April 10, 2020
Dear DDA Residential Staff:
We received a thoughtful and heartfelt email from a residential staff today concerning the COVID-19 situation in our homes, and as the CEO and Co-Founder of NCIA, I wanted to respond to the questions. I certainly appreciated the concerns raised and recognize these are concerns of all of our residential staff. I want to encourage you to know you have an open door to communicate any issues you have directly to your supervisor, me or through our Human Resources Department.
The majority of issues listed concerned the safety of our staff in our residential homes, as well as the safety of our residents. As we know, our staff rotates regularly, and some of our residential clients are still employed on essential work contracts in our Business Services Department. Additionally, it is extremely challenging for many of our individuals to understand the concept and necessity of social distancing, the understanding of the “why” we have to quarantine and the reasons why we have to implement other safety issues such as hand washing, covering our mouths when sneezing and other necessary precautions.
Finally, the staff letter asked about NCIA’s capacity to provide staff with safety supplies such as masks, gloves, gowns and other PPE that we see in hospitals and health care facilities, as well as NCIA’s ability to provide incentive pay to provide those on the “front line” of our residential program. I will try to address each of these concerns as concisely as possible.
I completely recognize the challenges facing each of you, and hope you can trust the fact that our leadership team is working day and night to help NCIA and our staff get through this pandemic that has hit our nation, our state and our communities. We have had to close our school and our Career Development Center, furlough dozens of our staff and reassign many others. We developed a Task Force to develop emergency procedures for our residential program and safety measures for our staff. Our website has been instrumental in trying to communicate all this information to our staff. We have posted instructions in all of our residences and job sites regarding constant hygiene and social distancing. We have had to arrange for food, supplies and medicine delivery as well as coordinating social activities for our homebound individuals.
NCIA leadership has also been proactive over the past month in attempting to obtain the necessary protective gear for our staff. Over a month ago, DDA sent around a survey asking for the protective gear NCIA would need to order through the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). We responded within an hour of receiving this document, and have not received a single item. About two weeks ago, we ordered thousands of masks, face shields, gowns and other safety supplies through a private vendor. We are waiting on that delivery daily, and will get that equipment out to our residences as soon as it arrives. As you have seen on the news, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and other agencies are having priority for these supplies. In the interim, we ask that all staff follow CDC instructions to use whatever possible to cover their mouths with scarves, bandanas, etc. and wearing protective gloves at all times.
Finally, I must address the incentive pay issue. As you are aware, NCIA has developed a H.E.R.O. program to provide pay incentives for staff willing to work if and when we have a COVID-19 residence. DDA hopes to provide us with a financial increase to fund this, which will not begin to cover the costs we are willing to offer staff. For our other residences, at this point we have been asked to provide extraordinary care without any additional funding.
Our challenge as a 43-year-old organization is to survive this pandemic and to provide you a career with continued employment and benefits untouched, so when this ends in the coming months we will move forward together. Rest assured you are all truly HEROS for NCIA and our individuals, and we are committed to you and your families.
I thank you for your commitment and caring for our individuals, and you are truly doing God’s work. We will get through this together as an NCIA family, as we have done for over four decades.
Please stay safe.
With gratitude for your service,
Herbert J. Hoelter
Co-Founder and CEO