Open letter to our employees, our clients, shareholders, and the public we serve
Maximus partners with governments to help and serve some of the most vulnerable and at-risk communities across the United States and around the globe. Our work will have greater importance in the coming weeks and months as people turn to their government for information and assistance in response to this historic coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are being called on to do critical work to serve people during these uncertain times, and we are committed to doing it well.
Since early March, I have focused the Company’s resources and expertise on addressing the most urgent challenges posed by COVID-19. Key objectives include:
- Assisting our employees who may need to miss work for a variety of scenarios and ensuring no one feels compelled to work if they feel ill or have direct contact with someone who has COVID-19
- Working with our clients and operations teams to procure resources and technology to transition employees to work remotely
- Adapting our operations to protect the health and wellbeing of our employees at work as well as of the people they serve.
- Helping the public access information and assistance from government programs – especially those that offer essential health and safety-net services that respond to the impacts of COVID-19
As we prepare for what appears to be our “new normal” for the foreseeable future, I want to share these perspectives with you. In particular, I would like to lay out how the decisions my team and I are making in response to COVID-19 align with the Company’s mission and the values all members of the Maximus team share.
Most importantly, I want you to know my single top priority in our COVID-19 response is the health and safety of our employees.
Maximus continues to operate programs that are essential to the public.
Most of the government programs we support provide a vital lifeline to people – putting many Maximus employees on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. Seniors, families, and people with serious health concerns are contacting our employees for the guidance necessary to ensure their safety and wellbeing. So too are individuals and families seeking unemployment and other safety-net services due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Underscoring the critical nature of this work, many of the programs we support are designated as “essential services” by our government clients.
By keeping essential government services open and accessible to people in need, our employees make a significant difference to others. More importantly, it is how we join others of all walks of life in this all-hands-on-deck national effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protecting our employees is our top priority.
Helping the government serve the people reflects our mission as well as our shared values and desire to make a difference by helping people. Our response to COVID-19 calls on all of us to be flexible, resilient, and calm as we do our part to help governments and our communities respond to this crisis.
Most importantly, my top priority for the Company is protecting the health and wellness of our employees. We are working tirelessly to do everything we can to protect our employees, even as they work diligently to support the American people and the government's response.
For those employees who can’t or shouldn’t come to the office:
No Maximus employees will face the difficult decision to choose between their health and coming to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are a Maximus employee and need to stay home for a reason associated with COVID-19, we have options to support you.
Specifically, we set aside Company funds and set up policies in early March to give employees additional flexibility and financial stability to miss work in for a variety of COVID-19 scenarios. We want to take care of anyone who faces stress from quarantine orders, self-isolation, sick family members who need care, loss of childcare options, or office closures. These protections also include emergency paid sick leave, paid administrative leave, emergency paid family and medical leave, and other benefits and safety nets. We continue to develop and refine these as we gain more experience working under COVID-19 and respond to the impacts it's having.
Maximus has also provided resources and communications to employees to help cope with the impacts of the virus. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers counseling and crisis assistance to help employees manage their stress and anxiety along with physical and financial resources. We continue to send regular communications updates to staff on how to flatten the curve by staying healthy and stopping the spread of germs, mental health guidance, and policy and procedure updates.
If you are a Maximus employee, my most important message to you is this:
If you are feeling sick, showing signs of illness, or come into direct contact with someone with COVID-19:
- Stay home
- Contact your healthcare provider
- Contact your supervisor or local Human Capital representative
This is for your wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of your co-workers. And remember, all our health insurance options will pay for your COVID-19 testing. Stay home and call your doctor.
For those employees who can work:
As communities in all 50 states are moving to tackle COVID-19, our shared mission to help the government serve the people takes on greater importance. People are facing anxiety, tremendous uncertainty, and severe disruptions in their lives. A lot of people are going to be looking to you for answers and guidance in getting through this challenge. I know you are up to the task, and I am tremendously proud of your efforts.
To protect you and all employees at work to the greatest extent possible, we're rethinking how our employees work and how our services are delivered. Our objective is to maintain effective social and personal distancing in our offices while reducing the need for face-to-face interactions with the public.
Where possible, we're shifting employees to telework from home – including in many roles previously limited to onsite work. We're also deploying HIPAA-compliant tele-meeting capabilities that will enable us to assist program participants remotely for more complex services, including clinical and social assessments required to access important government benefits and services.
For roles where employees must work onsite, we are taking every precaution to ensure a safe work environment. We are adhering to recommendations outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and are actively monitoring and updating our procedures as the CDC provides new or updated recommendations. Examples of the actions we're taking include:
- Even more rigorous and proactive cleaning and sanitizing protocols (accelerating frequency and thoroughness) of our facilities than usual – in accordance with CDC recommendations
- Reducing facility occupancy and staggering employee seating in compliance with CDC recommendations and (where applicable) more stringent local requirements to increase personal distance between employees
- In the event an employee tests positive or has come into direct contact with someone who has a positive diagnosis for COVID-19, our crisis management team immediately evaluates the situation and initiates our pandemic response plan – including suspending operations at the site, sending all employees home, and initiating disinfection of the site in accordance with CDC guidelines. The site remains closed until we are satisfied that it is safe to resume operations.
As noted earlier, our network of contact centers gives us needed flexibility to shutdown individual sites to sanitize them as a safeguard against further exposure to COVID-19. Reopening centers once sanitized maintains the capacity and flexibility needed to protect all essential employees across our sites.
Employees also share in the responsibility for keeping our sites as safe as possible. Be vigilant about social distancing, frequent handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting, and staying at home when sick. We will continue sharing recommendations from CDC and our medical experts as reminders to keep this top-of-mind. In all likelihood, this will be everyone’s shared responsibility for some time to come – including after states and local communities begin lifting current restrictions on non-essential services.
This is how we are addressing our new normal.
The pandemic requires a flexible and dynamic response.
COVID-19 is unlike any other crisis that government or Maximus has addressed in recent memory. The threat is truly global – moving across borders on a timeline no one can predict with certainty – which means we cannot just shift calls and work to other program sites outside the affected area. COVID-19 can infect anyone, which means we must be vigilant in our efforts to prevent, identify, and contain outbreaks across all our locations.
To the maximum extent possible, governments and Maximus are responding by shifting functions and employees to telework. Unfortunately, the current infrastructure underpinning the critical systems and platforms of many government agencies lacks the capability or capacity to do so quickly. So, while Maximus has a higher capacity for teleworking than most government offices, we are also heavily reliant on governments’ onsite systems for many functions – especially in our contact centers.
We are making significant progress. Where technology enabled us to move quickly, we shifted employees to telework. So far, every one of our sites have shifted a percentage of their employees to telework – including 60 percent of employees working on programs for U.S. state and local governments. We continue press forward in our efforts to shift even more employees to working from home. In those instances where our work is reliant on government technology systems, we are collaborating with our clients to create solutions and acquire resources that will support teleworking.
In light of these challenges, we are pulling out all the stops to make our work sites as safe as possible. Using CDC, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines as our standard, we are cleaning and sanitizing sites frequently and thoroughly. We are also decreasing office density and expanding personal distance between workstations. Most importantly, it is our protocol to close offices immediately when COVID-19 cases are reported, detected, or suspected. Closed sites undergo deep sanitizing and decontamination before being reopened for continued, safe operation. In addition, we provide guidance to impacted employees to self-quarantine so they do not infect others in the office.
Maximus operates contact centers out of more than 30 states and across 10 countries with hundreds of global locations. In the United States, our network of Maximus contact centers – affords us the flexibility to shift calls and work between locations. This flexibility enables us to accommodate temporary office closures, which is essential to protecting employees and limiting COVID-19 exposure to the maximum extent possible. It also gives us the flexibility and capacity to support surges in program usage that governments experience in the foreseeable future.
COVID-19 is already triggering large numbers of people to contact government programs for health information and emergency assistance. At the national level, we see this at 1-800-MEDICARE and 1-800-CDC-INFO, which we recently ramped up to 24/7 service in response to COVID-19. We also see this in states most affected by the pandemic, including New York, Indiana, Virginia, and California, where we are helping governments respond to surges in COVID-19 related calls. The call surge in states generally coincides with the initial spike in COVID-19 cases in the local community.
As we have seen in other crisis response efforts following natural disasters and economic downturns, this initial surge will continue to ripple across a broad range of government programs as people seek services and assistance. Already, application volumes for new unemployment benefit claims this week were higher than any surge we have seen since the 1970s. Programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF will likely experience surges of applications in the coming weeks as well. People will seek help in finding work. Parents will ask that their child support obligations be adjusted to reflect significantly reduced incomes. Students will have questions about their student loans. And so on.
It is impossible to predict with certainty how the COVID-19 response will progress or when things might return to normal. What is certain is this: government programs will require “surge safety valves.” That is, partners who can step up to provide additional capacity and manpower to help citizens get critical services and economic supports. Maximus is fully prepared to help federal and state governments bridge those gaps to get the job done.
Looking to our future.
Together, we are making a significant difference as we help governments respond to COVID-19 and the needs of people. Shutting down essential government services is almost unthinkable because it cannot be done without imposing severe hardship on the millions of people who rely on them.
The Maximus Board of Directors is playing an important role in navigating this path forward, maintaining close contact with me, and working with management to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Maximus employees.
Maximus has a solid balance sheet and a management team with a strong operational track record in place to navigate these challenges which will enable us to meet our contractual and financial obligations as these come due, including our income protection plan for our employees.
In addition to the work we’ve done in the United States, we are working with the government in the United Kingdom to support the need for additional clinicians who wish to volunteer on behalf of the National Health Service. This further illustrates how our clients value our partnership and look to us to assist in a time of critical need.
Looking past this initial health crisis, governments will be challenged as they help families and communities address the ongoing social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Many programs will need to address gaps in resources, program capacity, technologies, and budgets as they focus on their individual missions.
As part of our mission to help government serve the people, Maximus will do our part to help governments succeed. I am proud of our employees and our shared commitment to do our part in this battle against COVID-19.
President and Chief Executive Officer