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Community nonprofit agencies that care for people with emotional and intellectual disabilities are having difficulty securing and affording face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to serve clients during COVID-19. 

LizGundellCEO of The Family Resource Network (FRN), recently outlined some of the COVID-19 challenges facing her network of nonprofit organizations that each year for about 30,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, epilepsy, vision impairment and chronic health conditions. 

“Access to PPE is essential in the Herculean effort to stave off the contracting of COVID-19,” Gundell said during a recent online New Jersey Business Coalition Town Hall event. “Locating, accessing and funding PPE has and will continue to be a challenge for us. This is an area where we absolutely need help. 

The pandemic has also focused attention on FRN’s need for greater financial support and workers’ wagesGundell said it was unfair that workers who serve clients in their own homes earn less money than their counterparts working in group homes, even though the risk of contracting COVID-19 is higher visiting private homes. 

“The death rates of individuals living in their own homes is more than double of those living in group homes,” Gundell said. “My staff continues to go into families’ homes and provide essential services to the most vulnerable of our citizens – putting themselves at risk every day. They deserve to be compensated appropriately. 

While technology has allowed many healthcare providers to stay connected to their patients using telehealth and telemedicinesome of the clients that FRN nonprofits serve lack access to computers and smartphones, or unable to use them. 

The lack of access to technology is a significant barrier for the people that we serve and for our employees, particularly those living in lower income or rural areas,” Gundell said. “These individuals have been disproportionately impacted.” 

The New Jersey Business Coalition’s “State of New Jersey Business” Town Hall on Jan. 11 provided an opportunity for business owners and coalition members to discuss the current and future needs of the business communityMore than 150 people attended the virtual event including a dozen state legislators and administration officialsGo here or click on the link below for more.