The Randolph-Sheppard Act: Background and Program Data

Order Code RS21494 April 14, 2003 CRS Report for Congress Received through the CRS Web The Randolph-Sheppard Act: Background and Program Data Sidath Viranga Panangala Analyst in Social Legislation Domestic Social Policy Division Summary The Randolph-Sheppard Act (P.L. 74-732) as amended, was enacted to provide blind individuals with remunerative employment, and to enhance their economic opportunities. Under the Act, blind individuals who are in need of employment are given priority for the operation of vending facilities on federal property. Today the program has expanded beyond federal facilities. In FY2000, a total of 2,729 blind vendors operated 3,279 vending facilities, generating $471.1 million in gross income. This report will be updated when new program data are available. Background The vending facility program for the blind was established following the enactment of the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936 (P.L. 74-732). The law was amended in 1954 (P.L. 83-565) and again in 1974 (P.L. 93-516).1 The purpose of the Act is to provide remunerative employment opportunities to qualified blind persons through the operation of businesses of various kinds, including cafeterias, snack bars, and other vending facilities in public and private buildings or property owned or leased by the federal government.2 The only exception to this requirement is when the establishment of such a facility will adversely affect the interests of the United States, such as high security areas. Under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (P.L. 97-424) as amended, blind vendors are given priority in the operation of vending facilities in rest areas along interstate highways. Today the program has expanded from federal facilities, and includes state, county and private facilities. However, private vending facilities are not 1 For a legal interpretation of the law see CRS Report 97-801A, Randolph-Sheppard Act: Special Services for the Blind, by Michael Schmerling. 2 Federal property is any building, land or other real property owned, leased, or occupied by any agency or department of the United States including the Department of Defense and the United States Postal Service (20 USC 107e (3)). Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress CRS-2 governed by Randolph-Sheppard Act regulations. The program is administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, in the Department of Education. Eligibility for Services In order to obtain a license to operate a vending facility, the person is required to be a U.S. citizen who is legally blind. In states that have an approved plan for vocational rehabilitation pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (P.L. 105-220),3 as amended, the state vocational rehabilitation agency is tasked with recruiting, training, licensing, and placement of persons who are blind as operators of vending facilities. However, in states that do not have a vocational rehabilitation agency, the licensing of vendors who are blind is performed by the agency for the blind in the state. In any state in which there is no such agency, a designated state agency is responsible for issuance of licenses. Program Data Since 1936, more than 30,000 blind individuals have benefitted from the program.4 In FY2000 (latest year for which data is available), 2,729 vendors managed and operated 3,279 vending facilities.5 In addition to these licensed blind operators, the program employed 330 individuals with other visual impairments and 280 individuals with other disabilities.6 There were 1,117 (34.1%) vending facilities located on federal property, whereas 2,162 (65.9%) were located on non-federal property. That same fiscal year the program generated $471.1 million in gross income, with $93.9 million in net earnings going to vendors (Table 1).7 For FY2000, the average national vendor earnings were $34,337, a 5.4% increase in annual earnings compared to $32,556 in FY1999. The Randolph-Sheppard program is funded by several sources. These include: federal funds allocated through the vocational rehabilitation state grant program under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, a portion of net proceeds from vending machines on federal property8, set-aside levied by states on vendors,9 and state appropriations. 3 For further information see CRS Report RL31298, Rehabilitation Act: Summary of Reauthorization Legislation, by Carol O’Shaughnessy and CRS Report RL31378, Rehabilitation Act: Programs and Funding, by Sidath V. Panangala. 4 US Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Administration, Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program, Annual Report FY2000, Apr. 2002, p. 1. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid., p. 3. 7 Ibid., p. 1. 8 The law allows in certain cases a portion of net proceeds from vending machines on federal property to be set-aside for program support. 9 Not all states levy a set-aside on vendors. However, a reasonable amount of funds could be setaside from the net proceeds generated by the operation of vending facilities for such purposes as: (continued...) CRS-3 Table 1. Vendors, Earnings, and Funding Sources of the RandolphSheppard Program, FY1998-FY2000 ($s in millions) FY1998 Total gross incomea FY1999 FY2000 $425.5 $448.1 $471.1 $86.4 $90.6 $93.9 $29,815 $32,556 $34,337 2,953 2,813 2,729 974 925 913 Non-federal locations 1,979 1,888 1,816 Total number of vending facilities 3,391 3,351 3,279 Federal locations 1,135 1,119 1,117 Non-federal locations 2,256 2,232 2,162 Total funding n/a $71.2 $75.3 Federal fundsb n/a $34.0 $38.5 Vending machine income n/a $15.3 $16.0 Vendor levied set-side n/a $15.3 $14.2 State appropriations n/a $6.6 $6.6 Total earnings of vendors Average earnings of vendors Total number of vendors Federal locations Source: Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program, Annual Report FY2000. n/a = not available a Gross sales and vending machine income. Funds allocated through the Vocational Rehabilitation State Grant program. b 9 (...continued) maintenance and replacement of equipment, purchase of new equipment, management services, and health insurance contributions among other things.