Bouncing back after a global pandemic is no easy task. But for one nonprofit organization, it’s not COVID-19 that’s a major concern but the increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“The Amendment 2 ballot initiative for the minimum wage is really kind of scary to us,” said Mark Barry, executive director of The Arc Nature Coast. “I think it’s wonderful, our staff deserves every penny of it, so I would never to debate the merits of the amendment. Our starting wage is $10 now, which is above minimum wage. We work hard to get people above minimum wage, now we’re going to be back at minimum.”
Florida’s minimum wage is currently $8.65 an hour. That is set to increase to $10 across the state in September and will increase $1 each year for the next five years until it reaches $15. For The Arc Nature Coast, this means an increase of $250,000 increase in payroll costs each year. In five years’ time, that will amount to approximately $1.25 million the nonprofit will be responsible to maintain (with no other changes to its budget).
“The question is, where does that come from?” Barry asked. “We just can’t generate that. Unless the state adjusts the rates to accommodate that increase, we’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
The Arc Nature Coast serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Hernando and Pasco County by providing a variety of services such as skill training, transportation services, 24/7 care for 10 residential homes, and employment services. Since COVID-19, the nonprofit lately has reached 70% of its capacity and is hoping more residents return to its services.
Residents and staff in the nonprofit’s long-term care are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine coordinated through CVS pharmacy, and the last clinic is scheduled to be completed on Feb. 28. During the pandemic, a few residents and staff had tested positive for the coronavirus, but did not show any serious symptoms. Barry said they most likely picked it up outside the facility or agency, and residents who returned were quarantined. He added that were was no documented cases of any transmission within the organization.
The nonprofit was also able to get funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which enabled staff to purchase necessary personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, and a fogging machine.
“We have a pretty extensive fleet of vehicles — about 60 vehicles that we do transportation in,” Barry said. “We always looked at our vehicles as a weak link because you’ve got a bunch of people in a small, confined area; it’s a worry. Of course, we require masks of passengers and driver, but these machines allowed us to start fogging our vehicles on a regular basis, as well as our facilities.”
COVID aside, The Arc Nature Coast could use some help raising funds to help support the services it provides. As a long-term care provider, the nonprofit is committed to helping these adults through their lifetime, and even has one current resident who has been with the organization for 40 years.
Sign-ups are currently open for the Spring Lake Memorial Classic on May 29 in Brooksville, which offers a 2-mile, 5K, and 10K race options. Barry said so far the nonprofit has seen a tremendous response in early registrations. Last year, the race was delayed to October, and was one of a handful of races in the county. Participants were eager to be out again, Barry said.
“We have a wonderful community and we really appreciate all the support both Pasco and Hernando give to us,” he said. “Any employer considering employing a person with a disability, we would welcome the opportunity to talk to them. There’s always charitable giving. We were fortunate this past year to receive a significant donation from somebody’s estate upon their passing. It’s the easiest way to give lots of money, because you won’t miss it.”
To learn more about The Arc Nature Coast, visit www.thearc-naturecoast.org.