Press Release: President Trump’s federal hiring freeze suspends training programs that guarantee IRS jobs for people who are blind

For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Mel Jones, Director of Communications & Development

 

LITTLE ROCK, February 1—IRS job training programs at World Services for the Blind will be suspended until further notice because of an executive order from President Donald J. Trump that imposes a 90-day hiring freeze on civilian federal workers. The order, signed on January 23, 2017, states that “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.”  

The IRS programs, which are part of a 50-year partnership between WSB and the IRS, provide intensive training for people who are blind or visually impaired to work in a variety of positions within the federal agency. Participants interview for the positions prior to beginning the program, and those accepted are assigned to work at one of several IRS offices around the country. Participants are guaranteed those jobs upon successful completion of the program.

Immediately affected are the 10 students who, as of last week, were in their third week of a four-week evaluation for the Taxpayer Service Representative (TSR) Program. The 13-week program is designed to prepare a person to assist taxpayers with filing information at the Taxpayer Service Division of the IRS. The curriculum includes instruction in IRS tax law, accounts, procedures and forms. The students had been scheduled to begin their interviews on Friday, the same day staff confirmed the program’s cancellation with the IRS.

“Last week was one of the hardest weeks of my 17 months at WSB,” said Sharon Giovinazzo, president and CEO of the organization. “Standing before these 10 people and having to tell them that because of the hiring freeze they would not have a class was devastating. And while we are working to get these students into other programs that they may be interested in, they came here specifically for the guarantee of employment that the IRS programs offer. Instead they learned the lesson that the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees.”

The suspension comes at a time when WSB has experienced a turnaround under Giovinazzo’s leadership. With an expanded suite of career training programs, WSB has seen a renewed interest in programs that will help decrease the 70-percent unemployment rate among people who are blind. And while the hiring freeze is only effective for 90 days, the effects will last much longer.

“All exemptions under the Schedule A Hiring Authority, which allows preferential hiring for people with disabilities, must be placed by September 30. At the end of September those exemptions are no longer valid, and new exemptions will need to be reevaluated by each federal agency and will not be released until sometime in 2018,” Giovinazzo said.  

In addition to the TSR class, the executive order also affects the Service Center Collection Representative Program, scheduled for summer 2017. The IRS has not issued an official statement regarding the executive order’s effect on the programs. The partnership between WSB and the IRS is the only one of its kind. 

 

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Guaranteed Job Placement for IRS Program Grads—Enrollment Open!

The 13-week Taxpayer Service Representative (TSR) program is designed to prepare a person to assist taxpayers with filing information at the Taxpayer Service Division of the IRS. The program is scheduled for February 13-May 12, 2017, with the last day to begin evaluations January 9, 2017

The curriculum includes instruction in IRS tax law, accounts, procedures and forms. The client learns to use a personal computer to quickly and effectively access taxpayer information in the IRS database while assisting the taxpayer on the telephone. The client is also taught telephone etiquette to assist taxpayers with questions over the telephone. The computer equipment and assistive technology used in the classroom includes state-of-the-art adaptive systems utilizing JAWS and ZoomText, as well as refreshable Braille displays.

Hiring cities include: Cleveland, Indianapolis, Fresno, Portland, Seattle, St. Louis, Andover, Baltimore, Richmond, Buffalo, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Franklin/Nashville and Memphis.

PREREQUISITES

  • Print reading speed of 100 wpm with 75% comprehension and proficiency with ZoomText, or Braille reading speed of 60 wpm with 75% comprehension and proficiency with JAWS and the Focus 80 Blue Braille display
  • 90% accuracy on a math test (using a calculator)
  • 12th-grade spelling level, and good written communication skills
  • Keyboarding speed of 30 wpm
  • Ability to work well under pressure
  • Strong logical reasoning ability
  • Emotional maturity
  • Good independent living and orientation and mobility skills
  • Ability to work well with others

For more information or to begin the admissions process, email Rebecca Reid, director of recruiting and retention, at rreid@wsblind.org or call 800-248-0734.