As most of you know, LifeROOTS has had a long-standing federal contract with Kirtland Air Force Base – and for the past 15 years has provided the base with telephone switchboard operators and custodial workers. In fact, as many read in the Albuquerque Journal back in June, the Kirtland contract has been instrumental in helping so many people with disabilities work in meaningful jobs – including Gloria Silva, who was profiled in the piece as a great example of how someone faced with a new disability was able to not only succeed, but thrive, in the workplace … as she rose through the ranks at Kirtland’s switchboard operations unit.
Unfortunately, as of April 1st, Gloria and seven other individuals with disabilities in Kirtland’s switchboard operations department no longer have jobs — as LifeROOTS’ contract for switchboard operations (which provided numerous jobs for those with disabilities and offered “live voices” on the line for our troops calling home) has instead been replaced with an automatic system. The loss of this switchboard operations contract has impacted — and will continue to impact — so many people with disabilities who have suddenly found themselves without the jobs they loved. And there’s more bad news on the horizon for those with disabilities – as of May 1st, seven out of the 29 custodial workers at Kirtland are also slated to lose their jobs.
Although funding cuts have become common throughout New Mexico and the entire country, what many advocates for the disabled are concerned about is that recent budget cuts all too often are affecting the most vulnerable – those with disabilities. The KAFB situation is an example of how governments are being forced to balance their budgets … and are often using programs and services for disabled citizens to do so. However, the truth of the matter is that in this case, these cuts may or may not help the base’s budget … and, further, all of the employees will be filing for unemployment, social security, social security disability and other government programs when their jobs are eliminated — costing the overall government more than their employment cost the government.
Losing a job is never easy – especially in today’s economy. But for people with disabilities who are not able to find other jobs within the community, the loss of a job is even more of a life-changing event that can, unfortunately, have a significant negative impact on their lives. Let’s work together to see how we can stop this trend towards cutting budgets – and cutting jobs – when it comes to services and programs for the disabled. It’s the right thing to do – for so many reasons … and for the many people with disabilities who have thrived, and who can continue to thrive, in the workplace – and beyond.
For more information about how to get involved with giving people with disabilities a job, or to see how you can help, email Kathleen Cates at firstname.lastname@example.org.