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Area Meeting Addresses Statewide Issues

Managers from Area IX held a wide-ranging discussion via Zoom Video Communications on June 2.

Led by Area Director Russ Kutenkuller, the dialogue also included managers Debbie Gore, Metropolitan Employment Rehabilitation Service Goodwill; Mike Stroud, Industrial Aid; Rob Libera, Lafayette Industries; and Jim Guyre, Valley Industries.

Illustrating the value of the ongoing area meetings, much of the discussion focused on challenges facing workshops across Missouri: COVID-19, dealing with closures and reopening, DESE funding announcements and more.

Bad News First

Unhappy news included the announcement of no June DESE payments due to a more than $2-million restriction by Gov. Parson. Besides the obvious hit to Missouri workshops, the shortfall effectively ended, at least for the present, MASWM’s StepUp2GiveBack program. Rob Libera, MASWM president, said the initial response to the program was positive and further discussion was likely.

Manager Mike Stroud added that the funding issues are likely to continue. “My gut is we’re going to have a cut, and it will be in limbo month by month. Casinos are the main driver of that (DESE/school funding), and they’re not going right now.”

Several related issues include how DESE will define reimbursable time and training going forward. MASWM will work to keep members informed and urge maximum funds for these critical programs.

Constructive Ideas

Some of the best discussion for managers included the comparison of methods and challenges for bringing employees back with reopening. Some reported issues with group homes not releasing employees or transportation bringing only two per van.

“There’s a lot of conflicting direction,” Rob noted.

The managers also discussed multiple techniques for operating workshops safely. Procedures like temperature testing at the door, the use of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as rearranging and marking workshop floors for social distancing. Other strategies include breaks and lunch shifts to avoid crowding in breakrooms and restrooms.

Mike noted his shop is creating workshop “quadrants” to which employees are designated. This not only helps spread out breaks and lunch groups, but will make it easier to trace infections if they do occur.

Budgeting is another obvious challenge. “I’ve been trying to put my budget together, but every time I do something changes,” Robb said.

Good News, Too

Some bright spots include Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan successes and, especially, successes by staff during difficult times and support by parents and employees.

“My clients are blowing my phone up,” Debbie noted. “They want to come back to work.”

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MASWM The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers
If you have questions, please contact:
President Rob Libera – (636) 227-5666 or rlibera@lafayetteindustries.com
or Legislative Chair Kit Brewer – (314) 647-3300 or cbrewer@cuinc.org