by Ryland Musick, Executive Director, RESPECT of Florida
RESPECT of Florida is a priority purchasing program established by the Florida Legislature in 1974. It is modeled on a federal program enacted in the 30s that aimed to create jobs for people with severe disabilities. RESPECT still carries on this mission today by providing goods and services produced and delivered by Floridians with disabilities. RESPECT works with more than 50 partner Employment Centers throughout Florida to develop commodities and secure service contracts that translate to real, competitive jobs for individuals with disabilities.
RESPECT offers hundreds of commodities including hand-sewn American flags, drug testing kits, and medical testing supplies. Our guiding principles are to produce high quality goods at competitive prices that are delivered timely to our customers, government agencies. Our organization also provides many services including call center, grounds keeping, and janitorial. RESPECT has about 150 service contracts with state and other governmental agencies. The RESPECT program helped employ almost 1,300 individuals last year who worked to produce commodities and provide services.
Putting individuals with disabilities to work through a program like this is a win-win situation. In general, these workers are highly dedicated to their employers and their work. Earning a paycheck is something these folks are proud of. Additionally, they are learning valuable skills that help them grow professionally and personally. The government agencies also win because they can purchase goods and services directly through RESPECT, often at a substantial savings. On an even bigger scale, Florida’s overall economy benefits by decreasing the number of citizens who are dependent on government assistance. Studies by independent firms determined that employing people through a program like RESPECT creates a savings of about $2,400 to $4,700 per person since that person can pay taxes and requires fewer supports.
For more information about the RESPECT program, visit our website at www.respectofflorida.org.