To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented economic downturn would be an understatement. In the last two weeks alone, around 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, and the U.S. government passed a historic $2 trillion stimulus bill to try to offset the economic impact of the virus.
Across the country, industries in every market are preparing to weather a severe recession. One market that’s gone widely overlooked is the special needs market, which cares for individuals who have autism, cerebral palsy, and other atypical physical and cognitive needs. Here’s how we think the Coronavirus Recession will impact the special needs market and how various industries in the market will bounce back after it ends.
How bad is the Coronavirus Recession for the special needs market?
To put it bluntly, the pandemic’s effect on the special needs industry is bad. The unemployment rate is currently hovering around 13%, which rivals the rate during the Great Depression. Despite the government’s recent attempt to keep the economy afloat with a record-setting stimulus bill, no market will escape the Coronavirus Recession unaffected.
The Coronavirus Recession stands to impact the special needs industry in a few unique ways:
- Caregivers are in uncharted territory. Working remotely isn’t an option for caregivers. They’re essential workers and will still visit their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. But navigating this crisis will be difficult. Many special needs clients are at high risk from the coronavirus, so hygiene precautions will need to be stringent. Inevitably, some special needs clients will also contract the virus even if every precaution is taken. Caring for those clients will be incredibly challenging. Not only will caregivers have to risk exposing themselves to the virus, but they’ll also have to navigate quarantines to care for clients.
- Special needs education will be hit hard. Schools around the country are closing, and children and adolescents will now spend the next months at home instead of at school. For special needs students who thrive thanks to the care they receive at school, this will be a challenging time. Special needs educators will need to find new ways to care for their students without being physically present. Physical therapists (PTs), in particular, will be forced to think outside the box.
- Parents will have to pick up the slack. Special needs educators and therapists will have to rely on parents to administer the care they would normally give special needs students at school. This is likely to be difficult for parents who are working from home and caring for other children at the same time.
How will the special needs market recover?
Some parts of the special needs market will be more affected by the recession than others. For example, while caregivers’ jobs will become significantly more challenging during this time, most caregivers will still be able to work. That isn’t necessarily the case for people like PTs, who can’t carry out their duties properly thanks to social distancing and may be categorized as nonessential businesses or forced to close their doors for a time.
There are two things special needs workers can do to weather the storm:
- Special needs educators should turn to e-learning. With so many students stuck at home, the e-learning market (which has been ramping up for years) is poised for another massive expansion. Educators who can harness technology to continue caring for special needs students will find success even in these trying times.
- Special needs caregivers and educators should consider offering virtual seminars. Parents and guardians who normally relied on special needs educators and caregivers can no longer do so. Special needs professionals can help parents navigate this situation by offering courses or one-on-one workshops through video conferencing platforms to make them more self-sufficient.
Ultimately, it’s too early to say exactly how the Coronavirus Recession will impact the special needs market. It may take anywhere from six months to a year for meaningful recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to begin. Most economists predict that the economy will start to rebound late in 2020 or early in 2021. We urge all special needs professionals to stay updated about the latest projections to understand how COVID-19 will impact their work more accurately.
If you run a small or medium-sized business and need help during this time, Lexington Services has your back. We specialize in providing these enterprises with the tools they need to succeed. To learn more, contact us.