[nfbmi-talk] implications of state cuts rs program oregon

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Mon Dec 27 12:37:29 UTC 2010

Implications of state cuts are wide, far-reaching



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Dennis Thompson

• December 27, 2010


Sunday's front page article about the local economy tried to connect the dots and show why layoffs in state government could be devastating to the Salem-Keizer



An independent businessman named Harold Young served as one of those dots. He runs deli counters in two Capitol Mall office buildings and has seen his business

decline as furloughs lightened the wallets of the state employees he serves.


Young passed in and out of the article just quickly enough to make the point that needed making.


But there's more to his story that wasn't used, and I'd like to share it with you here.


Young is one of a handful of blind people who operate the vending machines and concessions in state buildings.


They got the gig under a state and federal program called the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program, which is aimed at helping the blind find gainful

employment by allowing them first crack at concessions in public buildings.


The program came to my attention by way of Art Stevenson, who is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon and vice chairman of the Randolph-Sheppard

program in Oregon.


He called me in response to my column last week, which was a shout-out for sources who are worried about the possible impact of state cuts to the Salem



Stevenson has already suffered some economic loss because of Oregon budget cuts. He used to run the vending machines in the staff lounge and visitors' center

of the men's minimum security facility at the Oregon State Penitentiary.


The men's minimum closed in October, and when it did Stevenson lost hundreds of dollars to his monthly income. He's also seen business decline in other

state buildings where he has vending machines.


Stevenson set up a conference call for me with himself, Young and another business person named Ann Wright. They are all blind people who have been given

the chance to earn money through this program, and they've all seen their fortunes suffer as state employees have cut back on their spending.


"I've had people already tell me as soon as the next round of cuts come through, they're going to have to stop coming to my place altogether. It's just

going to go from bad to worse," said Wright, who runs a cafe in the DMV building and a coffee bar in the ODOT building.


These are interesting people, and not only because they have overcome their disability to run a business and even put other people to work. (Young has a

staff of five, while Wright employs six people).


They are interesting because they have a unique insight into the mood of the state work force. They are in a position to talk to state workers every day,

as their customers buy sandwiches and drinks and bags of chips.


And they are concerned about their customers.


"The fear among people is crazy," Wright said. "It's a topic of discussion every single morning. They're afraid for their health care, and about more furlough

days. I have customers who have had to get a second job to support their families."


dmthomps at StatesmanJournal.com

or (503) 399-6719


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