MDI, the light-manufacturing company that specializes in mainstreaming people with disabilities, is adding what soon will be 200 contract jobs at $15 an hour to help meet unprecedented mail-in voting expected by the U.S. Postal Service.

MDI received a contract in August to produce 2 million plastic totes and 1 million mail trays by November for the Postal Service, its largest customer.

"We are thrilled to provide new job opportunities at our Grand Rapids, Cohasset, Hibbing and Minneapolis facilities at a time when the employment rate for people with disabilities is less than one-third as compared to people without disabilities," said Jeanne Eglinton, director of employment services at MDI.

Typically, about half of MDI's workers are people with disabilities, CEO Peter McDermott said. MDI has been unable to meet that standard in the rush to add about 135 of the 200 temporary jobs, some of which could become permanent.

MDI is often a first job for people who don't have a work history. MDI also hires those whose careers were interrupted by chemical dependency and prison backgrounds.

"We've got to get this done by the first week in November," McDermott said. "We're finding good people who want $15 an hour. And we need some more in Hibbing, Grand Rapids and Cohasset, about 7 miles away. We hope to keep some of these folks, but probably not all of them."

McDermott said the Postal Service gives MDI "more opportunity to train people and help them make some money in an inclusive work environment."

The public is moving to the convenience of mail-in balloting, a transition hastened of late by fear of contracting COVID-19 at polling stations.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service has found itself at the center of election-related controversies. Having cut overtime and late deliveries, the postal service last month began warning states that it can't guarantee all mail-in ballots will be received in time to be counted.

President Donald Trump has admitted blocking Postal Service funding so it would be harder to process the expected surge of millions of ballots.

The Postal Service has ordered extra totes and trays to handle millions of mail-in votes by Election Day on Nov. 3.

The postal contract is worth about $15 million to MDI, some of which it won't receive until early 2021.

The Postal Service also is a volatile customer because of its tendency to place big orders once in a while, which can prove a management challenge that McDermott has mitigated with a push to diversify MDI's customer base over the last decade.

The Postal Service accounted for about 90% of revenue in 2008 and this year will account for around 60% of anticipated MDI revenue of $35 million-plus.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.