Parents take exception to workshop being phased out and pay for the disabled

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ST. PETERS, MO (KTVI) - Part of our story last Friday, regarding sheltered workshops in Missouri being in jeopardy of possibly being phased out featured Colleen Starkloff of Starkloff Disability Institute in St. Louis.

Starkloff addressed why people with disabilities should work in a more competitive work environment and be paid minimum wage.

While she spoke as an advocate for people with disabilities, some parents were not happy.

"Maybe she hasn't gotten a good handle on living with special needs people like my son," said Mark Wheeler, whose son works at BCI Inc. in St. Peters.

He along with other parents said, their kids with special needs don't have a concept of money.

"So it doesn't matter what the paycheck is for,” said Janet Kim of her son, “he's just happy to get one. He, I think in the community could not work at a job for minimum wage, his wage is fair for what I think he is capable of doing."

A 2014 federal law, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is causing some stress for those who manage workshops.

It took effect last year.

The law would eventually require people with special needs to be integrated into a more competitive work environment while paying them minimum wage.

"I don't have any confidence what so ever that putting him out in the regular workplace with minimum wage in order to accommodate the requirement that he be at minimum wage, I don't have confidence that they will love him there," said Reid Krueger.

FOX 2’s Ayesha Khan, reached out to Starkloff for another comment Tuesday.

In a statement she reiterated what she explained in our story last week:

"What I was referring to in the interview the other day is the payment of subminimum wages to workers with disabilities.  If they are doing work, they should be paid at least minimum wage.  That’s the issue I was addressing."

But once again, for parents and their children it's not about the money.

"Marshall has a difficult time understanding how a penny relates to what he can get but he knows that his paycheck can get him a Cardinals shirt," explained Krueger about his son.

Opponents of sheltered workshops are recommending the shut-down with-in the next three years. The law has already taken effect in six states.