COVID and Its Impact on Employment Services Nationwide-Therap
8:32PM Feb 2, 2021
Our speaker Julie, we're very grateful for Julie to join us here. I think Erica may not join us for this one. But there's some other APSE c topics every day. So I encourage you to take a look at that. And Erica will be joining us tomorrow. One of the things you may have noticed is, there is an ongoing thread of employment related information, not just our module. But, of course, we cover the module. And a lot of other information is just going to make you smarter about your employment services. And having FC here definitely helps us in that aspect. I'm Kevin darks. I'm the Regional Director for that and the Pacific Rim. I also oversee a lot of our work in the employment arena. In my life before Therap, I worked for the state of Hawaii, and employment outcomes and improving that employment response. And the employment system was one of my initiatives, I helped write our first Employment First policy and also build our first version of employment network in light. Way before that, I actually worked in an employment program before I even knew what I was doing. Alright, so we'll come back to this. If you'd like a copy of it, hopefully you can control that.
Awesome. Thanks, Kevin. And thank you all. Can you hear me? Okay, great. I think you just muted yourself, Kevin, I don't know if you are still talking.
I say you're a little quiet on mine. Would it hurt to go a little louder, but I am able to hear you.
I can use my teacher voice. How's that? Alright, so yeah, thanks for the invitation. I'm gonna switch over to my screen here. Um, gonna get this going.
I'm seeing your screen now.
I'm just getting it into presentation mode. Can you see the screen now? Perfect. Okay. Um, so let me give a little bit of a caveat in terms of what we're going to present. So for those who may not be aware, I'll just do kind of a very quick 32nd, introduction of APSE. See, we are the Association for people supporting Employment First. And we're a national member based organization that focuses on promoting employment for people with disabilities. And so we kind of sit in this interesting space in that we're not a trade association. We are really an advocacy organization that has a long history of expertise in best practices that we translate into opportunities for professional development and learning. But also a lot of our work is in the policy and advocacy space. And so that's really, where I come at this. I am the director of policy and advocacy for APSE. But my background is in research. So, you know, I worked in the university settings for a long time before I came to APSE. And so COVID-19, when the pandemic began, we realized very quickly that research takes a little while, it was going to be quite some time before we were going to be able to see numbers crunched in ways that are going to allow us to really understand what was happening. And yet at the same time, things were happening very quickly. And we wanted to be able to get good information as quick as possible. So my caveat when I present on this survey, is that we followed best research practices. But this is not by any means meant to be, you know, the the cream of the crop, you know, research project we did not follow, you know, everything's done through snowballing. And other things, you know, to try to get information quickly. Our goal was to inform policy. And so with that, I think we have been able to work very closely with researchers around the country who are actively involved in studying the impact of the pandemic. And so this this survey has been a great opportunity for APSE to kind of bridge the the worlds of what's happening for providers on the ground level as the pandemic has evolved, but also putting forward with some legitimate data behind it, what we need in terms of a public policy response to support the Disability Employment service system. So I'm just going to do two quick slides of background just to give you a sense of axes, axes approach to this work. Certainly we are very intentional with everything that we do. But we are very clear when we talk in this space that we do not equate health status with having a disability, you can have a disability and be perfectly healthy. That just having a disability alone is not necessarily associated with higher risk of contracting COVID-19, which were very unsure of back in April, when we were really, you know, March and April trying to kind of figure this all out. But that there was recognition that people with disabilities were likely to be at higher risk for some really significant reasons that are systemic in nature. So underlying issues around poverty and lack of access to quality health care, being having a service system that relies quite a bit on congregate settings, and what that means when you're talking about a, a virus that is transmitted through the air. And so we certainly wanted to walk a very fine line in ensuring that we were advocating on behalf of people with disabilities, who we do are going to be disproportionately impacted. But to do it in a way that made sure that we were respecting people with disabilities and their lived experience and not using this work as a mechanism to add to some of the stigma around disability, particularly as it relates to people with disabilities who were in the workforce at the time that the pandemic began.
And then just to kind of take that a step further, we are also very much committed as an organization to looking at intersection intersectionality in the space that we find ourselves working in. And COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on many other groups, not just people with disabilities, but certainly people of color, in particular, blacks and Hispanics. And for a lot of some of the same reasons, some of the systemic issues that we recognize as a country that we have faced, in terms of inequitable access to the labor market, which means it all the trickle down effect of not having resources within communities, access to good health care, all of those pieces and parts that we know has been a long standing problem. So I want to also mention that as we set out to do the survey, this was also at the same time period that the death of George Floyd took place. And so as an organization, we really started to kind of grapple with, you know, the world is changing in many, many different ways. And what is the space, that APSE he plays as we move forward in thinking about what life should look like in a post pandemic, post pandemic society that is equitable, that is designed with equality from the beginning. So we already know that people with disabilities are less likely to be engaged in the labor market, but add that intersectional layer and when you break that down and look at people with disabilities who happen to also be someone of color, the likelihood of participation in the labor market is the lowest it can be. And so we're really committed to having a real data driven approach to recovery and thinking about the work that we do with an intersectional lens. So I just need to put that forward as just kind of a place to start, in how we view this work, and how we view the findings. All that being said, we had three specific questions we wanted to understand at the start of the covid 19 pandemic, we wanted to understand the impact on the disability employment service system specifically, we wanted to understand what was happening in terms of employment outcomes for people with disabilities. And looking at that two ways, both, you know, the labor participation gap, that we know has been a struggle for a long time, but also what was happening to people with disabilities in the labor market already participating and was there a disproportionate impact on them? And then also changes in service delivery? How do we do job development and job coaching in a pandemic such as COVID-19. So that decided our, our survey and what we were looking to, to find out. So we what this presentation is a summary of is the first two phases of the COVID survey. I will mention that we are in the middle of collecting Phase three data, the survey actually closes tomorrow. I think khari might still be on the line. And if she is, I'm hoping she can drop the survey link in otherwise, when we get to question and answer, I can pull that out, I'm sure they have that prepared. Or we did the first phase of, of data collection in June. And then we followed it up again in September. So June, you know, for those who can take yourself back to that time period, it feels like 10 years ago. But this was really the height of recognizing the impact COVID truly was going to have here in the United States, then we kind of had a little bit of a coming back to some level of new normalcy towards the end of the summer and into the beginning of the fall. And so we collected data again at that point. And then fast forward now in January. And for reasons we'll talk about, as we get further into the presentation, we knew we needed to do another touch point with providers to understand what was happening. But the data you're gonna see is from these first two time periods, and to give you a sense of trends, and I did pull the data from our current phase. So I can just talk to a couple of things that you're seeing in the data. But with the caveat that it has not been fully
analyzed at this point. We also wanted to have a very broad reach with this, we partnered with a number of organizations. So certainly absi participation in organizational affiliation is the largest group, which is not surprising since we started the survey. But we worked really hard to partner with other organizations and national organizations that also are doing work in the disability employment space, to kind of get a sense of where some of those folks are coming from. And so just to kind of give a 30,000 foot view, there certainly has been a significant impact on the service system. In general, when we think about COVID-19. And you know, the world that we're in in February of 2021, versus where we were in February 2020. At the beginning of the pandemic, one of the first things that we saw out the gate was because of needing to shift to work from home type environments, and situations that are funding streams, struggled to keep up. So in the beginning days of the pandemics or June, data was showing that there was a 67% decrease in VR referrals, and 43% slowing of Medicaid reimbursement, I will say in general Medicaid fared better. And it's probably the only time in my career that I've been happy to have employment supports, at least within the Medicaid system fall under what is essentially a health care plan. Because the need to shift quickly and be responsive for telehealth certainly helped in terms of employment services and supports on the Medicaid side of the equation, it took VR a little bit longer to catch up, just in terms of processes. So any of you who are you know, in the weeds of funding within providers are not going to be at all surprised of the trickle down effect. When funding is not flowing, you have to close services. And when services aren't operating, you have to furlough your staff. And so this just kind of perfect storm of things happening very quickly and trying to get a handle on what that means for people with disabilities and what we needed to be advocating for from a policy standpoint, in terms of COVID relief to keep the service system intact.
So when we
looked at the June data, the situation was not looking great. That being said, over the the summer months, VR flexibility started to catch up. huge shift to remote virtual service delivery, which took a little bit of time in some parts of the country that we're not quite at that point yet. And then also the paycheck protection program from the federal government opened up to allow for 501 c threes to receive some level of fiscal support during the pandemic. And so by the time we got to looking at what was happening in September, it was a much better picture. So what you're seeing on these slides, is a comparison of June and September data. We were asking about service closures across the board. And so the green lines are what are on top. And you can see that certainly very early on. We were seeing significant service closures for all the reasons that we just described with the most significant Impact being facility based services, both provoke and Dahab, which we anticipated, but had not necessarily anticipated such a large closure of supported employment services. And so that certainly what took up a lot of our time and airspace as a national organization over the summer months in terms of delivering professional development and supports to providers on how to continue to do work in a virtual environment. We were really interested because APSE he has been on a policy front, a long proponent of all things community in community supports, moving away from facility based and congregate setting services. And so we were curious that as we started to see some facility based service closures, what was the intention of organizations in terms of reopening services. And so you can see there, there was not a huge shift. But we did see an uptick between June and September. And I can tell you anecdotally, looking at the January data that we're just closing now that it has risen even more, that we are hearing from providers that the intent to reopen facility based services is lessening, and anecdotally things that we're aware of our that many individuals who have left facility based services during the pandemic, have been able to get other types of wraparound services within their homes and are preferring to stay in if you're a Medicaid provider, an HCBS type of a service model. So that that has a lot of policy implications for us as well, in terms of thinking about whether or not HCBS services are adequately funded to meet demand. As we move forward. We wanted to get a sense of what was happening to direct support professionals. So we all know that there was a direct support professional labor shortage. I, honestly, a crisis i think is not being overly dramatic, prior to COVID-19. And so what happened when we layered COVID-19 on top of that. So we asked about job losses, and also about intent to rehire with the assumption that the economy would stabilize, both in June and September. And it stayed relatively consistent in that 20 to 23% range as being what, what providers are reporting as the estimated net loss of specifically job coaches and job developers in the field. So these are positions that are not anticipated to come back, even with a sort of stabilization of the economy. So we're going to be really interested to see what the January data brings back in recognition that there had been several attempts by Congress over the past year to provide some COVID stimulus, but none of it has specifically targeted the disability community in this way, certainly not in terms of supports for direct support professionals, outside of PPP loans that some organizations took advantage of.
So speaking of PPP loans, we were relatively surprised in June to find out that there was not much utilization of the PPP loans. Some of the, the qualitative data that we got back was really helpful in working with our partners. On some messaging around the PPP loan program, it was clear that not a lot of providers knew that this was an option or really what it meant, or we're nervous at this stage in the game about, you know what, having to take on a loan that they might be on the hook for down the road. And so really 23% of providers reported receipt of a PPP loan. And you can see how dramatically that increased when we got to September, both in terms of the number of organizations that actually applied for a PPP loan. But then when they applied, the success rate went up dramatically. And I think that that is that has to do with a couple of factors around just better communication coming out from the feds on that PPP loan process, who should take advantage of it, what those funds could be used for. And so I you know, I would say in my brain when I look at the data overall, I do think that the increase in access PPP loans was what stabilized, for the most part, some of the outcomes that we saw in September. And I'm not sure how well that's going to continue to play out when we look at what's happening to providers now, in the beginning of 2021. We did ask about contract work, since many providers are operating, be it, state use contracts or AbilityOne contracts. So we wanted to get a sense of what was happening in that space. There certainly are huge numbers of individuals with disabilities who are employed through these contracts. And to what extent did COVID-19 impact that this was not a question we asked in June. But we did add it in the September data. And for the most part, what we were seeing is, generally speaking, contracts were able to continue to operate. Largely, that's because certainly within the ability, one space, the majority of those contracts are in some way, shape, or form, linked to defense spending, and was classified as an essential business during the pandemic. And so those contracts continued to operate. So just something for us to continue to keep an eye on, but I'm not going to really expand on that here.
to the point is what happened to people with disabilities. So we wanted to get a sense of people with disabilities who were working prior to the pandemic and what happened in June, we saw rather significant job losses over you know, 70%. And then, you know, that remained the same and actually spiked up when we got to September. So this means people leaving the workforce who were already in the workforce, lots of reasons for why that happens. We made some assumptions after the June data and then asked some follow up questions in September. And we're happy to see that the vast majority of job losses really did fall under a mandatory business or industry closure. So there certainly were fears in the beginning stages of the pandemic, that people with disabilities will be singled out and furloughed, or let go from their positions before perhaps other people without disabilities in the workforce. And that did not seem to be the case. We also were really concerned about the lack of access to job coaches, that we were seeing in June, as being a major factor in at least by September, that became a lesser concern. But, you know, the mandatory business and industry closure piece is something that's beyond our control. And if anything, helps us feel a little bit more secure, when we simultaneously are watching the labor market data, and compare comparing people with disabilities to the general population throughout the pandemic, it does appear that job loss for people with disabilities has remained relatively proportional with the general population. And that's that's good news, certainly. But we also, interestingly, saw significant job gains for people with disabilities during the pandemic. And so that seems a little counterintuitive. But if you think about it, if you have significant job losses, for example, in hospitality, or, you know, some of the industries that really just had to kind of hunker down and shut down, but then at the same time, other business, other market sectors in especially distribution centers, grocery stores, health care centers, desperately needed to hire people. And what we started to hear anecdotally back in June, even into July, is that supported employment providers in particular who had well established relationships with businesses within their communities, were actually getting calls saying, Hey, we need people we know, you know, you support folks who can be successful. You know, can we connect the dots and in fact, in several pockets in the country, we saw tremendous job growth within the supported employment fields leading into September. So the job losses and gains by market sector I don't think are going to be a surprise. We saw huge losses in retail early on. So when you think about your malls and places like that, that did shut down, those were quickly however, kind of taken off in terms of job gains in other aspects of retail. Particularly, you know, we saw the Amazons and Walmarts of the world go on huge hiring initiatives for Their distribution centers and at their retail locations as well. So there was a shifting within that market sector, but huge gains in health care for people with disabilities, which was interesting to see and something that we want to keep an eye on moving forward, manufacturing remained relatively steady, but a decrease in education related jobs. So those are just trends we want to keep an eye on.
I'm not going to say a whole lot about the local business community other than we did, you know, ask some questions. Because what we really wanted to get at is, you know, how much of the data was generalizable across the country versus what was, you know, specific to different locations. And certainly anyone that works in the disability policy space, knows that a lot of the issues that we address, have a lot of local and regional variation in terms of commitment to different pieces and parts of the work. And that certainly played out here as well. You know, certainly early on this, this notion of communities coming together, businesses hiring, and being, you know, under a lot of stress, and not necessarily wanting to talk with job developers for new jobs. But the flip side of the conversation is, if they already had that relationship, they were looking to job developers to help connect the dots. In some respects, seeing some supported employment agencies in pockets around the country become almost like, what's the word I'm looking for kind of like talent scouts, which honestly, I think is a much better way to think about the work that we do in the grand scheme of things. I mentioned VR and Medicaid, and challenges with funding. So you can see obviously, in June, you know, there was more difficulty than there was in September, we kind of figured some things out. I think, you know, VR is always a tricky nugget, because it's so state specific. And so we saw some states right out the gate, who made just sweeping flexibilities around Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and, and how to build for particular line items, you know, dealing with face to face versus remote. And then you had other states that, for whatever reason, we're waiting to be told by the federal government what they could or couldn't do. And so I, you know, certainly regional variation we're seeing play out quite a bit on the VR side, not as much on the Medicaid side, as I mentioned earlier, there was a pretty quick response within Medicaid to allow for remote services, which has been helpful. Speaking of remote services, I think that's the biggest takeaway in in really looking at the impact of COVID-19. So we have had to shift as a service industry to a remote support model. We were curious how many folks were in engaged in remote supports prior to the pandemic. And I actually was surprised that is, it was as high as it was a little bit over 30%. I know, I've been involved in APSE, he certainly has been involved in various initiatives, looking at ways that virtual job coaching and job development could help with increasing access to services. But now, no surprise that that shot up to, you know, 90% of providers, quickly figuring out how to provide remote and virtual supports in this space. We were curious, though, about the future. So moving forward, if if life returns to normal, let's just say, what are at least what we consider normal pre pandemic? What was the likelihood that providers would continue to work in this kind of virtual space? And it's, it's interesting to see that over time, there was much more willingness to stay in some level of virtual and remote support. So I think that's that's going to be the next horizon of some of the research and policy work that we're going to need to do to figure out, you know, what, what are the scenarios where you really need a person face to face? versus what are the scenarios where you can remote in and provide, you know, quick supports to help whether it's provide assistance to an employer or to an employee with a disability. So we still have to kind of figure all of that out. But it is, I think, fair to say that remote and virtual supports in the job space are here to stay. And figuring out what we do with that and how we make sure that that shift in service delivery model does Not have negative outcomes.
So Oh, here's the survey link. Yay, I knew it was on here somewhere. So we do have a survey open, it is open through and well, we'll just say midnight tomorrow. So if you haven't had a chance to take it or, you know, if you would be so inclined, we would love to get as many responses as we possibly can in terms of what's happening in 2021. There are some things that we can kind of visually see in just a preliminary eyeballing of the data that shows us some trends, positive and negative, but the more responses we get, the better outcome we will have. And I think you know, I'll just I'll end by saying we are continuing to really work hard on COVID-19 relief, if you're paying attention to the news, there is a new relief package that is being negotiated right now. And we certainly are advocating for more on home and community based funding, increased flexibility with vocational rehabilitation dollars, increased access to the PPP loan program. And so that's kind of where we're at right now. We will be getting the data that we're pulling right now into legislators hands next week, as they're negotiating the next package. So I'll just leave with, you know, the more voices we get in helping us understand the impact, the better. And we'll continue to monitor it and get back to you as we know more. I think that is it for me. I don't see any questions in the chat. But we have I think maybe about five minutes, Kevin.
Yes, we do have about five minutes, this is a great opportunity to ask your questions. So please go ahead and either raise your hand or type them into the the question and answer. Period. Thanks, Julie. That's, I mean, yeah, amazing. Are you kind of the third version of this, I'm kind of trying to see where things have changed is wanting to to ask any new new kinds of threads?
There were a couple of new questions that were really targeted at digging a little bit deeper on some of the trends that we saw that we couldn't, we didn't have good explanations for. So no new topic areas, I will say. I think our biggest piece in this is there's been so much advocacy around getting COVID relief to the provider community without any action. And so APSE is working very closely in collaboration with a number of organizations on this front, but we just felt really strongly that, you know, after a couple of rounds of congressional intervention and having the disability community left out, you know, it's a critical time for the provider community. And so with a new Congress, we wanted new numbers. What's happening now? Not what's happening six months ago?
Yes, we got a comment. Thank you for the great information.
Great question. tanco. Please question anything about impact on well being of people who became unemployed? And we did not specifically ask that question. But we are now partnering with a couple of other organizations that are doing that work. And so I I don't have an answer for you right now. But I will say that we are well aware of the overlaying concerns on mental health related to this pandemic, and the, you know, lack of services and supports, especially for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, that depending on what state you're in, you know, mental health services and IDD services don't always commingle easily. So there are some efforts underway to try to answer that question. And I think we'll know more in the next couple of months. But super important question.
I also experienced that kind of counterintuitive what I thought was counterintuitive when I saw a lot of people starting to get laid off in the early days and then reached out to some of my friends who have disabilities, and was surprised to say they've never gotten more, you know, we'll have them work in grocery store, things like that. So they've never gotten more hours. Yeah. And they didn't always connect it to exactly why they were just thrilled that they got so much hours. And I saw that play out in your data there, do you think that that trend is going to continue? Or are we looking at a temporary blip? Or do you think maybe some of this is going to stick?
you know, it's a great question. And I certainly don't have a magic, you know, or whatever those things are. But, you know, I've been, I've been paying a lot of attention to sort of market trend data. And I do think there's a certain amount of this kind of virtual world that is here to stay. But there's also real opportunities for some new areas to expand into, I don't think we'll see, you know, I think it will return to some level of normalcy. But there are now new opportunities, especially with more and more organizations and businesses willing to support remote work, which, you know, for many people with disabilities, transportation is a barrier. We certainly don't want to swing too far into the promoting of remote supports, because we don't want to let organizations and businesses off the hook for a DA compliance and making workplaces accessible for everybody. But I think I think it's going to be interesting to kind of see where the dust falls, there are some market sectors that I think we've worked closely with that are not going to bounce back. And so what does that mean for us as a community that's invested in employment for people with disabilities? We're gonna have to find, you know, new avenues and it's going to require different types of training and support for people with disabilities so that they're prepared to meet those business needs.
And job security as
Alright, I think that is our time. Thank you so much, Julie. Thanks so much APSE. See, I'm trying to try to see if we can put that that survey link in the chat as well, or kind of conference chat and some other way we can get people over there. And help us all be smarter. Awesome.
Thanks so much. Thanks for listening and would love feedback. So reach out, I'm easy to find email@example.com we'd love to hear from you.