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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Growing List Of Nonprofits Will Ask Idaho Governor For Mask Mandate

Darin Oswald
Idaho Statesman

A new survey of Idaho nonprofits reveals that an overwhelming majority — more than 90% — of charitable organizations are in support of Governor Brad Little issuing a mask mandate, either statewide or a mandate for communities with high COVID-19 infection rates.

As a result, the Idaho Nonprofit Center has already collected nearly 200 signatures for a letter which will be delivered to the governor next week, asking him to adopt one of two distinct strategies for implementing a mask mandate.

Idaho Nonprofit Center CEO Amy Little visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the survey, the letter (which will continue to accept signatures until the evening of August 28) and how many Idaho nonprofits are struggling to keep the lights on in the shadow of a pandemic.

“It’s important for us to share with the governor's office that there's more than one way to look at how to effectively issue a mask mandate that has more broad, widespread support.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. The pandemic has been a gut punch to so many sectors of Idaho's economy; and it has been particularly hard for Idaho nonprofits. We're going to get an update on that, and learn about a very unique letter to Governor Brad Little from Idaho nonprofits. So, this morning, we're going to bring in Amy Little, CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center.

AMY LITTLE: Good morning, George. Thank you so much for having me.

PRENTICE: I want to talk about the letter in a moment. First, I want to take note that you have conducted a poll of the nonprofit community in regard to face masks. What can you tell us about that?

LITTLE: We have been closely monitoring the situation, of course, and making sure that we're doing all we can to support the nonprofit sector. We sort of felt that there was a lot of noise out there, that maybe didn't necessarily reflect the broader public opinion about the wearing of masks. And so, we asked two very simple questions and got some really interesting responses. So, question number one: “Should there be a mandate?” When we only ask that question, 72 percent said yes. But when given the option between a blanket mandate across the state or one in communities where spread is at a certain level, what was shocking is actually 92.5 percent of our respondents had a belief that it either needs to be in all communities, or in communities where the spread was high. We thought that was really interesting and important for us to share with the governor's office that there's more than one way to look at how to effectively issue a mask mandate that has more broad, widespread support.

PRENTICE: So, this letter is asking the governor to adopt one of those strategies. How long has it been out there in the nonprofit community, and what has been the response so far?

LITTLE: We soft-launched it last week and we've got about 175 signatures. We have many private citizens and we have some pretty large organizations that have signed on. Again, I respect everyone's opinion on this matter. I respect everyone's belief. I think our concern as an organization has been those of us that support wearing masks and a mask mandate haven't been able to get our voices as loud as we could.

PRENTICE: Lest we forget, nonprofits, big and small, in Idaho, include a lot of caregivers, food banks, shelters, child care, and support and care for victims of abuse or neglect.

LITTLE: One hundred percent. We say this all the time, but it is so true. Our nonprofit sector has had to do significantly more work, increase greater demands on services and serving those vulnerable populations with a massive decrease in funding and a huge decrease in volunteer resources to support their work. So, the burden has been very heavy on our nonprofit sector. We really want to show up and show our nonprofit community that we stand beside them on this important issue.

PRENTICE: What can you tell me about nonprofits right now? Are we losing some? Have we lost any in Idaho?

LITTLE: Yes. Actually right out of the gate early on, there were some smaller folks that folded. But we've also seen some cool things happen. There was this really amazing community clinic out in Canyon County- the Canyon County Community Clinic - that sort of merged with Genesis here in Boise. They realized they're doing similar work in a different location. But we're seeing some thoughtful work done by boards and organizations to say, “We need to continue this work, but we can't continue in the manner in which we've been doing it”. So, we've seen some closures, we've seen some mergers, and we've seen such broad community support from corporations and foundations. But we are seeing some arts organizations, and we them quality of life organizations - so they're maybe not necessarily in the moment serving our communities most vulnerable citizens, although some of them provide programing to sort of enhance and enrich those frontline organizations’ mission-related work. But we're just seeing a lot of those folks maybe not being able to bring in as much funding. And what the landscape of our quality of life providers and who is left standing after this pandemic is definitely a concern.

PRENTICE: She is Amy Little, CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. Can I assume that this letter will be presented to the governor sometime next week?

LITTLE: Our intention is to present this letter on Monday. So, we felt the timing was right, after the (legislature’s) special session this week. We felt that maybe on Monday, as he's got a few days before his next briefing for what's happening with the coronaviruses next week. So, we're hoping that the timing is right for him to really look at the other side of the issue, and all of the folks that do support issuing mask mandates. And one of our concerns, as we've heard story after story from both non-profits and businesses, where they're in communities, where their county or the city isn't requiring masks, but their company, their corporation, their nonprofit, their small businesses are. And we're hearing stories of harassment from those folks. And really, if we have a mask mandate, that is a broad stroke, maybe again, whether it's every community or communities with higher levels of spread, it kind of takes away some of that tension from those situations where, you know, if it's a requirement, there's larger and greater compliance.

PRENTICE: Amy Little, thank you.

LITTLE: Thank you so much, George. I appreciate it.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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