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Those With Special Needs Hit Hard During Coronavirus Closures

DENVER (CBS4)- Colorado's unemployment rate is at its highest level in several years due to the coronavirus pandemic. Workers with special needs are also losing jobs due to businesses closing, but even if their workplaces are still operating, the paycheck isn't worth what they'd be risking by coming to work.

Laradon provides educational, vocational, residential services to children and adults with developmental disabilities. While the company is closed in accordance with Colorado's social distancing guidelines, they're still working to support clients who have been impacted by COVID-19.

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According to Laradon, about 30% of its program participants are still working for essential businesses, like King Soopers, Safeway, Sprouts and Home Depot.

The majority of their adults with disabilities have been laid off, furloughed, gone on leave of absence, or some type of work pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Laradon's Individual Employment program continues to offer support to those who need it.

"This has included collaborative meetings and strategies with individuals and their teams to support and assist individuals with Leaves of Absence, Medical (doctor recommended) Leave, 'relief pay,' and other options like Unemployment Insurance," said Jamie Howard, Assistant Director of Employment Services.

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Brewability in Englewood hires adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Many are immuno-compromised, making them high risk for COVID-19.

The brewery is still open for to-go orders, but only the owner is behind the bar.

After the coronavirus-related death of an employee at Pizzability, Brewability's sister company, the owner decided it was safer that the team stays home.

"The employees are frustrated. They don't quite understand why they can't come to work. They keep calling saying 'But boss I'm not sick!' I tell them, 'I know. We're going to keep it that way.'" said Tiffany Fixter, owner of Brewability and Pizzability.

A current employee at Brewability also tested positive for COVID-19.

Fixter ordered craft supplies and sent them to her employees in isolation, so they can design t-shirts and gift cards to stay busy.

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Business at the brewery is slow. Fixter is relying on the recently depleted small business rescue program loan to help pay her employees. The only thing she can do now is protect them.

Brewability is open Thursday-Saturday for pick-up growler beer orders.

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