Shared by Randy Hauth, Oregon
Bipartisan Bill Passes House to Revamp State’s Blind Vending Program
Blind vendors and workers will get first priority for any food contracts on state and local government properties, hoping to boost employment for blind people, most of whom are left out of the workforce. By Chris Gray
The House unanimously cleared a bill from Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, on Wednesday that will revamp the state’s vending machine program to increase jobs and business opportunities for blind people and encourage healthier snacks.
President Franklin Roosevelt signed a law giving blind people first priority to operate vending machines in federal buildings as part of the New Deal in 1936. The U.S. Census has reported that only 42 percent of blind Oregonians are employed, and the vending machine program has been a key way for them to find gainful employment.
But Oregon’s program only gives blind vendors preference, not priority, and it has only 14 blind vendors, compared to 115 in Tennessee, which gives first priority to blind vendors for any food and vending contracts on public property.
HB 3253 would give this first priority to blind business owners and require vending machine operators to pay fees to the Commission for the Blind. The bill now goes to the Senate.
“The change from preference to priority is the biggest thing to ever happen for this program,” said Eric Morris, director of the Business Enterprise Program for the Commission of the Blind.
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