‘Lifeline’ Grant Helps Blind Vendors Hurt by Gov’t Shutdown

When police responding to a 911 call arrived at a home on 171st Street, they found Mohammed Rizwan, 57, with a gunshot wound to his chest.

When police responding to a 911 call arrived at a home on 171st Street, they found Mohammed Rizwan, 57, with a gunshot wound to his chest.

By David Brand

Blind business owners and vendors who were financially affected by the recent government shutdown received a boost Wednesday thanks to grants from the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation.

Blind vendors operate food service kiosks at state courthouses and federal buildings in New York through the New York State Commission for the Blind’s Business Enterprise Program. The program trains individuals to be successful deli, newsstand, cafeteria and vending managers; provides monthly business support; and extends an interest-free loan to enable participants to purchase their initial inventory.

During the 35-day government shutdown, vendors at federal sites in New York were forced to shutter their shops. The $8,000 in grants from the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation helped the vendors cover their financial losses from the shutdown.

In New York, the Business Enterprise Program is overseen by the state’s Office of Children and Family Services.

“I am grateful that the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation and the Catholic Guild for the Blind reached out to the Commission for the Blind to provide this generous grant to help our vendors survive this difficult time,” said acting OCFS Commissioner, Sheila J. Poole. “This assistance is a lifeline in what would otherwise have been a devastating loss to their Businesses.”

There are 75 Business Enterprise Program vendors in New York State, including at the Queens Criminal Courthouse. Nationwide, the program employs 2,500 vendors who generate annual revenue of more than $800 million.