LONOKE COUNTY, Ark. – Businesses and organizations have suffered from staffing shortages since COVID-19, including a central Arkansas group working to help others with disabilities.

Officials with Building Bridges Developmental and Community Services say the pandemic has put a strain on their staff, making it more difficult to serve hundreds of their clients with disabilities.

Building Bridges has served in Lonoke, Arkansas, Cleburne, Faulkner, Prairie, Pulaski and White Counties for 50 years and offers programs for individuals of any age with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Program coordinator Margie Peckat said the group has noticed a shortage of staff since the pandemic.

“Since COVID we have found it very difficult to find people, they don’t even apply,” Peckat said. “It is so hard to find people to do this particular job.”

Building Bridges serves well over 300 clients, though they only have just over 100 people on staff, and Peckat said they are trying to do everything they can think of to find hires.

“One of the things I have done is gone to church groups and met with young people at colleges,” she said of her recruiting efforts.

Peckat said the group still has more clients that are expected to be approved for their program, as well as a long waiting list due to funding. She said the staffing shortage can create frustration for people who waited a long time to get approved for the waiver in the program who now have to wait longer for staff.

“We have families that have been waiting for 16 to 17 years to get a letter saying you have your waiver, and then we have to say we don’t have any staff right now we’re still working on it,” she explained.

Peckat said that people or families with an individual who needs their services can still apply through the Department of Human Services, though there is a waiting list.

As for people who would like to apply to work at Building Bridges, Peckat said they can apply at BuildingBridgesAR.org.