By Sue Minichiello
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
The Qualified Partnership program provides a perfect opportunity for cleaning and maintenance employers throughout Connecticut to do this kind of good. And AffinEco has proudly been involved since June of 2007, less than a year after the program was created by the state legislature.
“As soon as we heard about the Qualified Partnership program, we moved to get involved,” said AffinEco Managing Partner Michael Diamond. “We strive to be a socially responsible company and to support the communities we serve, so joining this program was a natural step for us.”
Qualified Partnership promotes employment in custodial services for people with disabilities and economic disadvantages. Launched as a pilot program in 2006, the Connecticut legislature made it permanent this year. The Connecticut Community Providers Association (CCPA) oversees the program, facilitating partnerships between private janitorial contractors (AKA commercial vendors) and community providers, and certifying for the state that program requirements are met.
“We have a network of community providers in place ready to partner with the commercial vendors. As for the vendors, it works both ways—we seek them out and identify those with interest, and they come to us expressing interest,” said CCPA Vice President Kirk Springsted. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have an organization like AffinEco involved for so many years now.”
Here’s how the program requirements work for private contractors.
When the state identifies a facility where custodial services are needed—whether a new or existing facility—it can choose to make it a Qualified Partnership site. This means that only commercial vendors participating in the program are eligible to bid on the job. The vendor that wins the bid is required to:
- Retain the existing workforce at the site for a minimum of 90 days.
- Quantify the number of weekly hours the entire staff works collectively at the site.
- Within six months, hire disabled and economically disadvantaged persons to work the equivalent of 30 percent of those hours weekly at any site the vendor manages. (For example, if the workforce at the Qualified Partnership site collectively works 90 hours per week, the new hires must be person[s] with a disability to work at least 30 hours per week and person[s] with economic disadvantage to work at least 30 hours per week.)
- Maintain a company-wide workforce that is a minimum of 30 percent disabled or economically disadvantaged. This can include the existing workforce at the Qualified Partnership site combined with the vendor’s entire workforce.
For the past seven years, the Qualified Partnership program has successfully achieved the goal of creating custodial job opportunities in the private sector for the concerned populations. According to Springsted, there are currently 10 participating commercial vendors and a larger number who are exploring partnerships with community providers.
“I think this type of program is the future of securing gainful employment for people with disabilities and disadvantages,” Springsted said. “Having the number of private contractors we do proves the workers’ ability to perform the job required of them. It also demonstrates to other employers that, in fact, they can bring such individuals on staff without worry. The benefits for the individuals served by the program include the ability to earn living wages, support self and family independence, and pride of accomplishment. To society at large, there is the economic benefit of reduced entitlements such as food stamps, disability or general assistance, and unemployment.”
“AffinEco is proud to participate in the Qualified Partnership program and support Connecticut residents with disabilities and economic disadvantages,” Diamond said. “The program has supplied us with quality workers, allowed us to bid on certain jobs, and given us another way to demonstrate our social conscience.”