TRENTON - Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin announced Sept. 2 the state will provide CARES Act funding for the reopening of 26 Sheltered Workshop programs throughout the state.
According to a release, Sheltered Workshop programs provide employment, job, and skills training to people with disabilities. Statewide, there are 26 programs operating 28 sites. All have been closed since early March, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is an important step in our recovery process,” stated Murphy. “Sheltered Workshops provide a positive and valuable service for our developmentally disabled community, and their ability to reopen will allow those workers to regain a sense of normalcy.”
“This issue is close to my heart. This is crucial funding that will reopen the doors to workshops for individuals with developmental disabilities, providing a safe work environment that cultivates their skills and abilities at a time when it is needed most,” stated Sweeney. “The COVID crisis and shutdown has been especially hard for those who relied on these workshops as safe havens where they gain invaluable experience, with fair compensation for their work. This gives them a sense of purpose and pride as they are engaged in meaningful work. This is one of the best uses of CARES Act funding I can think of.”
“As we work to reopen our state and begin our new normal, we must prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable, including those with developmental disabilities,” said Coughlin. “Sheltered Workshops help people with disabilities grow and thrive personally and professionally. Restarting these programs will reopen doors to opportunity for our disabled community. We must support these initiatives however we can.”
The Memorandum of Understanding provides a total of $1,312,500 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for reopening sites. Each provider will be able to apply for up to $25,000 for the initial reopening. Those funds will be allocated toward eligible reopening costs, including those for instituting social distancing, intensified cleaning, personal protective equipment, and providing remote opportunities for individuals in these programs.
Remaining funds will be used to reimburse providers for additional costs incurred in the course of ensuring that reopening is done in a safe manner. Programs will be required to confirm that they have applied for FEMA reimbursements if eligible and that they are not receiving duplicate benefits.
Each program has provided a reopening plan, which is being reviewed by the Department of Labor. The department is offering feedback to ensure the health and safety of the workshop employees, the employers and the public.