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Agreement will spare Greenco jobs
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MONROE - An agreement reached Friday in Madison will have a positive effect on Greenco Industries in Monroe.

Greenco is one of 66 works centers in the state for people with special needs. It is considered a prevocational service because some of the workers are trained to go out into the community to work, while others don't.

Prevocational services try to place workers in the community as often as possible. For some, however, working in the community proves too difficult and they remain at Greenco.

According to C. Thomas Cook, executive director of Rehabilitation For Wisconsin (RFW), prevocational businesses are different from what are called "sheltered business," where employees don't work in the community.

Under a plan proposed by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) in October, employees at Greenco and other prevocational services would have been given an arbitrary time limit to complete their training and find other work.

An agreement Friday removed the language that would have limited the time allowed for training.

If the two types of businesses weren't separated under the federal regulations, Wisconsin could have lost money for some of its money from the Medicaid program, Cook said.

Jean Zweifel, executive director at Greenco, said the change would have forced Greenco to lay off employees who aren't able to find other work. She said most of the workforce would have been let go.

She said she was concerned because no definite time for training was decided. The training limit could have been two months or six months, she said.

Cook said the proposed change was made because federal regulations placed companies such as Greenco and sheltered businesses in the same category. Sheltered businesses don't qualify for Medicaid assistance but prevocational businesses do, he said.

Jim Smith, director of government affairs for RFW, in a letter to legislators, said he was concerned DHS made the proposed changes without talking to people with special needs or their families. He estimated the change would have affected up to 10,000 people in the state.

Legislators in Madison, including Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, signed a letter Oct. 29 asking DHS to reconsider its plan.

Cook said the Legislature received letters from families and people with special needs from across the state, asking for support.

The letters and the legislators helped remove the training language, he said.

Zweifel said she was happy to hear that the change in language was made. She said Greenco plays an important part in the local communities.

According to Zweifel, Greenco Industries does work for local businesses including bows and packing products for Swiss Colony, packaging nuts and bolts, assembling parts manuals, sewing and packaging meat, cheese and beer.

Some of the employees have worked at Greenco for as long as 30 years, others have been with the company for a few months. The workers' ages range from high school age to past retirement age.