Buono Bill To Assist The Disabled Find Work Receives Final Legislative Approval

TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono hailed final legislative approval of her bill that would provide tax credit incentives to New Jersey companies that employ developmentally disabled individuals.

“For organizations like Easter Seals, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find companies willing to hire the developmentally disabled individuals who work in their sheltered workshops,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Competition from factories located abroad companies where wages are drastically lower has dramatically decreased the potential for contracting with local companies. These tax credits will allow those nonprofits running sheltered workshops to be an economically viable option for local businesses when contracting product assembly and packaging services.”

Senator Buono began advocating for the tax credits provided in S-487 in 2002 after touring the Easter Seals sheltered workshop in New Brunswick. Easter Seals President & CEO Brian Fitzgerald suggested that a tax credit would provide the necessary incentive for New Jersey companies to contract with the sheltered workshop programs.

Easter Seals itself employs over 700 individuals in three locations (Franklin, Millville and New Brunswick) and statewide 3,400 disabled individuals are served by 30 separate not-for-profit, community-based employment organizations.

“After seeing the program offered by Easter Seals and speaking with Mr. Fitzgerald, it was clear that we needed to help make these programs more competitive with overseas labor,” added Senator Buono.

The bill, would provide tax credits under the corporation business tax and gross income tax. The credit would be equal to 20% of the wages and salaries paid to individuals working in sheltered workshops, up to $1000 per individual. The workshop workers are individually certified to make less than minimum wage based on their productivity. Typically they are paid $2.20 an hour for five hours each day with a minimum of 220 workdays a year. The average credit will be around $500, costing the State around $500,000 in tax revenues each year.

Senator Buono noted that after working on passing this bill for over three years, “It’s gratifying to know that we will finally put this law on the books and give disabled workers in New Jersey a chance to compete against offshore outsourcing.”

The bill passed the both house of the Legislature unanimously and now awaits Governor Codey’s signature.