As a valued member of Bobby Dodd Institute’s extended family, you are in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope that you and your family are remaining healthy and safe. Our community is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis, and we want to keep you informed on how we are navigating this global pandemic.
It was impossible to anticipate the ways in which the current disruption was going to impact us over the past few weeks and is even more foolhardy to guess its depth in the weeks and months to come. We’ve migrated to a virtual work environment, where it’s been feasible. Thanks to the implementation of Microsoft 365 last year, this has been relatively seamless. While the overall health of our staff remains good, the uncertainty due to the continued absence of testing in our State has added to the challenge. We currently have two team members who have tested positive for the virus, and several others presumptive and waiting for test results. Additionally, there are several others who have had known exposure but are asymptomatic thus far. All of them are in self-isolation, with most feeling well enough to work from home. BDI has taken measures beyond the Families First Coronavirus Act to ensure that our team members will not have to contend with a loss of income during this unprecedented time. Currently, BDI has not had to furlough/lay-off any employees and an emergency sick leave fund has been created (with almost 2,000 hours donated by staff to the fund).
A COVID-19 task force was established in early March, and meets via videoconference each morning to cover news updates (including guidance from the CDC, governmental and non-governmental organizations), reports from worksites and empowers programs, departmental check-ins and general discussion of needs. To keep the entire organization updated, virtual town hall meetings are being conducted twice weekly.
We categorize our work under the main banners of empowerment and employment. Most of BDI’s work within both areas fall under the “essential services” umbrella. Regarding empowerment-related efforts, our core services (job and family programs, family support, benefits consulting and Georgia Community Trust) have all moved to a virtual landscape to maintain the continuity of care to our participants. Many of the individuals we serve with disabilities and their families work in the service industries that are so heavily impacted by the pandemic. One of our greatest worries is that they will not have the most basic of supplies, including food and medical. Our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), who are on the frontlines of the connection with program participants have been nothing less than heroic in making sure that needs are met. They’ve pivoted their hours, transitioned sessions (cooking classes, orientations, even exercise routines) to online platforms and even picked up/delivered essential items to name just a few of their shifts to provide lifeline support for those in need.
Under the employment category, many of BDI’s worksites and social enterprise business services provide essential services (emergency 911 response, protective equipment fulfillment, telecommunications for medical services and supplies, financial services, mailroom services, custodial/facility maintenance to government agencies, product distribution for Georgia state use to entities such as hospitals). We are so grateful that our commercial and AbilityOne- contracted partners have been flexible and understanding during this time. Rest assured, our safety and precautionary measures in maintaining these worksites strictly adhere to the evolving coronavirus prevention guidelines of the CDC and local municipalities. Concurrently, our workforce resources programs have continued, albeit in a virtual capacity, thanks to the yeoman’s work done by the Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRCs).
Although we’ve been able to maintain most of our work during the pandemic’s escalation, there have been challenges. Call-outs due to sickness has meant a daily reshuffling of responsibilities, with team members having to wear multiple hats to cover the workload. Out of precaution, our only annual fundraising event (scheduled for March 18) was cancelled as holding it in a virtual format was not feasible. Also, the cost for many of our custodial-related supplies have increased substantially due to demand. Finally, the work from home environment doesn’t convey for every staff member due to their typical responsibilities and are currently underutilized. We are working on cross-training for remote work and should be able to activate those individuals in the coming weeks, but this comes with increased costs (i.e. technology), putting additional strain on our limited resources.
Even with the reallocation of human resources to close current gaps of personnel need and maintaining our worksites (except two currently), there is an underlying fear that BDI will begin to run short on revenue needed to sustain its daily operations. We are preparing to take advantage of the SBA (7)a loan opportunity made available by the federal government, have applied for additional grant opportunities being offered, and are negotiating cost-plus pricing with vendors for those supplies that are in high demand.
We are only in the first chapter of what will become a long drama for our nation and the world. We take it one day at a time and do everything in our power to prepare for the worst outcomes possible, yet pray for the best. The best for our people, the best for ours and all nations impacted. We will get through this and continue to be deeply appreciative of your support and leadership.
In the immediacy, additional updates will be shared periodically to keep you informed of our status during this unprecedented time.