WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — IFB Solutions will need to cut 137 jobs, but the cuts won't come for about two weeks thanks to an extended contract.
The Winston-Salem-based company, which touts itself as the largest employer of people who are blind in the country, said 137 jobs are on the chopping block after a policy change at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs meant the V.A. would not renew its contract with IFB.
The company said in a news release that IFB Solutions will undergo several rounds of job cuts "that will have a devastating effect on the blind community."
The V.A. contract, which was set to expire on Wednesday, was extended until Aug. 15.
"This brief extension gives us additional time to find possible positions within our organization for those 47 affected employees," said IFB Solutions CEO David Horton in a statement.
This decision kicks the can further down the road but still means IFB Solutions will need to cut 137 positions in the optical lab.
IFB said those positions include 76 people who are blind and 15 veterans.
The first wave of job cuts includes 47 positions as the first contract expires. Two more contracts will expire in the fall.
According to IFB Solutions, Department of Veterans Affairs has had long-term contracts with the company since 2000.
The company says the V.A. made these changes due to a court order. The court order states that the Rule of Two gives priority to veteran-owned companies over AbilityOne nonprofits such as IFB Solutions.
Horton has taken a strong stance against this move.
He said, "The V.A. should not be taking business away from AbilityOne nonprofits like IFB Solutions who provide life-changing jobs for people who are blind or visually impaired. Every day, our employees go to work wondering when the next contract will end."
IFB Solutions has teamed up with other AbilityOne nonprofits that employ people who are blind to change this policy.
"We will continue to advocate on Capitol Hill and in the courts to press for a solution that will enable the V.A. to maximize contracting awards for veteran-owned small businesses without eliminating or reducing AbilityOne jobs for people who are blind or severely disabled," Horton said.
Representatives from IFB went to Capitol Hill last week and heard from members of Congress who intend to advocate for the the Winston-Salem company and other AbilityOne nonprofits.
"In early September, we will file a petition for our case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court as we pursue all available legal and legislative options to get this issue resolved," Horton said. "There is plenty of business with the V.A. for both veteran-owned small businesses and AbilityOne nonprofits."
According to IFB Solutions, 70% of working-age adults who are blind are not employed. AbilityOne nonprofits like IFB Solutions provide employment for more than 45,000 people who are blind or severely disabled.