Frontline Texas workers are getting hammered with COVID cases. Caring for our most vulnerable adults, with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities, they remain intrepid but need to be paid more than $10 per hour. We need to recognize them with hazard pay.
This can be remedied with a funding application submitted to the federal government. States like South Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Arizona have already done this.
There are over 700,000 adults with developmental disabilities living throughout the state. Many are given care and guidance in small group homes in major cities like El Paso, Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
The Texas foundations and United Ways have been more than generous. When you look however at the sheer size of this issue it does not scratch the surface.
Imagine a group home of four people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have trouble understanding what exactly COVID-19 is and why they can’t go to the movies, arcades, summer school/programs, or their places of employment right now. Couple this with difficulties in being able to process how all of this is making them feel and then imagine them having to do so without the staff they trust to keep them safe.
Now scale this nightmare to over 5,000 small homes throughout Texas with four to six people living in each home. Sure, it will not be all of them. However, all it takes is a few to start a domino effect that can eventually affect all of them.
If these essential workers left the COVID battlefield because of illness or the inability to put food on their own families’ table after having to go home and self-isolate from their loved ones, the ramifications would spread dramatically.
As a nonprofit Human Services manager, I can directly tell you that this is something every person in the great State of Texas would not wish to have happen.
Forgetting to wear a mask is not good. Forgetting to increase Medicaid payments to our frontline workers could be worse.
Gregory M. Thoennes Regional Vice President
Community Options, Inc. El Paso, Texas
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