I have had experience watching both the slow and quick elimination of 14(c) Certificate jobs throughout my experience as a provider of services to those with significant disabilities. As an employee of a Non-Profit Agency (NPA) in the AbilityOne network, I have seen the sorting lines dwindle away at once thriving paper shredding workshops. They have closed due to declining rates for sorted paper and mobile crews (rarely staffed with disabled labor) have taken their place. The individuals with significant disabilities who lost those jobs were largely forgotten or transferred to day-habilitation centers. I do not know how many of the 100,000+ 14(c) Certificate jobs that were lost over the last 20 years were attributable to Document Destruction, but I personally remember several faces who are no longer working. It is sad.
AbilityOne now only comprises 9,000 of the 140,000 jobs utilizing 14(c) Certificates, it will be quick for me to see those jobs transition and for the most significantly disabled to be transferred to alternative programming. Government customers have a priority to seek the Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) and have forgotten why socioeconomic programs like AbilityOne were created. Jobs will quickly leave AbilityOne under pressure from cost cutting agencies who will not want to pay full rates for an individual who can only perform at a 50% production rate. Thankfully, there are some AbilityOne Champion Legislators that are willing to stand up for disabled workers by ensuring that funding priorities are established, however, many of the most significantly disabled will lose out in the end and be unemployed over the next several years.
I have seen some NPAs transition beautifully from 14(c). They have had huge foundations and a commitment from their NPA Board that they will not leave a person behind. Some NPAs have sought the support of their business community, some have written grants, others sponsor galas, and one even has a Santa Run down the Las Vegas Strip. Kudos to your efforts and keep up the good fight, but they are the exception and not the rule. Most NPAs do not have foundation funding to supplement wages through a period of transition from 14(c) and the mission will be lost with their demise.
There has been real innovation around the idea of keeping jobs for the most significantly disabled, but, at the end of the day, it comes down to money. If you do not have a huge foundation of funding to support:
A. the elimination of 14(c),
B. the rising minimum wage,
C. the lack of referrals because of WIOA,
D. the shrinking of government funding,
E. the constant threat of shutdown,
F. the difficulty hiring and retaining Direct Service Providers (DSPs), and,
G. the compression effect of all of these forces occuring simultaneously,
then your local NPA will fold (or merge) and the jobs will be lost in the end to efficiencies and competing priorities. Only Mega-NPAs will survive and those with the most significant disabilities are going to be lost in the shuffle.
I hope I will hear more ideas from AbilityOne about creating new jobs to replace the 9,000 they employ with 14(c) Certificates. I hope the business community "steps up" with the 130,000+ on 14(c) Certificates that are not employed on AbilityOne jobs. I hope we identify the individuals we have lost in the shuffle from 14(c) over the last decade. I hope I see some of the faces I remember from the sorting lines at the paper shredding workshops; I will not forget any of them.