The Defense Department may soon have an additional way to award contracts to companies that employ people with severe disabilities, breathing life back into a project Congress set up 15 years ago but that’s languished ever since.
A proposed rule, published April 1, amends the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement by implementing a demonstration project giving Defense agencies more incentive to purchase contracts directly from eligible firms employing those with severe disabilities. It gives contractors with a disabled workforce a boost when competing for certain awards.
Most DoD contracts with entities that employ large numbers of disabled Americans are currently handled through a procurement list maintained by the AbilityOne program. But under the proposed rule, DoD would be able to award contracts to companies — both nonprofit and for-profit — that do not qualify to sell through AbilityOne, as long as the contractors can meet other criteria.
- Individuals suffering from severe disability must make up at least 33 percent of a contractor’s workforce over a 12-month period from the time the award period begins.
- The entity cannot pay those with disabilities less than minimum wage.
- The organization must also provide those individuals with health insurance and a retirement plan comparable to those provided by other contractors.
“Contracts awarded to eligible contractors under this demonstration project may be counted toward DoD’s small disadvantaged business goal,” the proposal said.
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