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Forgotten Faces

posted by Chris Sparks on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The critical work of a Direct Support Professional often goes unnoticed. Wages are simply too low, it is difficult to hire and retain workers, and they work evenings, weekends, and holidays. Agencies offering community services struggle with inadequate and outdated funding which makes rectifying this problem quite challenging. This struggle has been going on for years and the pandemic has made everything more challenging.

As we experience the pandemic we are able to calculate a human impact and a financial impact - with the human aspect being the most devastating.

The coronavirus has critically changed how our services are offered, creating new and unique struggles for staff . Further, we have experienced significant lost revenue as major services alternate between operation, closure, or partial closure due to the pandemic. We anticipate this will continue.

Additionally we are experiencing significant increases in our expenses due to staffing in our residential services and the cost of personal protective equipment for staff and persons served.

From mid-March to June 30 our organization has experienced a financial impact of $847,000 from the pandemic. Sobering yes, and more so as we look to the future, but it pales in comparison to the three people we served whose lives have been lost.

As the pandemic continues we anticipate ongoing challenges and changes in our organization. We believe we will likely be managing the financial impacts and residual effects from COVID-19 for the next three to four years.

One of the motivators for EPI and agencies like us seeking improved funding is so we can pay our direct support staff and front line supervisors a higher wage - which they very much deserve. We continue to hold up and celebrate their efforts. We will not rest until our staff are paid more fairly for the important work they do.

In the midst of challenges this year, we have seen some supplemental funding from both the State of Iowa and from federal sources. This is due to the efforts of legislative champions and state department offi cials who understand the importance of our services. And it is due to the tireless public policy advocacy of agency and association staff. The additional funding is helpful and appreciated, but more will be needed depending upon how long this pandemic continues.

As a society we need to be critically invested in making sure organizations like EPI stay healthy for the people they support. We must continue to share their stories and tell our lawmakers they can no longer overlook people with disabilities and the critical services they rely upon.

About The Author

Chris Sparks has been working in the field of disability services for 37 years – beginning his career as a Direct Support Professional. As Executive Director of Exceptional Persons, Inc. (EPI) he focuses on the EPI mission to connect people to their communities, create opportunities, and nu ... read more