TOPEKA (KSNT) — Proposed legislation would give tax credits to Kansas businesses that employ people with disabilities in what is typically described as “sheltered workshops.”
Advocates against House Bill 2275 say the idea of the legislation initially sounds commendable, but many of the workshops pay their employees under $7.25, or ‘sub-minimum wage.’
Kayla Schadegg, disability advocate and reigning Mrs. Kansas, says the bill is a step backward for individuals with disabilities.
“It’s illegal in several states,” Schadegg said. “Not all of them, and unfortunately, we are one of them.”
HB 2275 was initially passed in 2019 under different circumstances. In the bill’s predecessor, the tax credit stipulation was removed.
It was later reintroduced in 2023.
“So what we are really fighting for is not to allow those particular ‘sheltered workshops’ to be able to take advantage of that tax credit because it’s kinda incentivizing that stigmatization of disability,” Schadegg said.
Schadegg says in order for businesses to qualify for the tax credit they need to meet certain criteria, file paperwork and get a certificate from the government.
If HB 2275 passes, Schadegg says there are major efforts in Kansas and across the U.S. to abandon ‘sheltered workshops’ and pay people with disabilities the wages they deserve.
Schadegg calls the push a ‘real jobs for real people’ mindset.
“If you think about minimum wage, it’s already controversial,” Schadegg said. “We want to do work and be compensated the way everyone else is. At [the] bare minimum, that’s minimum wage.”
As a mother to a child with a disability, Schadegg says she wants her daughter to grow up and get a meaningful job. She says legislation like HB 2275 would make it harder for her to be successful.
“What happens in a lot of cases is that students grow up and when they age out of the system their parents are getting told, these ‘sheltered workshops’ are the only place your kid can go,” Schadegg said. “No one else will take them.”
Schadegg says she will continuously fight to make Kansas a better place for her daughter and hopes other families will follow her lead.