Sheltered Workshops in Jeopardy of Shutting Down

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ST. PETERS (KTVI)-Sheltered workshops in Missouri are in jeopardy of being phased out.

For years, there's been a federal push under The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act to eliminate sheltered workshops and move workers with physical and intellectual disabilities into a more competitive workforce.

One such sheltered workshop could be Boone Center Inc. on Trade Road in St. Peters.

"Here at BCI we employee 350 folks with developmental disabilities," said CEO, Tony Spielberg. "We know what we're doing and we provide dignified employment. They're happy, they earn a living they have a social environment, these are their best friends."

Colleen Starkloff with the Starkloff Disability Institute in downtown, said she worries that the workers are being underpaid.

"Some of these people make as low as $1.36 an hour,“ Starkloff explained.

"When they (sheltered workshops) first started out, their goal was to provide training for people and help them integrate into jobs in the community but that's not what's happening."

But Spielberg said that the shipping and packaging company does not take big profits and instead it re-invests the money to help adults with physical and intellectual disabilities who want to advance further into the community and to provide community employment.

For Jennifer Kollarick the packaging and shipping facility is where she finds pride.

"I love it," she said, "I feel like a boss."

Opponents of sheltered workshops are recommending the shut-down with-in the next three years.

The law has already taken effect in six states.

"If one day I don't have a job because all of our folks are in the community that's fantastic," said Spielberg, "that's where it should be, but right now we don't have a infrastructure set up for that to happen."