Easterseals Oregon Families and Friends,
I hope that you all are safe and well as you cope with the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. In the nine months since I took the job as President and CEO, there have been a lot of significant changes; the most glaring is the pandemic we are facing. While I have met some of you, I look forward to meeting more of you after the COVID-19 crisis has been eliminated. In the meantime, I wanted to provide you a COVID-19 response update.
In early March, the COVID-19 crisis became all-consuming for Oregonians and, in turn, had a significant impact on our organization. We met as a team to determine what we needed to do in terms of social distancing, yet still serve our program participants. I must say, our staff have been remarkable as we have shifted our programmatic systems to stay safe while serving those individuals that are counting on us. Specifically, we want to do our part to try to stop the spread of the virus while continuing to provide services.
We have been using three key criteria to help guide our decisions: first and foremost was the health and safety of the individuals we serve and our staff, second was maintaining employment of as many of our staff as we could, and third was the on-going economic survival of ESO. Below is a recap of the targeted actions taken in each of these areas along with results we have achieved so far.
On the health and safety front, we quickly implemented strict screening protocols and restricted visitors into our buildings. These protocols have included screening for COVID-19 exposure, travel, attendance at large social gatherings, illnesses, and temperatures above 99 degrees. Many of the offices we use, restricted participants from entering the building. Those staff who are 60+ years old and/or those with compromised immune systems were allowed to work remotely. We provided an additional two weeks Administrative Paid Leave for those who were unable to work from home or the office, or needed to take time out to be with their children or compromised family members. This was in addition to their vacation and sick leave provided through our benefit plans. For those offices that stayed open and still needed to work with participants, staff restricted the number of participants that we could meet with face-to-face, in order to maintain a six-foot distance between individuals.
During this crisis, all of our programs have remained open – including our Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF), Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP), Connecting Communities Program (CCP), and our Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). With distance learning and alternate methods of instruction (AMI), we have also continued to provide instruction for our adults with disabilities through Zoom, YouTube channels, and in-person. For all of these open programs, we are working closely with our senior leadership team to review staff self-reporting of travel, and other potential exposures and making case-by-case decisions about their need to self-quarantine instead of working. Thus far, we have no known positive COVID-19 cases among staff, but have had reports of two participants who have tested positive. For HIPPA purposes we cannot disclose the name of the participants; if you came in close contact with the participant you would have been directly contacted. For our SCSEP program, we have been making weekly health and safety calls to see if they need help, support, or referrals to other agencies.
As for programs and staff employment, we have also made great progress using technology, staying in constant contact through email, phone calls, and Zoom meetings. We have not had to lay off any staff and we continue to pay for their health insurance and other benefits with Easterseals Oregon.
On the financial survival front, we have tried to reduce spending through a hiring freeze and have cancelled non-essential services. We were fortunate to receive additional funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide emergency housing assistance to our Veterans. We will hire to appropriately spend the additional funding, but the remaining programs will remain in a hiring freeze. Under normal circumstances, some of our state and federal grants do not provide reimbursement to cover all of the program costs. As a result, we must fundraise over $80,000 each year to make up for the shortfall – mostly through large events like Bloomfest and our Golf Tournament. However, Bloomfest, our annual fundraising event, had to be cancelled and the golf tournament has been rescheduled due to the COVID-19 crisis. While we have attempted to do some on-line fundraising, we have not come close to replacing the revenue from these events and are seeking other ways to raise additional funds.
We need your help! Some simple things you can do right now is to like us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Share and like our posts to help spread the word – especially when we have asks for advocacy or fundraising support.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me or the rest of the leadership team by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe and healthy! We are all in this together.
Carol A. Salter
CEO, Easterseals Oregon