Thanks Senator Murray for your career of support for people.
The Arc of Grays Harbor was initially chartered 70 years ago. In various ways I have been with it for 20 - this is the scariest time with the organization that I can remember.
The people we serve are isolated, and I worry about them. It's heartbreaking to field messages from clients who ask daily when we're going to come visit, when special olympics will restart or when we can get together for events.
Like most of us, I am conflicted about reopening. On the one hand the isolation is hard for a DD population that is already marginalized and isolated but Grays Harbor County has a shortage of medical capacity, and our people are often medically fragile.
Nonprofits like ours work to close gaps in government services. For example, The Arc of Washington just closed their clothing pickup program ending a significant private source of revenue. Nonprofits are A LIFELINE for people with disabilities and their families. Programs like Parent-to-parent are hugely important and at risk to state budget cuts. Nonprofits are at risk of collapse. Of the five programs that we currently offer families experiencing disability, four are at risk of cancellation due to state funding. Our fate is tied to federal support for state and local governments - especially medicaid to support home and community based services. The Payroll protection program wasn't enough and the 8 week window in which to spend it is too short.
One thing that would help us and many organizations like us is some debt relief from USDA rural development loans, much like has been done with the Small Business Administration.
Workforce stability: All of our staff are ALSO parents impacted by school closures, they need help so that they can return to work. The Payroll protection program is a step in the right direction but we can't provide direct support if staff can't leave their kids.
I read a lot about how people won't return to work because of enhanced unemployment. In my experience this isn't as big a barrier as the lack of childcare. If they had childcare they'd happily return to work despite the financial aspect, because the work is a calling - a mission.
In addition to more residential services, direct care providers need PPE. They feed clients, wipe their noses, help with bathing - they need full PPE, not just masks.
Schools.... Parents of kids with special needs are in full-on survival mode. We're in daily contact with parents for whom their students still have no meaningful education services. Kids in special education are often left out of virtual instruction. In addition to rural broadband, they need individual support. We need to plan for special education for the next school year and the next pandemic. Child care and education for kids with special needs has always been a problem and currently it's a severe problem. In our area, for the coming school year, Aberdeen school district has announced major staffing cuts, which historically have disproportionately hit special education.
We appreciate the HEROES act, and we hope that the Senate takes it up soon - with additional funding for special education. I would encourage Senator Murray to share her thoughts on that.
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