Funds raise money for veterinary technicians, assistants
By Kaitlyn Mattson Published on May 15, 2020
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation launched a relief fund May 14 for veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but because of overwhelming demand, additional funding through outside donations is needed.
The COVID-19 Disaster Relief Grant was originally funded by Zoetis, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. The three organizations donated a combined $200,000 to the fund. The fund will offer a one-time, $500 grant to eligible veterinary support staff members who have been financially impacted by the pandemic to meet their immediate needs.
However, within a day of launching the fund, the AVMF website received more applications than the initial funding could support.
“Fundraising to support additional grants is ongoing. If sufficient funds are raised to fulfill applications to date, the site will reopen,” according to the Foundation’s website.
Dr. John de Jong, chair of the AVMF board of directors, said veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants play a critically important role as a part of the veterinary health care team and the AVMF was grateful to Hill’s, Zoetis, and NAVTA for stepping up to help. Now, further donations are needed to fulfill the numerous applications received.
“Many members of our profession have been financially affected through furloughs, layoffs and reduction of hours,” said Ken Yagi, president of NAVTA, in a press release. “We also often depend on secondary jobs and grade schools as a form of child care to make ends meet, which are also affected by the pandemic.
“We are honored to be joining Hill’s and Zoetis in launching the grant which will help blunt these challenges and support the invaluable members of the veterinary team during a tough time. We feel the commitment and focus on our profession by the veterinary community and are grateful for the joint effort.”
The AVMF also is accepting donations to its existing disaster relief grant programs to help meet the personal and professional needs of veterinarians and veterinary students impacted by disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, a veterinary staffing company is raising money for veterinary technicians and other support staff members struggling financially.
Dr. Andrew Heller, chief growth officer at Independent Vets, said he didn’t see many efforts geared toward support staff members, so the company decided to start one. He said: “They are putting themselves at risk. They are the ones going out to cars.”
Almost all states classified veterinary services as essential during shelter-in-place orders adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To allow for social distancing, some veterinary clinics adopted curbside check-in and checkout, which requires pet owners to stay in their cars while their animals are cared for.
Many businesses across the U.S. have laid off, furloughed, or reduced the hours of some employees because of the pandemic. As of mid-May, 36 million people had filed unemployment claims in the U.S. since the novel coronavirus hit.
Taryn Strohm, a veterinary technician in Pennsylvania, said she was furloughed in March. When she heard about Independent Vets raising money for veterinary technicians and other staff members, she thought it was great. Although she was receiving unemployment benefits, she said, they haven’t been much.
“My expenses are more now because we are home all the time,” said Strohm, who has two daughters. “We’re using more utilities. All the bills have increased, so any bit of money is helpful.”
Strohm said her employer assured her they would hire her back when things go back to normal.
“I was kind of expecting it; we have a small staff as it is,” she said. “Business had dropped by 50%. … They didn’t want to lay me off, but we aren’t doing surgeries as we normally would, and I am a surgery technician.”
Strohm said she is thankful for the time she gets to spend time with her family.
Independent Vets is accepting nominations from employers or co-workers for veterinary staff members who need funds. The money is being distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each staff member nominated will receive $150 in Amazon gift cards or via Venmo.
Fundraising was set to continue until the end of May. The company, as of press time in mid-May, had raised $14,663 out of a $40,000 goal or enough to award 90 veterinary support staff members with $150.
“Support staff help veterinarians actually do our jobs,” Dr. Heller said. “We want to be there to support them when they’ve been supporting us for years.”