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Easterseals Arkansas has furloughed more than 90 staff members.
“This was an extremely hard decision to make, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge existential threat to not only Easterseals Arkansas, but to the over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S.,” CEO Ron Ekstrand said in a statement released on Wednesday. “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.”
The furloughed staff includes direct support professionals, therapists, teachers, support team members “and leaders who truly are heroes in our community,” he said.
Last week, the nonprofit temporarily closed two preschools, its K-12 special education school, outpatient therapy and site-based adult day programs.
In addition, Easterseals Arkansas has canceled or postponed some of its large fundraising events. “We rely on these fundraising events to make up for shortfalls in government funding in order to support all of our programs, services and staff,” Ekstrand said.
He also said the nonprofit needs help from corporate supporters and donors, federal and state lawmakers and administrators, and the community.
Easterseals Arkansas needs “either financial support or advocacy with our legislators. Often, nonprofits are not considered when state and federal relief packages are crafted in times of crisis. Help our voice and that of the other nonprofits struggling to be heard right now,” Ekstrand said.
Then he urged federal and state officials to keep the nonprofit and others like it in mind when they discuss relief packages.
Ekstrand also said, considering Medicaid reimbursement increases have not kept up with the rate of inflation and many nonprofits do not have sufficient reserves or easy access to capital, they don’t have what they need to survive month-long interruptions in funding and services.