As the coronavirus pandemic endures, IDD organizations continue to see it impact their workforce and ability to provide services. In April, the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) conducted a survey to determine how the pandemic has affected its members, which include over 1,600 IDD provider organizations. ANCOR had 689 organizations respond to the survey, and they helped create a picture of exactly how the pandemic is impacting their ability to serve individuals with IDD.
Gabrielle Sedor, Chief Operating Officer and Foundation Director at ANCOR, met with Relias to provide her thoughts on the survey’s insights, and how IDD organizations can leverage the data to advocate on behalf of their communities.
What led ANCOR to conduct this survey?
Right before the pandemic hit, we had surveyed our members around the workforce crisis. As you know, they’ve been facing a crisis for decades on top of unstable funding and challenges of meeting the rising costs of doing business. We had a pretty good idea of what was happening with our members, but with the explosion of COVID-19, we were anticipating a deep impact on an already fragile system. As soon as the shelter-in-place orders started to take effect, we knew we were going to have to quantify the impact of COVID 19 and illustrate our members’ needs to bolster our federal advocacy efforts.
Did any of the survey results surprise you?
I was caught off guard by the staff vacancy rates. They were low, and in some cases better than average. We realized that as day services were being forced to close, organizations were taking those staff and reallocating them to residential services. A lot of staff who might have found themselves out of the job were redirected.
Another thing that surprised me was that over one-third of organizations actually suspended hiring. As you think about it, in some cases they couldn’t get required background checks done, or they had to suspend training and therefore stop onboarding new staff. As you dig deeper into the data, it made sense, but I wasn’t expecting to see one-third of respondents say that.
Staff overtime expenses increased at 52% of the organizations surveyed. Do you have any recommendations for those who are trying to adequately staff sites but are experiencing financial difficulty due to overtime expenses?
This is when crowd sourcing comes in handy. There’s no magic bullet for the issue, but one bright side of the current situation is that our member engagement and communication with each other has really blossomed. As folks have come up with work-arounds, they’re sharing it. In some cases, members have seen real success in allowing teams to manage their own availability and staffing patterns. For others, meaningful training and development opportunities have deepened their loyalty to the organization. Our members are more open to sharing these solutions with each other.
Do you see Relias as a valuable partner for helping IDD organizations train and onboard staff during this time?
I think that mobility and the applicability of the courses that Relias has to offer are a real plus for providers. Also, several years ago, Relias pulled back the curtain to explain why their staff felt so strongly about their mission. It was so beautiful to see so many people who help shape the courses and products that have deep personal investment. I think you’ve done a beautiful job connecting and showing the origin of what you have to offer.
Do you have other recommendations for addressing staff training during the pandemic?
We are seeing a lot of organizations, Relias included, offer up their own resources at no cost. Take advantage of the free! Right now, for example, ANCOR is waiving any cost to use our realistic job preview that we put together with the University of Minnesota. We are seeing a lot of organizations in need and others saying, “We’ve got something for you.” It may not last forever, but it may give you a leg up.
Are there any ANCOR resources you want to highlight that can help IDD organizations during this time?
We’ve created a COVID-19 Resource Page with some really useful tools. As states reopen and create new rules and regulations, we are collecting as much information as we can and putting it on there.
Our DSP toolkit is where you can find recruitment and retention tools, including the realistic job preview. ANCOR members also have a Shared Resources Purchasing Network, where you can get significant discounts at places like Office Depot, as well as Relias.
Lastly, add your own voice to our #ForgottenFaces campaign. Our main concern is that when this is all said and done, we want providers’ doors to open up again. We can’t let people with IDD and the people who support them to be forgotten during this time.
How can IDD organizations use the information in the ANCOR survey for their benefit?
One of our board members of the ANCOR Foundation said to us, “The combination of transactional data plus transformational stories equals inspiration for change.” We have taken that idea and adapted it for all our educational and advocacy efforts. We knew we were going to have to show Congress the need for funding and put a face to the numbers.
Use the survey results (available here) for your own state and local advocacy efforts. However those five pages are useful to you and your mission, they’re yours! Combine the survey results with your own data, your own stories, and inspire change.
Gabrielle Sedor joined ANCOR as its Chief Operations Officer in February 2015 and was named the ANCOR Foundation Director in October 2018. She also serves as part of ANCOR’s internal COVID-19 Response Team.