Dear friends:

I’m writing to you from a nearly empty office. Earlier this morning, our staff received an email from our ops director, Joi Washington, containing news that many of us had long expected: R Street’s physical office in Washington, D.C. will be closed on Monday, March 16th and remain closed until at least Wednesday, April 1, 2020. While the closure of nearly all schools, the need for children to be at home and the possibility of staff illness will bring about disruptions, R Street will remain engaged, active and ready to continue our work with—and for—all those who support, use and benefit from it. So, I’m writing to say: “We are here for you.”

As an organization, we have long been set up for telework and have had an active policy encouraging it. (Indeed, Washingtonian recognized our innovations in this area.) As part of our efforts this week, we’ve asked people to take office hardware home for the duration and have offered an increased wellness benefit to all employees. Even before the official decision to close the office, we were already encouraging staff to stay home if they wanted and, of course, many meetings were canceled. As such, we expect that we’ll be able to continue nearly everything we’re doing. You can expect us to answer the phone, respond to emails and be present (virtually, for the most part) when you need us. Some things, of course, will have to be rescheduled due to the situation and, if we’re working on something together, you can expect someone to reach out, if we haven’t done so already.

From the time we started, R Street has focused on “high complexity/low salience issues.” While we have experts in public health, science policy, public information, public safety, civil liberties, insurance and supply chains on staff, we’re certainly not virologists or epidemiologists and, as such, on many questions vital to public policy in those areas, we’re content to let the experts guide us. That said, we want to do everything we can in the current crisis to help you and our country, and very much want to hear from you if there’s anything we can do.

In the meantime, we’ll direct our efforts where they are needed most, and work to be flexible and responsive in the face of everything that’s happening. We already have several projects in the works that respond directly to the crisis and, I’m sure, will be starting more.

Finally, I want to say that I’m enormously proud of my colleagues and the perseverance and grit they have shown in sticking with their work and our mission in this challenging time. R Street has a spectacular team and, as always, they are performing at the top of their game. There will be challenges ahead, but we’ll face them. We’re also here to help you navigate and, in turn, we may call on some of you, as well. We’re all in this together.

If any of you would like to talk with me directly, I’m at (202) 615-0586 and [email protected].  Onward!


Eli Lehrer

Photo credit: Angelina Bambina

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