The Republican Tax Bill Will Make It Less Desirable For Companies To Hire Veterans And People With Developmental Disabilities

The Republican Tax Bill Will Make It Less Desirable For Companies To Hire Veterans And People With Developmental Disabilities
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Brian Snyder / Reuters

I worked in New York City placing people with Developmental Disabilities into jobs for eight years. It was one of the most rewarding times of my life that taught me what it looked like when someone really wanted a job but just couldn’t seem to get one.

My job was to sell our non-profit agency that supported these workers, so that when it was time for a typical job interview, which was extremely difficult for people with Developmental Disabilities, they would still have a good chance of being hired. The people I worked with sometimes had a hard time grasping common interview questions that most teenagers could answer. Like the time I brought a candidate to an interview and he was asked to tell the interviewers about a “time in your life when you received excellent customer service” he answered, “ummm 2:30?” I can’t remember if he got the job, but in that instance I was there to make sure the interviewer knew that although this gentleman might not be able to answer generic and prefabricated questions, he would certainly be on time and most importantly, he could do the job, which was usually some type of janitorial work, stocking shelves or greeting customers at the door.

I spoke with thousands of employers from the heads of HR for multinational corporations to the owners of a small Auto Body in the South Bronx. The responses when I cold called or came through a warm referral were all over the spectrum. Some businesses wanted nothing to do with people from our programs and let me know in some of the most ignorant ways, saying things like “we don’t hire those” or “we already have one.” Others commended me on the work we did or expressed worries about their own child recently diagnosed with autism, expressing concern about their children’s lives when they will be out of school and looking for a job. Most of those calls ended in a polite exchange and honest plea that they wished they could help but they just didn’t have jobs available.

Then, there were the times when I was actually successful. Those successes usually came from two paths that sometimes collided in the end. People were either willing to hire our individuals because they had the power to make the decision and were determined to make their work force a better place by vastly diversifying it OR they wanted the TAX CREDIT for hiring people with disabilities. And like I hinted at before, sometimes it was both.

I’ve since left my job to take care of my two little children and focus more on making waves in the corporate environment through widely read articles such as this one. I haven’t felt as passionate about a topic since writing about the need for extended maternity leave while postpartum with my second child. But today while waiting for my son to finish his class at School of Rock and mindlessly combing the twitter-sphere, I stumbled on an article which mentioned the new Republican tax reform bill under Section 3404 would eliminate the Work Opportunity Tax Credit Or (WOTC); a tax credit I once offered the companies I worked with and one that is also given to companies who employ Veterans.

The WOTC was part of my everyday life. I educated employers about the credit and helped them to complete any necessary paperwork to insure they would receive the credit if they did hire a person from our program. I was never a big fan of that paperwork. My mission was to show employers why hiring people with disabilities would be an asset to their company, that people with disabilities have an 80% retention rate when the rest of the population rests somewhere around 19%, and that people with disabilities are more likely to be on time, be friendly to customers and boost the overall moral of the work place.

The reality is, if the tax credit for hiring people with disabilities, or veterans, or people on welfare gets cut, these individuals will find themselves perpetually unemployed with a higher dependence on social welfare.

The one major lesson I learned during my career as a Job Developer, people WANT to work. Work defines us all, it’s how we socialize, what we talk about with strangers, how we measure our success and for the most part it makes us feel like part of society. People with disabilities could potentially live off of public assistance, though it can be very hard, but they WANT to work.

I remember countless times when someone I placed in a job came by my office to show me his or her first paycheck or a new uniform. There was so much pride in their voices and in their eyes; they had become contributing members of society.

I will say I went into the idea of a tax reform bill with an open mind. The day it was released I spent hours reading and watching news coverage to find out exactly what was in the bill. On the surface it looks simple: give corporations tax cuts and they will create jobs, but the devil is certainly in the details. Giving tax cuts to millionaires via corporate tax cuts and the repeal of the Estate Tax just doesn’t seem worth leaving millions of disabled people and vets unemployed. And don’t even get me started on the hypocrisy of the repeal of the Adoption Tax Credit.

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