Since 1971, the government has supported a program to channel federal funds to non-profits that train and employ workers who are blind or severely disabled. Known as JWOD (named after the law that created it, the Javits-Wagner-O’Day act), the program eventually came to have an over $2 billion dollar budget. But no one, it appears, was keeping track of where that money was going.
Enter Bob Jones, an opportunistic businessman in El Paso, Texas. When journalists from THE OREGONIAN took a closer look at his non-profit — JWOD’s number one contractor, the National Center for the Employment of the Disabled — they found he was using the system, and federal tax dollars, to his advantage. In 2005 alone, NCED had been awarded federal contracts worth $276 million.
JWOD requires that two-thirds of an employer’s workforce be blind or severely disabled before it can qualify for federal funds. Jones slipped through the cracks by claiming his Spanish-speaking workers from over the border were “disadvantaged.”
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