Major Economic, Community and Human Impact of Disability Service Providers on the Central New York Economy Highlighted by New York State Industries for the Disabled, Arc of Onondaga & New York Alliance for Inclusion & Innovation

By New York State Industries for the Disabled | March 11, 2022

Rockefeller Institute Report Demonstrates Preferred Source Program Creates Thousands of Jobs for NYers with Disabilities, but Also Needs to Be Strengthened

Syracuse, NY – The Central New York non-profit disability service providers support over 6,000 full-time jobs and generated over $400 million dollars in economic impact, according to a new report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government highlighted by providers and state lawmakers at a news conference today at the New York State Fairgrounds.

“The Rockefeller Institute report puts hard numbers to what we’ve been saying for years — that when people with disabilities have jobs, our entire state benefits,” said Maureen O’Brien, President and CEO of New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID), which facilitates job opportunities for people with disabilities.

NYSID alone generated nearly $8 million dollars in economic impact for the Central New York Region, according to the Rockefeller Institute report.

“The report tells a numbers story, but every number represents a fellow New Yorker whose life has been made better. Behind every number is someone with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, a mental health issue, or a traumatic brain injury. And because of their job, they can earn a living, live a fuller life and contribute to our communities as well as New York’s tax base,” O’Brien said.

“Onondaga Arc’s partnership with NYSID and our government and corporate partners — through the Preferred Source Program — enables people with developmental disabilities to hold meaningful jobs and contribute to our communities. The tremendous economic and social impact in the Central New York region shows how these programs add to lives not only of people with disabilities but of everyone in our area,” said Ellen Gutmaker, executive director of Arc of Onondaga.

The Rockefeller Institute in December issued a report, “The Role of Disability Service Providers in the New York State Economy.” The report examined the economic impacts of both the Preferred Source program (PSP) – a model for ensuring people with disabilities have employment opportunities – and the larger non-profit service delivery system for New Yorkers with disabilities supported through the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).


The statewide numbers show:

  • Ø  427 New York nonprofit disability service providers reported $14.3 billion in economic output.
  • Ø  The providers supported nearly 200,000 full-time jobs and contributed $2.2 billion in federal and state tax revenue.
  • Ø  NYSID alone generated $407.3 million in economic impact.

New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation President & CEO Michael Seereiter said: “The Rockefeller report provides compelling data that supports what we in the non-profit disability service provider sector have known for a long time. Namely, that investments in disability services not only make huge impacts in the quality of life of New Yorkers with disabilities, but also offer the State of New York an outstanding return on those investments. Looking ahead, New York must make this sector a priority by addressing the workforce crisis and ensuring sustainability of these organizations now and beyond. With the support of legislators and Gov. Hochul, we can make that a reality.”

The Rockefeller Institute Report notes, “The nature of employment opportunities and workplaces have shifted since NYSID was founded in 1974 and a regular review of requirements and thresholds is warranted.” The report recommends legislation that would:

  • Ø  Simplify the process for approving Preferred Source contracts to make it closer to other diversity and inclusion contracting initiatives. Right now, the OGS review threshold is $50,000 – a level set 18 years ago. Rockefeller recommended it be raised to $250,000.
  • Ø  Modernize the rules and expand opportunities for Preferred Source contractors by lowering the disabled ratio required on a given contract that must be performed by people with disabilities – from 75 percent to 50 percent. This would recognize the fact that much of the employment now takes place in community-based settings in which persons with disabilities work side by side with people without disabilities.

“Passing this legislation, which has bipartisan support, would strengthen the Preferred Source Program so it can support more people and turbo-charge its economic benefits for the state while remaining under the watchful eye of regulators and policy makers,” O’Brien said.

“Gov. Hochul’s budget and State of the State message clearly articulated that issues important to New Yorkers with disabilities are a priority for her administration. We support her desire to make New York a model for the employment of individuals with disabilities, and her commitment to significant increases in funding for the service delivery sector, especially the dedicated professionals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to individuals with disabilities they have supported throughout the pandemic,” Seereiter said.

New York State Senator John Mannion (D-Geddes) said: “The Rockefeller Institute Report quantifies what many of us have known all along – jobs programs for people with disabilities benefit the employee, the employer, and are a significant economic driver in New York State. With the right supports and services – which must be properly funded – New Yorkers with disabilities can live fulfilling and meaningful lives. I’ll continue to be a strong advocate for this community and for disability service providers that are vital to the well-being of so many people across the state.”

New York State Senator Rachel May (D-Madison, Onondaga, Oneida) said: “Those of us who work in state office buildings know the value of the work done by people with disabilities. They bring that sense of pride and a real cheerfulness to their work and make a huge difference in the quality of everyone’s lives. The data we see here is really important. We need to be lifting up people with disabilities and see them as infrastructure.”

New York State Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-North Syracuse) said: “As the Chair of the Small Business Committee and knowing the workforce gap that business owners are struggling with right now, this partnership is the very definition of inclusion. People who can and want to work should be able to work. Disability inclusion strengthens workforce by supporting your current workforce, it increases your qualified talent pool and impacts our economy. We want to place a spotlight on valuing all employees and I continue to support the work of ARC of Onondaga.”

New York State Fair Executive Director Troy Waffner, who through the Preferred Source Program hires workers with disabilities for custodial work, said: “We’re a tiny small part of it but we’re proud of our involvement.”


About New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc (NYSID)

NYSID is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with the mission of “advancing employment and other opportunities for individuals with disabilities.” Established in 1975, NYSID facilitates employment opportunities for nearly 5,000 New Yorkers with disabilities annually through New York’s Preferred Source Program and in the private sector. NYSID’s community rehabilitation member agencies and corporate partners are located throughout the state, providing jobs in the community and in production facilities. For more information, visit

About Arc of Onondaga

Arc of Onondaga is one of the largest providers of services to people with developmental disabilities in Onondaga County serving thousands of individuals and their families and employing 400 people. With nearly 30 different sites throughout Central New York, Arc provides a wide array of services including residential, day, employment and clinical, and recreation programs.  In addition to these supports and services, Arc operates Monarch, a vocational program and outsourcing company with corporate partners throughout the region. A true community-based organization, Arc thrives on community involvement and inclusion, as well as relying on community membership to build its base of support.  Its program participants volunteer hundreds of hours in the community each year in support of a wide variety of organizations and causes.

About the New York State Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation

The NY Alliance is a statewide association representing nearly 150 not-for-profit provider agencies serving people with disabilities. The NY Alliance envisions a society where people with disabilities are contributing citizens with equal rights and the ability to live full, productive and meaningful lives. For more information, visit