If the federal government shutdown continues, ForSight Vision in Spring Garden Township could consider laying off its digital program employees, the organization's top official said.
Bill Rhinesmith, ForSight's president, said the nonprofit organization, which serves people with visual impairment, has nine employees who recycle digital cartridges and containers sent to the organization from the Library of Congress through a federal initiative called the AbilityOne program.
AbilityOne, which has headquarters in Arlington, Va., provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities by working with a network of agencies that sell products and services to the U.S. government, according to its website at www.abilityone.org.
ForSight Vision was awarded the digital recycling contract with the Library of Congress in September 2012 with help from the National Industries for the Blind, an Alexandria, Va.-based organization that operates under AbilityOne, said Hilda Jungclaus, ForSight's
director of business and finance.
The contract work started in April, she said.
The work: Through the AbilityOne program, the federal government pays ForSight for work in which employees use a computer software system to erase out-of-circulation audio books off cartridges and to determine whether the cartridges can be reused.
The employees, who clean more than 4,000 cartridges a day, also clean labels off the cartridges' containers, preparing them for reuse.
ForSight uses the federal money to pay the employees, who work 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and receive above-minimum wages and regular benefits, Jungclaus said.
"Our employees are pretty amazing," she added. "(Working) gives them self-worth and makes them feel like they're contributing and not just relying on assistance. We have employees who have been here 15 to 20 years."
Rhinesmith said employees continue to work hard, as they are still required to complete the same level of cartridge work, though the federal government hasn't sent their pay. The shutdown began Oct. 1.
"Everything stopped at the shutdown," he said. "We're looking at our cash flow and we're OK to meet (payroll) obligations for the next two weeks. We will extend ourselves to keep people working."
If it continues: However, an ongoing shutdown would definitely undermine ForSight Vision's efforts and force the organization to lay off employees, Rhinesmith said.
The silver lining behind the cloud is that the federal government will catch up on its payment obligations after the shutdown is over, he said.
"We know we will get paid eventually, going back to when the shutdown began," Rhinesmith said. "But the question is, 'How long is that going to be?' It's just crazy."
--Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.