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OKSTABLE helps working Oklahomans Save Money: Analysis

Ellyn Hefner, for The City Sentinel

Workplace equality has been a focus for decades as employers strive to provide equitable work, wages, and benefits to all employees. This effort has compelled workplace leaders to identify and meet the needs of a variety of disparities. Over much time, people with disabilities have increasingly been viewed as a valuable segment of the workforce, but often still face many limitations and inequities. However, OK STABLE is an option for employers to help remove one barrier for employees with disabilities.

Tim Herbel, executive director of Not Your Average Joe’s (NYAJ) coffee shop and his team have figured this out. The mission of NYAJ is to inspire the community by including adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the creation of exceptional coffee in an encouraging atmosphere and hiring Oklahomans with IDD/DD. When a new store is opened, they can hire eight to twelve adults with special needs. Tim describes the atmosphere as an “accept-tional” place, and they have “a great product with an even better story.”

NYAJ-new-employee Aaron Erhart loves working at the coffee shop located in Edmond. He tells me that at his job at the coffee shop he gets to see customers and serve ice cream as well. “I get to meet new friends and learn how to use the cash register.”

He also told me he would like to grow his job and work in the warehouse to grind beans.

This opportunity – and OKSTABLE – can help NYAJ’s employees save money. Because of this opportunity Aaron knows that he has more money and wants to save. With the ABLE act, he can save money from his new job and protect his benefits.

His mom, Doris Erhart, was a key advocate in helping Oklahomans bring the ABLE act to Oklahoma which is OKSTABLE.

OK STABLE is a savings and investment program for people with disabilities. This program allows eligible individuals to have money that does not count toward the very low resource limits of public benefits programs like SSI and Medicaid. Now, employers can offer this as a place for employees to direct earned wages as a post-tax payroll deduction.

The benefits:

  • Employers can offer payroll deduction into an OK STABLE account at no-cost to the employer
  • Employers can help employees with disabilities become aware of this program, providing more knowledge to employees through a partnership with the Oklahoma State Treasurer’s Office
  • Employees with disabilities may be incentivized to work more hours because the earned wages can be saved instead of “spent down” to remain eligible for much needed public supports
  • Employees with disabilities can now save in similar ways to employees without disabilities that have opportunities such as a retirement account

“The incentive to work is reduced if you do not have the opportunity to save and grow your money for the future” states STABLE Account Deputy Director, Doug Jackson.

“OK STABLE payroll deduction is a win-win as employers can offer a no-cost benefit to its employees with disabilities and the employee can save for short-term or long-term needs” continues Jackson.

“Adding another ‘win’ to the equation… employers are seeking new employees at higher rates than have been experienced any time in recent history. Hiring people with disabilities offers employers a great option for gaining the workforce they need. In the effort to recruit and maintain a workforce, offering OK STABLE is a great way for employers to show that employees with disabilities are valued.”

Not Your Average Joe’s coffee shops are growing, with locations in Edmond, Midtown, Norman, and another one coming soon near the Capitol. Oklahomans who have a disability are looking for more Oklahoma businesses to find out, like NYAJ, how valuable they are to the workforce and hire them.

Note: For more information on OKSTABLE go to OKSTABLE.org or reach out to Ellyn Novak Hefner 405-640-9408 [email protected].

Another satisfied customer! This patron of Not Your Average Joe’s coffee shop in Edmond appreciated the service of Aaron Erhart (masked, at right) and the rest of the NYAJ staff. Photo Provided
Ellyn Hefner, a special care professional, writes often for The City Sentinel. Photo provided.