Florida blind services agency hires new director, strengthens contract rules
The state's Division of Blind Services has hired a new director and installed tough rules for bidding out contracts, pushing back on nonprofit groups that previously could charge taxpayers $2,000 for a phone call and $58 per hour to drive to a blind person's house.
The changes virtually eliminate the free rein by groups that get state dollars to serve blind people, banning them from contacting Blind Services staff about contracts and revising rules to prevent the state from getting overcharged.
Now anybody can bid for the opportunity to provide services, and an impartial contract specialist will decide who offers the best services for the lowest cost. Previously, only Lighthouse for the Blind groups and a few other vendors had access to no-bid Blind Services contracts, and critics say the groups named their own price.
"Change is always hard, especially when there's money involved," said Joe Follick, spokesman for the Department of Education, which oversees Blind Services. "But under this new process, people will know more about where taxpayer dollars are being spent and they'll know that they're getting the best deal."
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