learn employable skills, find volunteer placements, and eventually become employed. Jesse has completed all these goals and more. He attended the Career Ladders program and still attends each week; though his job and volunteer placements don’t leave him enough time for full days of class any more. Jesse currently works as an office assistant once a week at Health Resources, a doctor’s office in Hadley. He excels in all his tasks, which range from filing patient information to walking the office dog. Jesse also volunteers at the Hubbard Library, which he dusts while trying not to get distracted by the movies and music that call to him from the shelves. If that weren’t enough to keep him busy, Jesse volunteers twice a week at Dakin Animal Shelter.

Just like a list of diagnoses doesn’t accurately describe Jesse, neither does his resume depict the vivid person, who loves movies, music, books, dancing, peanut butter cookies, and keeps Charlotte, the Spider in his pocket.  When Jesse enters NEBA, he walks straight to the nearest person to tell them the latest news about his Johnny Cash CD collection. Jesse, NEBA’s social butterfly, travels from one person to another a reciting different movie line duet with each person, spanning films from Aladdin to The Wizard of Oz. While anyone can recite quotes and memorize facts, I have met very few people who feel the excitement of each one so deeply inside themselves and have the ability to infect others with their enthusiasm.

At Dakin, Jesse folds laundry, which I think most of us will agree, can get repetitive at times. To keep towel folding interesting, Jesse has started reciting stories. Each day I work with him, I get a different tale complete with accents, dramatic pauses, and flourishing gestures that only occasionally interrupt his folding. I have heard everything from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney Audiobook), with a particular affinity for Dr. Seuss. When I say that Jesse is reciting stories, I mean the whole entire book, along with copyright date, background on the author, and the occasional instruction to “flip the tape over.”

Jesse doesn’t just have a passion for movies and books but also for music, specifically Johnny Cash. He can list every song and CD Cash produced with the same information and detail listed on its label. When he plays the music that he loves so profoundly, you can see the excitement course through his body and be released as he sings and dances. Jesse doesn’t worry about what people think of him when he performs, something most of us could only wish we could reproduce in ourselves. He simply feels the music and wants to share the feeling with those around him, especially those in the audience he has collected beforehand.

Recently, Jesse and I have been working to creatively combine many of his interests. Every Friday, I help Jesse to write about one of his passions in a limerick. Jesse chooses the topic, checks the rhyming dictionary, and creates his own poems. I type and occasionally help cut out some extra syllables. Once again, the enthusiasm Jesse feels about these topics and about writing his own poems, barrels through him. We sit together at a computer, while Jesse grins and moves excitedly back and forth in his chair, formulating poems about every topic from Johnny Cash to Mr. Hoober-Bloob.

Jesse, like everyone else, goes through life with ups and downs, successes and struggles in addition to his Autism. However, he is so much more than this. Jesse loves his passions deeply and enthusiastically in an uninhibited way that most of can’t image or at least admit to. Just having the chance to appreciate his enthusiasm and to feel it rub off on those around him, is something I look forward to every week.

Do you want to learn more about NEBA and what we do, visit our website at http://www.nebaworks.com and sign up for our newsletter.

This post was written by Hannah Spiro, an Employment Consultant for New England Business Associates.

Navigating the Maze of Social Security

Most people never want to be in a situation where they must rely on Social Security benefits to make ends meet. However, these benefits provide an essential safety net when an individual is faced with a disability or other significant barrier to work.

When a Social Security disability beneficiary determines that they are able to return to work, they are often unsure of how much work they will be able to perform and how their income will affect their benefit. Social Security is such a complex program, with so many moving parts, scenario contingencies, and rules within rules that it is nearly impossible to comprehend.

Because of the complexity of Social Security, and because each benefit situation is unique, NEBA relies on professionals who have gained an extremely thorough understanding of the program to meet with beneficiaries and their families. These benefits counselors work for programs called Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) and Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS), which also provides legal services for beneficiaries.

Benefits counselors are absolutely essential in helping beneficiaries and their families understand the rules, risks and rewards involved with going back to work. In almost every case, beneficiaries emerge from their consultations with a thorough understanding of their benefit situation and are much more confident to attempt working again to the best of their ability.

Unfortunately, funding for the WIPA and PABSS programs is now in jeopardy. Congress has failed to re-authorize the WIPA and PABSS programs, which are slated to be defunded as of June 30, 2012. We know that the WIPA and PABSS programs are effective in empowering individuals with disabilities with the knowledge they need to navigate the Social Security maze and confidently return to the workforce. Many of these workers do remain employed, gradually reducing or eliminating their need for government benefits while generating income tax revenue.

For more information about the WIPA and PABSS programs and the efforts to save them, please visit the National Employment Network Association.

Job Creation vs. Job Carving

It’s not uncommon to hear the term “job creation” in everyday life. With today’s volatile economy, jobs are one of the main topics of the 2012 presidential election. With unemployment around 8.5%, everyone has ideas on how to create jobs. Whether your preferred job creation tactic is tax breaks, stimulus funds, or good old-fashioned education access, people need to work to live successfully. When it comes to job creation, NEBA is no different. NEBA also uses a strategy called “job carving” to place job seekers in successful positions. What’s the difference?

Job Creation

Job creation is just as it states. A position is drawn up based upon an employer’s need. Job descriptions are created, a salary is set, and someone is hired to do the job. NEBA meets with employers and gets to know them and their business. What are their needs? What are their barriers to further success? How can a NEBA job seeker help them meet their goals? If these questions are not asked, we cannot match the right person to the right job, and we are therefore not doing our job.

Job Carving

Job carving is based upon the same concept as job creation, but is a bit different, in that it is usually based upon a position that already exists and is vacant. When meeting with an employer, NEBA may have a job seeker in mind that could benefit the employer. However, sometimes, not all of the tasks are aligned with the job seeker’s abilities. Perhaps the person can lift 40 pounds when the job requires 60. Maybe 30 minutes of a 6-hour shift involves heavy typing, and that’s not someone’s forté. This is where job carving comes into play. What if NEBA could help an employer figure out how to integrate that one task amongst other staff? This way, the barrier would be cleared, and NEBA’s applicant could confidently perform all other tasks the employer is looking for. Essentially, the job is being “carved” to cater to the job seeker. Employers still hire one person for the job they needed complete, and are supporting NEBA’s mission and community integration in the process!

Carving A Creation

Sometimes, job carving leads to job creation. Working with a Springfield Walgreens, we were able to take the extraneous tasks of cleaning restrooms, sweeping the store, washing windows and doors, etc., away from staff who needed to focus on customer service, and create a new position for one of our job seekers whose employment goal was to keep a store neat and tidy. Nearly 7 years later, that gentleman is still gainfully employed and has many natural supports in place to secure his independence.

Whether it’s job creation or job carving, NEBA’s mission of putting people to work in their communities is a win-win.

–Ryan Aldrich, Senior Employment Consultant: Connecticut Services

NEBA ≠ Charity

In my tenure at NEBA, I have job developed and networked in communities throughout Connecticut and western Massachusetts. When I network, I meet a vast array of people. My job is (before placing clients in jobs of their own) to meet employers and listen to their needs, learn about their business and determine if a NEBA client can benefit their company. I am asked many questions about what NEBA is, what role it plays, etc. In some cases, a dialogue plays to a point of concern for me and my clientele. It usually goes a bit like this:

Employer: “So, you’re an employment agency? That means I have to pay extra fees to hire your people.”

Me: “Actually, that’s not the case! There are no additional fees to hire our job seekers. We are a non-profit agency working with state agencies to assist in placing qualified applicants.”

Employer: “Oh! You’re a charity. Well, leave some information and I’ll look it over. Thanks for coming in!”

Depending on the circumstances, I may or may not mention that NEBA serves the disabled population. This only enhances the notion that I represent a charity, as if my clients are looking for free money, donations, or some other handout. Of course, this is far from the truth. Still, many who hear the term “non-profit” almost automatically assume the term is interchangeable with “charity.”

NEBA is not a charity. Far from it.

Our designation as a 501(c)(3) non-profit simply means that any money we take in for providing services must be allocated towards services, staff, or anything else that helps us place individuals in jobs. Like any non-profit, we hold fundraisers to help enhance our services and award-winning best practices, as well as to bring awareness to our mission and goal. Our goal is to place people in real jobs for real pay. We do not provide handouts to those we support, but rather education, training and accommodations so they can be productive, taxpaying citizens in their communities.

Our clients have skills that would benefit businesses with needs to match, just like any other employment agency. Basically, without the word “disability” in our repertoire, our services are just like the for-profit agencies, save for the no-fee placement, coaching and education we provide to employers. Retention, turnover and employee efficiency are not foreign terms to us. Our employment consultants are well-versed in hiring practices, workplace accommodations, tax credit information and much more. Clients of NEBA are people with skills to showcase and who want to work where they are valued equally with other employees. Our clients are qualified, reliable candidates who look forward to the opportunity to grow with businesses that value their contributions. NEBA may be associated with “Disability, A to Z,” but we are also seen by employers of our clientele as “Employment, Hello to Hire and beyond.”

By hiring an individual served by NEBA, employers contribute to economic development via lowered state and federal subsidies and increased tax revenue. Many businesses are eligible for tax credits for hiring our clients. Our consultants work hard to ensure each job seeker is matched to the career path they most desire and that matches their skills, so that relationships with employers are naturally and mutually beneficial. Surely, the employee a company may hire is not a donation or handout, but a contributor to the company, community, and society…just like any other employee.

In NEBA’s 28+ years of existence, it and its staff have been called pioneers, innovative thinkers, advocates, economic developers, etc. Call us any of those things. Call us the agency that cares. Call us a run-of-the-mill employment agency if you wish.

Just don’t call us a charity.

-Ryan Aldrich

Senior Employment Consultant

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