Luis disinfects a door handle using the advanced equipment and techniques on which he has been trained.

By Jason Golden

"I know that this pandemic is bigger than us," said Greg Natvig, President of Arizona-based Beacon Group. "But, without our AbilityOne contracts, and the support we get from Source America, we would be in in a much worse place as an organization." Today, as COVID-19 continues to keep many of our country's worksites in an unpredictable state, Beacon Group is speaking out about just how much SourceAmerica’s support has meant to them.

Natvig's concerns are not hyperbole. Ineligible for the government's Paycheck Protection Plan for small businesses because their part-time staff brings them over the current threshold for what a small business is being defined as, the organization knows that they will need to perform essential work to stay viable. The bad news is that the April 2020 unemployment numbers shattered all previous records, with over 14% of working-age Americans currently out of work. Add in the context that historically 70% of people with disabilities are unemployed, and his words hold a greater meaning. The good news is, according to Natvig, "SourceAmerica and our AbilityOne contract work is keeping us alive and positioned to weather the crisis."

Beacon Group is a member of SourceAmerica’s network of more than 600 nonprofit agencies. This network employs more than 90,000 people with disabilities nationwide, some of them through the U.S. AbilityOne® Program, which is one of the largest sources of employment in the United States for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. Following their mission to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities, Beacon Group delivers business solutions such as custodial, landscaping, facilities management, and manufacturing services to state and federal government customers. They are able to provide these job opportunities through several AbilityOne contracts, which collectively support essential business operations across the nation. These contracts have provided a consistent pathway for professionals with disabilities to become a part of the solution for keeping essential services available to our nation’s infrastructure.

SourceAmerica President and CEO Vince Loose, too, is appreciative of how the AbilityOne Program has allowed people with disabilities to continue their work during the response to COVID-19. "Despite the incredible challenges facing our society during this crisis, our team is honored to provide and optimistic that AbilityOne contracts will continue to provide essential services to customers, allowing them to maintain their critical missions and essential work," said Loose.

The definition of an essential service has changed dramatically over the past two months. How our society remains operational has taken on new meaning for many of us. For courthouses, state child safety facilities and even 2020 Census worksites to remain operational, custodial operations have enhanced their capabilities in the last month to better serve customers. Beacon Group custodial teams are typically behind the scenes, working a variety of shifts to clean buildings throughout Arizona at a time that is most convenient for the customer. Like many others, they are now finding themselves more visible as they step up efforts to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Cleaning and janitorial staff are essential personnel," said Beacon Group Senior Project Manager Chris Mowen. "Our cleaners are front-line troops in the fight against the spread of the virus. Our goal is to protect every person who enters and uses the buildings we clean, including our staff!"

As a direct result of the pandemic, cleaning is suddenly in the spotlight as everyone pays closer attention to disinfecting both home and work environments. For Beacon Group this increased awareness is positive – bringing an appreciation of the role that cleaning personnel play in everyday life. SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne program have made that possible.

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