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URS Fighting to Stay Open After 56 Years

HAZLETON — An organization that offers work and activities to disabled people in Luzerne County may have to close because of a lack of funds. The advisory board for United Rehabilitation Services in Hazleton met today to discuss what can be done to save the place.

United Rehabilitation Services, or URS, has been in the area helping people with disabilities for more than 55 years. But its advisory board learned last week it could be forced to close its three locations in Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, and Tunkhannock unless others come forward to help.

The United Rehabilitation Services building stands tall on West Broad Street as you enter downtown Hazleton. It’s a busy place, but could soon may be empty. The rehab facility that offers work to adults with disabilities is running out of funds and might have to shut its doors.

“I like work here in our community. We want to be with our friends and coworkers,” URS client Heather Miller.

Heather Miller, of Hazleton, has down syndrome. She’s been coming to URS for 14 years and works in the business office. URS allows her to come home every two weeks with a paycheck.

“I’d like to get more money to keep this job open because we are the clients. We love this job, and we want to work here,” said Miller.

However, State Representative Tarah Toohil said URS is running out of government money. The state Department of Public Welfare, which oversees URS is reviewing funds now. Toohil met with the URS Advisory Board to see what can be done to keep the doors open.

Toohil said there are about 1,000 rehab facilities for disabled people across the state, but this is the only one having this problem, and that’s why she hopes they’ll be able to reach a solution.

“They get reimbursed by the treasury or they get some state funding and then they get money from the people that they work for as well. So we’re trying to figure out how can they make more money,” said Rep. Tarah Toohil.

If it closes, about 100 employees would be out of work, plus clients like Chad Wallace, many of whom need supervision.

“I know if I had to, I could stay home for a little bit, but I really can’t. I’m being a part of it and I’m giving money, making money for people, and also, I’m doing my part,” said URS client Chad Wallace.

The URS reached out to Newswatch 16 and released a statement, saying its parent organization told the URS Board its doors will not close. The URS board said it will do everything it can to stay open.

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