WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — IFB Solutions has lost the first of three critical government contracts, forcing the company to cut 47 jobs at the nonprofit, but the company intends to take this fight to the Supreme Court.
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 contracts with IFB.
The first of the three contracts ended on Aug. 31, forcing IFB Solutions to cut 47 of those 137 jobs. More cuts are expected when the other two contracts end within the next two months.
It does not appear the V.A. intends to renew the other two contracts either. The federal agency began looking to contract with other companies because of a court order that put pressure on the V.A. to give priority to veteran-owned companies over AbilityOne nonprofits, such as IFB Solutions.
“We are devastated for our employees whose positions have been eliminated with the loss of this V.A. contract,” said David Horton, IFB Solutions president and CEO. “From the beginning, we’ve said that we will fight for these jobs all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Now, we are doing just that with our official filing.”
IFB Solutions is petitioning the Supreme Court to review this decision. The company said in it's filing:
The harms from the Federal Circuit’s decision are deeply disturbing. Already, the VA has cancelled numerous contracts held by AbilityOne qualified nonprofit agencies, which will result in the near-immediate termination of employment of hundreds of blind and severely disabled individuals, many of whom are veterans themselves. The injury does not stop there. The loss of those jobs means there will be a corresponding reduction in the ancillary services that these nonprofit agencies can provide to the blind and severely disabled in their communities.
Only this Court can protect countless blind and severely disabled employees from a devastating loss that Congress never intended. Accordingly, the Court should intervene now to protect those who are most in need of protection.
If all three contracts are not renewed, IFB Solutions will need to cut a total of 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 included 47 positionss.
The second contract will expire on Sept. 30 and the third will expire on Oct. 31.
The company said in a news release that these cuts "will have a devastating effect on the blind community."
Horton has taken a strong stance against the order to move priority away from AbilityOne nonprofits.
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.
Department of Veterans Affairs has had long-term contracts with IFB Solutions since 2000, the company reports.
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.