As you know, the news and public policies surrounding the topic of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continue to evolve every minute of every day. Our goal remains the same, to keep you well informed regarding any changes while answering your questions. As always, each decision we make focuses on our ultimate goal of keeping the people we support, and our essential team, safe and healthy.
To adhere to all local and state ordinances and to minimize exposure, we continue to practice shelter in place and social distancing. We have also been exploring different programming methods to reduce the possible transmission of the coronavirus. As a result, we have temporarily suspended some services or reduced service hours provided. To date, those service areas impacted include Community Connections, Pre-Employment, Employment, Autism Services, and the Early Childhood Center.
We are actively working with our state and county partners to develop alternative staffing solutions for Community Living towards continuing our 24/7 essential health services. The goal remains to limit the number of staff supporting individuals, which will minimize the risk of possible exposure to the coronavirus for both them and our essential team.
While we continue to work with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to secure person protection equipment, we have also requested the public to donate reusable masks. The response has been amazing. People from all over are making these masks, and shortly we anticipate having what we need. From the St. Louis Fashion Fund to staff and family friends from across the Midwest, our supporters are standing with us and helping us meet our mission. We cannot thank these supporters enough.
As you also know, for years in Missouri, the state has been underfunding program rates, creating a crisis for services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The state has been setting our rates well below the actual cost to provide services, prohibiting us from continuing to increase pay. That is why advocacy continues to be a critical priority. Because, when this is all over, we will still need better rates to pay our staff higher wages.
The Missouri General Assembly was on a path to fix these rates. This year, Governor Parson recommended $20 million towards fixing these issues for providers. Although this is a step in the right direction, we need the General Assembly to maintain this increase. With the current coronavirus issue, next year's legislation has come to a halt, but our work has not. The following link will direct you to how you can help with this critical work right now; please visit https://tinyurl.com/tw39x7e to take action today.
While online, check out our Shelter and Shop for a Cause Auction and Pop-Up Shop. You can participate now through Wednesday, April 15, at 4 PM. Visit https://tinyurl.com/vrxs9r4 to check out some great items.
Finally, we continue to share additional resources on our website, including staff FAQs: radio interviews and essential tools. Please continue to check that page here: https://tinyurl.com/sh8wpjt.
As always, thank you for all you do every day for those you support and for one another. Please remember to take care of yourself, and if there is anything I can do to help you, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Chief Executive Officer