March 25, 2020
A message from Easterseals Arkansas CEO Ron Ekstrand on COVID19's impact on the organization.
A statement from Ron Ekstrand, CEO of Easterseals Arkansas
In navigating this pandemic and the huge economic challenges it has produced, on Tuesday, March 24th, the Easterseals Arkansas leadership team made the difficult decision to furlough over 90 members of our staff. This was an extremely hard decision to make but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge existential threat to not only Easterseals Arkansas, but to the over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S.
It was with great sadness to have to furlough 90 members of our incredible staff – the direct support professionals, therapists, teachers, support team members, and leaders who truly are heroes in our community. Our board and leadership team will not let this pandemic and related economic crisis be the end of Easterseals Arkansas. We just won’t. Failure is not an option.
Last week, we had to temporarily close a number of our programs that provide services and support to children and adults with developmental disabilities in the state of Arkansas. We closed our two preschools, our K-12 special education school, our outpatient therapy, and our site-based adult day programs.
We have also had to cancel or postpone some of our large fundraising events, like our Fashion Event which was scheduled on March 12th and our Arkansan of the Year event that was scheduled for May 7th. We rely on these fundraising events to make up for shortfalls in government funding in order to support all of our programs, services and staff. Because nonprofits are often asked to solve some of the toughest societal challenges that businesses or government cannot or will not tackle, donations are essential in keeping our mission going.
After making these difficult decisions, we desperately need help from our corporate supporters and donors, our federal and state legislators and administration, and the entire community.
To our corporate sponsors and donors, we appreciate all of your past support to Easterseals Arkansas. It has enabled us to become a top provider of critical services and supports to people with developmental disabilities in our communities. Because of you, we’ve been able to provide help, hope, and answers to tens of thousands of Arkansans every year. We ask that you consider helping us once again – with either financial support or advocacy with our legislators. Often, nonprofits are not considered when state and federal relief packages are crafted in times of crisis. Help our voice and that of the other nonprofits struggling to be heard right now.
To our federal and state government officials, please remember the impact that Easterseals and the other nonprofits have made in our community. We ask that you please consider Easterseals Arkansas, and all of the other nonprofits in our area, when making your decisions for relief packages. Just because many of us are funded by Medicaid, it does not mean we can survive emergencies like these as Medicaid reimbursements increases historically do not keep up with the rate of inflation causing financial challenges annually for us to solve. In addition, many of us do not have sufficient reserves or easy access to capital that is needed to survive month long interruptions in funding and services.
To the entire Arkansas community, we are asking for your help. If you can help us, please provide an online donation on our website or on our Facebook page. Every little bit helps. Also, call your congressional members at the state and federal level to ask that nonprofits be considered in any relief packages. And finally, help us get the word. Share with your family and friends that we need your help and the federal government’s help.
Finally, to the people we serve and their families, please know that your health and safety is always our top priority. We will continue to be vigilant in finding ways to serve you – safely. For those who attended or used any of our now closed programs and services, we are actively seeking alternative ways (like using technology, distance learning, and teletherapy) to be able to provide services, education, and therapy support until we can safely reopen.
Easterseals Arkansas and all of the amazing nonprofits across this country need your help. Please help us be able to continue to address some of our toughest societal challenges.
Thank you and God bless,
President & CEO Easterseals Arkansas