June 30, 2021
Holly Carmichael, COO
The past year has been like nothing else I’ve faced as Chief Operating Officer at GT Independence. A global pandemic and the economic hardships that resulted made so much of everyday life a challenge for people across the country and the world.
With so much uncertainty, GT Independence made a concerted effort to ensure operational stability for the people we serve at a time when they needed it the most. This also required financial responsibility as we did our part to maintain our current service levels even when the road ahead was unknown.
Improving Operational Stability During the Pandemic
At the core of GT and everything we do is our mission and core values. We believe that everyone should be able to live a life of their choosing, regardless of age or ability. Our values of Self-Determination, Professionalism, Integrity, Community, Excellence, and Respect guide our everyday work. This has never been more true than in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. GT Independence promises its customers three things: We get people paid. We remove the roadblocks to self-determination. And, we bring our values to the table.
Getting People Paid—During the Pandemic and Beyond
For anyone using self-direction as part of their long-term services, stability is everything. We get people paid. This is not just any people—direct support professionals who are helping individuals live independently in their homes and communities. We take that job seriously and GT Independence is proud to have had no service interruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. We did this all while converting to a fully remote operation within just three days of the declaration of a public health emergency.
But converting to remote operations was only one part of meeting the needs of our participants. As the pandemic swelled, so did the people utilizing long-term services and support in their own homes and communities. Just the process of signing up for home and community-based services (HCBS) was complicated by the pandemic.
Removing the Roadblocks to Self-Determination
In 2020, we used remote onboarding through GT Enroll to help thousands of new participants access self-directed services when they needed it most. Whereas many providers were not prepared for electronic enrollment, potentially slowing down access to much-needed support to the HCBS community, GT Enroll was already online delivering a personalized enrollment experience. This allowed us to help Americans get back to work by guiding participants through the process of hiring family caregivers, the people they know and trust, to help them with their personal care needs.
Our success in delivering for participants and caregivers alike during a time of great uncertainty is a function of GT’s leading-edge technology and smart planning. Further, over the course of the pandemic, we’ve had no job losses, helping to ensure the operational excellence so many of you have become accustomed to. GT answered customer calls in an average of just 32 seconds in 2020. And when the people we served called, we resolved 90% of customer service requests during the initial phone call. It was a challenge, but for thousands of people who rely on our services, we had to be up to that challenge.
Ensuring Access to Consistent, Self-Directed Care
This commitment is our top priority and became even more of a focus over the course of the pandemic as the virus highlighted the increased risks of group care facilities. A key to consistent care is uninterrupted payroll support as well as making sure participants have access to a network of caregivers when their caregiver is unavailable.
Through Find a Caregiver on the GT Portal, GT made it easier for participants to locate backup caregivers or find sick leave coverage, helping caregivers take the time they needed to recover or care for family members impacted by COVID. GT Independence found that service utilization levels were maintained throughout the pandemic proving, yet again, that self-direction can be a reliable, safe, long-term service and support choice for people of all ages and abilities.
Taking Financial Responsibility During the Pandemic
We’ve always taken financial responsibility seriously, but even more so during COVID. With the government sending out billions of dollars to various enterprises all over the country, proper tracking of these resources and accountability matters.
22,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Kits
Since the onset of the pandemic, we purchased and distributed 22,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits with CARES Act Funding. Each kit was registered and tracked, providing complete transparency to the process. We did all of this without any financial incentive or motivation other than to help our participants and caregivers stay as safe as possible.
$2-3 a Hour Increase in Hazard Pay
Many states allowed for increased rates for providers, including those in self-directed arrangements. GT Independence worked with states and participant employers to pass 100% of those funds through to caregivers working on the front lines. Many caregivers were able to earn an additional $2-3/hour in hazard pay through these efforts.
7,500 Days of Paid Sick Time
Through the implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), GT Independence was able to help caregivers receive over 7,500 days of paid sick time, keeping people safe from exposing others to this virus.
$350,000 Donated to Local and Regional Charities
Despite a challenging financial climate, GT Independence maintained its focus on the community and those in need. That was why we donated $350,000, more than we’ve ever donated before, to local and regional charities helping with the pandemic. We also deployed a series of people-first community outreach campaigns to recognize those going above and beyond to assist others. We are currently working with our communities to deliver education and added support for individuals struggling with the long-term impacts of social isolation.
Why Talk About It?
We’re especially proud of our efforts related to PPE, hazard pay distribution, and FFCRA because not every provider working in HCBS did as we did. We did not take on these additional measures because we had to, rather, because we chose to. We did it because it was the right thing to do and it’s consistent with our company values. Because we bring our values to the table.
Read More About GT’s COVID Efforts
3 Ways to Put People First in the Face of a Global Pandemic
Support When You Need It Most
During any normal time, consistency is a cornerstone to quality care. So when COVID hit, we knew that we had to double down on our efforts to ensure there was no gap in service or support. The work that we did this past year, and the work of all those who have supported self-direction through these challenging times, will have a long-term impact on a person’s right to live life on their own terms.
While we are looking forward to post-pandemic days, we will continue to pursue opportunities to support and help our communities through the pandemic while driving long-term awareness, understanding, and access to self-direction.
From the desk of