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C.O. nonprofit no longer able to offer paid employment to people with disabilities

Opportunity Foundation says new state law would make it too costly

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In a letter to its workers and supporters, the Opportunity Foundation's executive director said the nonprofit will no longer be able to offer paid employment path services to people with disabilities.

Current COVID-19-related workplace restrictions and a new state wage law taking effect July 1 are the main reasons for the change.

In the letter, dated June 1 and shared with KTVZ by Opportunity Foundation Executive Director Seth Johnson, he wrote, "Beginning July 1, 2020 the Opportunity Foundation of Central Oregon will no longer be a provider of paid Employment Path services at our thrift stores."

Later in the letter, Johnson added that wage law changes are also a reason why the non-profit will no longer be able offer paid employment path services.

"Another reason for this change is that we are being required by new state law to phase out the use of sub-minimum wage, which we also have used in our stores," Johnson wrote. "We simply cannot afford to pay the increased new minimum wage, which also goes up every year."

State Rep. Jeff Reardon, D-Happy Valley, who co-sponsored the bill, said nonprofits should be able to negotiate with the state to come up with a wage payment plan, making it more affordable for organizations like the Opportunity Foundation.

"Are we going to be actually putting people with disabilities out of work? I would say, 'No, I don't think so,'" Reardon told NewsChannel 21. "The reason for that is these quality rehabilitation facilities can contract with other state agencies, and this bill allows them to negotiate up to the minimum wage over a period of years."

The Opportunity Foundation said it will continue to pay its workers through the end of June and will offer unpaid employment path services when more COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Opportunity Foundation representatives could not be reached for further comment.

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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.


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