NEWARK, N.Y. (WROC) — The pandemic has impacted the workforce for many people, but reports show people with disabilities have been impacted at a higher rate. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in five workers with disabilities have been laid off from jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s compared to roughly 1 in 7 in the general population. 

“In New York State, if you’re an individual with a disability, you’re unemployed at 67%, It’s a staggering figure and these are folks who can contribute, are good at the jobs they do and should be eligible for employment, “ said Maureen Obrien, the President and CEO of New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. 

Now, a new laundromat in Newark is looking to help bridge that gap. 

The Arc Wayne’s Erie Shore Laundry has officially opened its doors. The laundry business employs individuals with disabilities, helping them give back to the community, all while learning valuable skill sets. 

Matt Addona is one of five new laundromat employees and he says he loves his new job. 

“My favorite part is working with my friends, like Francis and Bob and TJ, they’re nice people and I love working here and I enjoy working here too,” Addona said. 

Matt has developmental disabilities, but every day, it’s his abilities that shine. 

“Every single once of these guys is super hard workers. They are very dedicated to what they do. They are very observant of looking for stains, super great listeners and follow all directions,” said Laundry Manager Thomas Noteeaert. 

Noteeaert also thinks more businesses should hire individuals who have a disability. 

“I think they’re undervalued at times. I think they can bring more than what they’re given to and once people see than I think we can get more people involved and allow them to be part of the community and things like that, a little more than they get to at times,” he said. 

The Arc Wayne, the nonprofit that opened the laundromat, says it’s important for people of all abilities to be able to work. 

“It allows these individuals to have valuable employment opportunities. It allows them to feel part of the community that they live in. It provides them with a wage and it’s just a sense of that they are part of the community where they live,” said David Calhoun, the Executive Director of The Arc Wayne.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to do this, to see these guys enhance their skills and grow,” Noteeaert said. “It’s definitely what we want to do.” 

The Arc Wayne says it this opening wouldn’t have been possible without a generous donations from the New York State Industries for Disabled. Inc, The Golisano Foundation and the Davenport Hatch Foundation.

The NYSID donated a $25,000 matching grant to help the laundromat get it’s feet off the ground.