A child care specialist. A therapeutic companion. An adult in-home specialist. Registered nurses, and nursing assistants. These and other positions are open in the Pittsburgh region, but organizations may have difficulty filling them during the pandemic.

So, Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services and several foundations and nonprofits have created a website to match people who are looking for work with essential health and human services organizations that are short on staff. The platform is open to any provider or nonprofit in Allegheny and surrounding counties.

The site’s creators say it will continue when the pandemic subsides but could morph into something else.

“This is a great coming together of people looking to solve a common problem, in a low-cost way, and doing it so quickly — it can be a best practice example for us to use in the field in the future,” says Lauri Fink, senior program officer at the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

The idea arose because organizations need replacement workers during the public health emergency. The platform can also provide people who are furloughed or laid off with a chance to earn income, at least temporarily, in full- or part-time positions.

As of May 6, Allegheny County has logged 1,394 cases of confirmed or probable COVID-19, leading to 247 hospitalizations since mid-March and 111 deaths. More than 19,000 people in the county have been tested.

“We are grateful to all who are participating in this important effort. While we won’t know the full extent of the need, as the consequences of this crisis continue to unfold, the goal is to create an accessible vehicle that serves both employers and applicants throughout the region,” says Marc Cherna, director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

Here’s how the employment collaborative works:

Applicants submit their credentials and a resume online, indicating their interests and experience. Their application will be available to any organization that taps the hiring pool. Organizations that want to access the platform must also register online but can make their own hiring arrangements with applicants.

Similar to any job search website, there’s a questionnaire for potential employees to fill out. But applicants shouldn’t upload sensitive or confidential information; if an organization needs clearances such as a background check, the employer will ask for that.

Applying doesn’t guarantee employment, and people can’t choose which organization they’ll work with. And of course, applicants can refuse an employment offer.

The collaborative makes it clear in its FAQ section that it isn’t functioning as an employer and has no input into wages, benefits or work requirements. Since the program is designed to fill gaps during the pandemic, the work “is presumed to be temporary by the very nature of the program [but] there is no expected duration of employment,” it cautions.

Because people are applying to work with essential health and human services organizations, many will wonder about the risks of working during the pandemic, and what to do if they are exposed to COVID-19 while working.

The site advises following the general guidelines of staying home if you have symptoms of acute respiratory illness until you are free of a fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and other indications for at least 72 hours. Anyone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, or who has come in contact with an infected person, should stay home and practice social distancing for 14 days as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you are exposed to COVID-19 while working with an essential human services organization, you may be eligible to receive emergency paid sick leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The employer would provide information regarding your eligibility under its policies.

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.