We are in crisis.

Every employer is.

But Goldie Floberg and any organization like ours that provide direct support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) cannot meet the challenge of the labor shortage through shortened hours.

Our coping mechanism is reducing capacity.

When we reduce capacity, the community loses.

We need immediate action to address the labor shortage and Illinois legislators are uniquely positioned to provide that help as they decide on priorities for the current veto session.

Like everyone, Goldie Floberg is experiencing an unprecedented wave of staff shortage, lack of applicants and a resulting inability to fill critical positions. We’re doing what we can thinking strategically and creatively to meet the challenge, but we are limited.

Across the local region we operate 17 group homes and community integrated living arrangements (CILA), with each being home to 3-4 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These homes are staffed by direct support professionals (DSP) who provide supervision and care all day, every day, 24/7/365.

The people we serve matter, and their lives and their quality of life depend on DSPs and their compassionate care.

According to recent research by an Illinois coalition of service providers They Deserve More, (TheyDeserveMore.com), an unsustainable situation has emerged.

Of 53 private agencies contributing, there were 2,137 unfilled DSP positions — a 25 percent vacancy rate. With the lack of qualified DSPs, 28 percent of agencies report they are unable to accept new admissions for services and 14 percent report closing at least one residential setting due to staff shortages.

Here at Goldie Floberg, we are in a similarly tough position.

Because DSP wages are paid through the state’s established rate for services (a rate which has not kept up with the job market, inflation or minimum wage) we also have a hard time recruiting and retaining qualified staff.

Currently at a 23 percent vacancy rate, we are unable to increase our census of people served back to pre-COVID levels and we cannot accept new admissions.

As families and individuals seek highly qualified and quality placement, there is no room. Across the state, there is simply no room.

According to They Deserve More, thousands of lives hang in the balance, and thousands more cannot find placements for desperately needed care as homes across the state are closing.

Here, in our own local communities, there is a pervasive shortage of availability while families desperately struggle to find placements for their loved one.

There is a solution, at least in the short term. While the state legislature plans their priorities for the current veto session, unused funding exists under the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) which would help us address and improve the pay structure.

These funds have already provided aid to the mental health system, so we are pleading that remaining funds likewise improve the I/DD system.

We are urging legislators to prioritize the community support system for people with disabilities with one-time supplemental funding of the $56 million from the American Rescue Plan funds.

Community providers like Goldie Floberg desperately need this funding and the flexibility to use it to address the critical staffing shortage and rising costs until an already approved increase can finally be implemented in January.

The funds are available but we need leadership in Springfield to provide the help we need.

Ultimately, people with disabilities, their families and our community benefit.

John Pingo is president and chief executive of the Goldie B. Floberg Center in Rockton.