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ECHO officials tell Kaine 150 jobs at risk due to confusing regulations

Sen. Tim Kaine and ECHO officials during a tour of the mail room Feb. 1. Times-Mirror/Trevor Baratko
Leesburg nonprofit ECHO played host and tour guide to a high-profile visitor Thursday, with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D) dropping in to learn more about the agency that assists people with disabilities.

ECHO, which provides day support, training and employment to people with disabilities, coordinates with local businesses like K2M, Reston Limousine and Janelia Research Campus to provide workers the added dignity of gainful employement.

In addition to a tour of the facility and introduction to workers, Kaine learned about one of ECHO's biggest challenges: conflicting regulations.

According to ECHO officials, onerous rules and interpretations related to the AbilityOne Commission and Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act could cost nearly 150 people with disabilities who work with ECHO their jobs.

The AbilityOne program is a major source of employment on federal contracts in the U.S. for individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities. The program is administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, an independent federal agency, with assistance from National Industries for the Blind NIB and SourceAmerica.

Because of the Rehabilitation Services Administration's “draconian interpretation” of the Workforce and Innovation and Opportunities Act, some of ECHO's partner work sites aren't considered “integrated” and thus jobs are being eliminated, according to officials with the nonprofit.

ECHO officials asked Sen. Kaine to contact Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and request she allow State Vocational Rehabilitation programs to place people with with disabilities on all AbilityOne contracts.

“It was an honor to have him here,” said ECHO CEO Paul Donohue, Jr. “But, most importantly, some of those legislative challenges – those regulatory challenges – we're experiencing, where we have two federal entities telling us contradictory guidance that's going to affect funding and the mission, it's very, very frustrating.”

Donohue said getting in front of Kaine and sharing these challenges with him is encouraging, and he's hopeful some changes can be made.

Kaine said he plans to get his policy team to “dig into” the concerns brought up by ECHO officials.

“The dignity of a paycheck is a wonderful thing, but also that provides a stability that's also really good for people's quality of life and happiness,” Kaine said. “I'm really glad I came out and heard about it directly and saw what they do because I want to get my policy team to work to see if we can help.”

During his visit, Kaine toured ECHO's facility located on Lawson Road, including the mail room where workers were busy performing packaging duties, the L.I.F.E. day support center and the medically fragile programs.

ECHO officials presented Sen. Tim Kaine with a T-shirt bearing the organization's logo Feb. 1. Courtesy Photo/ECHO


Easy to see why nothing gets done in Congress and Senate, they’re always out campaigning. Expect another govt shutdown Thursday.

Why is Inova getting free mail service paid for by tax dollars the same for the lawns at HHI. Non Profit isn’t profitable enough we have to benefit them with free services on top of police fire…

ECHO is a great organization and I had the pleasure to work with some of their individuals a few years back.  However, this story does nothing to explain what the issue is.

Trump will cut the regulations….you are wasting your time talking to this deep state puppet.

Breaking news:  an independent federal agency has onerous rules and interpretations.

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