Disability Service Providers Struggling To Stay Afloat Amid COVID-19


Janie Desmond who has visual impairment and mild intellectual disability comes to the edge of her porch for a portrait in Durham, N.C. Desmond is one of many adults with disabilities who rely on support staff in their home to remain independent, but are worried that close interaction could increase the risk of contracting COVID-19. (Casey Toth/The News & Observer/TNS)

Service providers nationwide are contending with lost revenues, higher costs and new challenges as they work to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A survey of 689 provider organizations across the country finds that 68 percent have been forced to close one or more of their offerings due to government shelter-in-place orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The closures account for an average of 32 percent of annual revenue.

Meanwhile, the groups are dealing with escalating costs for overtime, hiring additional employees and shifting away from in-person staff training.

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All told, the changes stemming from COVID-19 represent 40 percent of the providers’ annual revenue, on average.

The findings come from an April survey conducted by the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR, a national trade group representing disability service providers. The data was analyzed by Avalere, a Washington-based health care consulting firm.

“It’s staggering,” said Gabrielle Sedor, chief operations officer at ANCOR, of the results, which the group released late last week. “What the survey is showing us is that providers really are on the brink and they’re in dire need of fiscal relief.”

More than half of providers surveyed said they only have enough cash on hand to continue providing services for another five or six weeks, Sedor noted. While most continue to be paid for at least some services, she said they’re strained.

“I don’t think I’m aware of anyone who has closed their doors yet, but some providers are close,” Sedor said.

ANCOR is hopeful that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allocate some of the funding already made available in a March stimulus bill known as the CARES Act to aid Medicaid-funded disability service providers, Sedor said.

Outside of financial concerns, the top challenges organizations cited in the survey were staffing and access to personal protective equipment like masks and face shields.

Among organizations that shut down programs, the most affected services were day programs, supported employment and transportation.

Smaller organizations — those employing fewer than 200 direct support professionals — have been hit especially hard, the survey found, with closures alone accounting for a 40 percent hit to their bottom lines.



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