As we shared last week, Governor Mike Parson announced that the state would begin reopening on Monday, May 4, 2020. Our COVID-19 Task Force has also created a workgroup to start that process. Our team will approach this plan in an ongoing tiered process. Although many of our programs never paused or moved to an online format, all of our office-based program locations closed or suspended services.
Our goal now is to reopen those locations in an effective way that ensures the health and safety of our staff, program participants, and the community. At the same time, it is vital to note that our Community Living programs statewide will continue to operate under our current policies, including staying at home until further notice. We are excited to share that we plan to continue our telehealth programs as it has proven to be an excellent tool for those we support.
We will have several new and increased processes in place for each location - many adopted from the strategies used to keep our Community Living programs running during this challenging time. Some of these strategies may include a new sign in and out process, increased cleaning and disinfecting process, and social distancing, including the continued reduction of face-to-face meetings and some remote work. Each office-based program will have a specific tiered reopening plan that will be developed by local leadership and have customized protocols. The workgroup is currently developing these strategies and will share more information with you in the coming weeks.
We are happy to report in Southwest Missouri some of the individuals in our Community Living program have begun the process of returning to their own homes after living in temporary, alternative locations, including with family, during this health crisis.
The Missouri General Assembly returned to Jefferson City this week to finish work on next year’s budget. You might remember that we started the Session with a $20 million recommendation from the governor to increase rates. Because of the financial downturn driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, legislators have to trim $700 million from the budget. As of today, the state budget has Easterseals flat. The good news is we didn’t take a cut from our current rates. The bad news is that losing the increase puts us further behind.
The General Assembly needs to finish the budget by May 8, 2020. It is likely they will return for a Special Session to do more work on next year’s budget as additional Federal dollars come into the state, and as they have a clearer revenue picture. Because of your advocacy, we have a lot of legislators who understand that fixing our rates is essential. Our focus now turns to getting back the recommended increase.
This week, it is crucial that your Senator understands how vital our services are to the health and safety of those who turn to us each day. Please respond to the action alerts in today’s This Week in Advocacy email from Cathy Brown. Informed advocates, like you, make all the difference.
Finally, as always, please take care of yourself and those who turn to us each day. You are our frontline heroes, and we thank you for all that you contribute to our mission.
Chief Executive Officer