The average Maryland resident with disabilities earns $4 an hour, less than half the state’s $8.25 minimum hourly salary. But thanks to a bill recently passed by state lawmakers, Maryland will soon be the second state in the country (after New Hampshire) to phase out what’s known as “subminimum wage” for workers with disabilities.
The subminimum wage has idealistic underpinnings. The idea was that employers would be incentivized to give jobs to disabled workers in sheltered workshops, where workers generally perform basic tasks for non-profit organizations. Increasingly, however, such segregated workplaces have been criticized by disability rights groups, who argue that disabled workers would benefit more from more integrated employment opportunities.
At the same time as it phases out the subminimum wage, the new Maryland law allocates funding toward “competitive, integrated workplaces” for disabled workers, rather than sheltered workshops. In passing the bill, “we have upheld Maryland’s highest ideals,” lead sponsor Rep. Jeff Waldstreicher said in a statement.
The bill still has to be signed into law by Gov. Hogan, but its sponsors seem confident that won’t be a problem.
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