DoD could award more contracts to companies with disabled workforce

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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