Easterseals Arkansas furloughs more than 90 people in wake of COVID-19

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A local nonprofit has announced some big changes during the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to the fact they were forced to close some of their programs, Easterseals in Little Rock has furloughed dozens of employees.

Due to COVID-19 businesses have to make tough decisions. Most recently, Easterseals Arkansas has decided to furlough more than 90 people and close some of their programs.

“This is unprecedented in my lifetime,” said Ron Ekstrand the CEO of Easterseals Arkansas.

During a time of difficulty, and uncertainty, Easterseals Arkansas has decided to let go of some of their staff in light of COVID-19.

“We took the action of furloughing 99 of our incredible staff, starting next Friday,” said Ekstrand.

Ekstrand says health and safety is their priority. They were forced to close many of their programs down because the numbers are bigger than 10 people.

“Without the income flowing in we don’t have the money to continue to pay them so we wanted to give them a week’s notice,” said Ekstrand.

He says they decided to furlough, because they serve people with disabilities. Ekstrand said this isn’t something they can just move to online only.

“That is a bit of a challenge for us, we’ll sometimes need support on the other end of the line, either a caregiver, a parent to help facilitate,” said Ekstrand.

As soon as its safe for them to open those closed programs, Ekstrand said they’ll call any of the employees who were furloughed to come back.

“We’ve been around for 75 years and we hope to be around for another 75 years,” said Ekstrand.

Ekstrand is also calling on national and local legislators to not forget about nonprofits during this time.

“Nonprofits are not at the table, we don’t have a lobbying budget, we don’t have large ability to contribute so sometimes we’re forgotten,” said Ekstrand.

There is still a lot of unanswered questions about the future for Easterseals, but during this tough time they are asking for donations.

You can read the whole statement Ekstrand sent out below.

In navigating this pandemic and the huge economic challenges it has produced, on Tuesday, March 24th, the Easterseals Arkansas executive team made the unfortunate decision to furlough over 90 members of our 550 member staff. This was a very hard decision to make, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge existential threat to not only Easterseals Arkansas, but to over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S.

It was with great sadness to have to furlough 90 members of our incredible staff – the direct support professionals, therapists, teachers, support team members, and leaders who truly are heroes in our community. Our board and leadership team will not let this pandemic and related economic crisis be the end of Easterseals Arkansas. We just won’t. Failure is not an option and we will reopen again.

Last week, we had to temporarily close many of our programs that provide services and support to children and adults with developmental disabilities in the state of Arkansas. We closed programs like our two preschools, our K-12 school, our outpatient therapy, and our site-based adult day programs.

We have also had to cancel or postpone some of our large fundraising events, like our Fashion Event which was scheduled on March 12th, and our Arkansan of the Year that had been planned for May 7th. We rely on fundraising and events to bridge the gap that government funding cannot provide. Because nonprofits are often asked to solve some of the toughest societal challenges that businesses or government cannot or will not tackle, donations are essential in keeping our mission going.

Upon making these difficult decisions, we desperately need help from our corporate supporters and donors, our federal and state legislators and administration, and the entire community to take action. Easterseals Arkansas has been there for you and now we are asking that you be there for us.

To our corporate sponsors and donors, we appreciate all of your past support to Easterseals Arkansas. It has enabled us to become a top provider of essential services to people with developmental disabilities in our communities. Because of you, we’ve been able to provide help, hope, and answers to

tens of thousands of Arkansans every year. We ask that you consider helping us once again – with either financial support or advocacy with our legislators. Often, nonprofits are not considered for state and federal relief packages in times of crisis. Help our voice be heard.

To our federal and state government officials, please remember the impact nonprofits have made in our community. We ask that you please consider Easterseals Arkansas, and all of the other nonprofits in our area, when making your decision for relief packages. Just because many of us are funded by Medicaid, it does not mean we can survive emergencies like these. We do not have sufficient reserves or easy access to capital that is needed to support our children and adults with developmental disabilities, their families, our staff and our school and therapy programs.

To the entire Arkansas community, we are asking for your help. If you can help us, please provide an on-line donation on our website a www.eastersealsar.com or on our Facebook page. Every little bit helps. Also, call your congressional members at the state and local level to ask that nonprofits be considered in any relief packages. And finally, get the word out. Share with your family and friends that we need your help.

Finally, to the people we serve and their families, please know that your health and safety is extremely important to us. We will continue to be vigilant in finding ways to serve you. For those who attended or used any of our now closed programs and services, we are actively seeking alternative ways using technology, distance learning, and teletherapy to be able to provide services, education, and therapy support until we can safely reopen. If you find you have needs for food, personal items, or other support, please let us know and we will do whatever we can to continue to support you.

Easterseals Arkansas and all of the amazing nonprofits across this country need your help. Please help us be able to continue to address some of our toughest societal challenges.

Thank you and God bless,

Ron Ekstrand

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