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Worker Shortage Hits MT Nonprofit World Hard


Monday, March 21, 2022   

The country has a worker shortage - and it's leading to hard times for nonprofits.

Liz Moore is the executive director of the Montana Nonprofit Association. She said nonprofits have some built-in disadvantages that make it harder to recruit workers.

For instance, companies have raised wages, but Moore noted that many nonprofits have contracts with the state. That makes it hard to increase pay.

She said the lack of workers has dire consequences for some service providers.

"In some cases, it means they close a group home," said Moore. "That has happened, where you have people who are receiving disability services living in a group home and they just have had to close."

Moore said there were shortages before the pandemic. Her organization's job board typically lists about 40 to 50 openings, but right now it's up to 90.

In February, nonprofits nationwide wrote a letter to the White House and Congress calling for relief.

Meegan Bryce is executive director of Residential Services for Intermountain, which provides 24-hour treatment for children ages four to 14 with significant behavioral health needs. Bryce said they've decreased the number they serve from 40 to 19 kids because of a lack of workers.

Some of the children they serve are at risk of suicide, and she said cutting back programs such as hers hurts, especially in a state where the youth suicide rate is twice the national average.

"What we all know is that if kids aren't receiving the care that they need," said Bryce, "particularly during this very challenging time in our society, those rates can increase significantly."

Scott Appel is the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates in Missoula, providing volunteers to represent foster youths in legal matters. He said the organization hasn't experienced a worker shortage, but it did have to increase compensation to retain staff.

"We've been able to fund that over the last couple of years through the PPP loan program, with some COVID relief grants," said Appel. "But now that those funding sources no longer exist, certainly we're concerned about the future."

Moore said leaders in Washington, D.C. could take steps to help - including continuing and expanding the charitable tax deduction and employee retention tax credit. She said nonprofits are attractive as more people look for work in cause-oriented organizations, but noted that nonprofits are struggling.

"We are asked to stand in a gap and that's our job, and we take that job and we take it seriously," said Moore. "But as the demand goes up, it's really hard to continue to stand in the gap effectively - especially with a staff that has been doing that for a couple of years on pretty thin margins."

Disclosure: Montana Nonprofit Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Environment, Health Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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