In this issue:
- Blog Post
- Updates from Washington, D.C.
- Mark Your Calendars
- Noteworthy News & Resources
Hope Amidst Crisis: Building Abundant Communities
Andrea Zuber, Chief Executive Officer, The Arc Minnesota
The Direct Support Workforce Shortage has been a long time coming. It has been predicted for decades but as many things, it is now exacerbated by the global pandemic. Across the state, group homes are closing because they do not have enough staff and people are being asked to move back in with family, or into larger, more institutional settings.
For many years, state demographers have been telling us the impending workforce shortage will not be a problem of pay, job satisfaction, or other “typical” recruitment and retention issues alone. Rather, the dilemma is that we do not have enough working age adults in the workforce to fill all of the existing jobs we have in Minnesota, and that includes the direct care positions that Minnesota relies so heavily on.
The Arc Minnesota contributed to a recent letter sent to Governor Walz, which lays out a number of immediate, near and long-term solutions to this dilemma. We need more hands-on deck to support this crisis in the short term, and it is vital that Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) earn a livable wage. On January 11, Governor Walz issued a press release detailing a temporary 5% rate increase for service providers to recruit and retain their direct support workforce, which will be a welcome boost for exhausted care providers.
The long game
As humans our brains are wired to focus on solutions to immediate threats, which make sense because that is how our species survived and evolved. However, with today’s predicament, it is clear the immediate solutions presented are not sustainable and do not address the root causes of this dilemma.
If we want to solve this crisis, we must make structural changes that will stop and prevent it from continuing. It is essential that we reduce reliance on congregate settings—large and small—which are highly dependent on paid staff we simply do not have. It is imperative we ALSO focus our attention on combating ableism. Ableism creates separation and the belief that only “specially trained” professionals can work with or support people with disabilities, which is not true. Ableism is at the root of so much inaction and stagnation on all levels—in disability services, state systems, and society at large.
It is well within our power to build a future where we engage the abundant communities around us (neighbors, employers, property owners, faith communities, etc.) to also support people with disabilities. The work of the Abundant Community, spearheaded by John McKnight’s work, has many examples of community support we can draw on. Above all, if we work to change the narrative around people with disabilities to one of abundance, capacity, and innate worth—and put an end ableist practices and thinking—others will come to the table.
The work has already started
Long-term solutions take extraordinary effort and energy and fortunately, there are many examples of what is working across the country that we can build on. In Minnesota, we have several home and community-based services and supports that lead to greater interdependence and natural supports for people with disabilities, and the marketplace is building new technology and tools as well.
Much of the focus for long-term solutions has to be on building inclusive communities that welcome children with disabilities at an early age and prevent the need for separate, congregate care. Early intervention works, and prevents the need for more intensive supports into adulthood. Inclusive childcare and classrooms allow children with disabilities to have relationships that are meaningful and translate to social capital later in life. Post-secondary education programs such as the BUILD program at Bethel University have an extraordinary success rate for people to have their own jobs and earn living wages when they complete their programs.
Large international employers like UnitedHealth Group, United Health Care, Optum Health Care and Mayo Clinic Health System have developed training and recruitment programs where their own employees mentor people with disabilities. They get a substantial return on investment and understand the capacity and value of people with disabilities in their diverse workforces. Employment Services are available to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs and build careers and personal wealth.
Housing Stabilization Services are working to support people in homes of their own. PCA, Home Care, Intermittent Crisis Supports and Remote Supports are working so that people who need 24-hour supports can live with their families, or in homes of their own. Tools like the Vitals™ App allow people to navigate their community and still feel safe and supported.
Consumer Directed Community Supports allow people to hire family, friends and neighbors, and get the tailored and familiar support they need. This self-directed model assumes that people with disabilities know best what they need to be successful and empowers them to create their own plan.
All of these things lead to financial empowerment, improved well-being, and a reduced reliance on our formal service delivery system. DSPs are a very important part of the workforce and network of supports for people with disabilities, but if our abundant communities can contribute in ways that promote belonging, we can rebalance our support system and create a more sustainable future.
Looking towards the future
Again, this year, The Arc Minnesota has put forward a progress legislative agenda, focused on building a future where people are supported more fully by their communities so they have belonging, justice, citizenship and freedom. Last year, we passed monumental legislation related to inclusive childcare, informed choice in decision-making, and policies that promote inclusive, individualized supports in community. This year, we are focusing on post-secondary education, affordable housing, and much more.
There are things that are working. Let us look to those. All of this is possible and happening now. It needs to be shared so people can understand the options available. We need storytelling, mentoring, and a bold vision. We can prioritize our way out of this dilemma if we address the root causes and call on community in new ways. If you are interested in furthering this conversation, please reach out. It takes a village.
Our abundant communities are waiting to support people. Engage them. Encourage them. Let them.
Updates from Washington, D.C.
From the Association of University Centers on Disabilities:
Congress is working on a number of important issues that affect people with disabilities including funding for programs and voting.
What it means to you:
It is important that programs with and for people with disabilities receive increased funding. Many AUCD programs get their funding from the federal appropriations process.
Appropriations is the act of setting aside money for a specific program from the federal budget. These programs are critical to ensuring people with disabilities receive a quality education, can be employed and received services and supports in the community.
Read the Freedom to Vote Act summary.
Read the full text of the Freedom to Vote Act.
Learn more about the federal appropriations process in plain language from AUCD.
Call and educate members of Congress about the importance of voting and of services and support for people with disabilities, including the importance of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) that allows people with disabilities to live in their communities.
Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act
There is a new bill to make sure all workers with disabilities are paid at least the federal minimum wage.
The minimum wage is the lowest amount of money that an employer can pay an employee.
What it means to you:
It is important that people with disabilities have employment opportunities, access to employment support services, and are paid well for their work.
Learn more about the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act:
From Minnesota House of Representatives:
Walz unveils record $2.7 billion capital investment proposal
Governor Tim Walz is putting together a very large investment package proposal of $2.73 billion. This proposal is called Local Jobs and Projects Plan.
The Plan includes $2 billion in general obligation bonds, $276 million in General Fund spending, and $250 million in appropriation bonds
Mark Your Calendars
Minnesota Housing Partnership Legislative Panel
Thursday, January 27, 2022
8:00 am – 9:15 am
Presented by: Minnesota Housing Partnership
Join the MHP Investors Council as lawmakers discuss prospects for housing in the 2022 legislative session. Hear directly from lawmakers about their caucus, committee, and personal priorities and how housing fits into their overall session goals.
The Arc Minnesota Session Preview Event
Monday, January 31, 2022
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Learn about The Arc Minnesota’s 2022 Legislative Agenda, what to expect this session, and how you can be involved.
The Arc MN: A Home of One’s Own
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Presented by: The Arc Minnesota
In this webinar, The Arc Minnesota will present a summary of the following two programs:
Housing Access Services
Housing Stabilization Services
2022 Minnesota Precinct Caucuses
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
Read more about the 2022 Minnesota Precinct Caucuses below in the Noteworthy News & Resources section of the Capitol Connector.
MIHEC Student and Family Information Night
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
6:00 pm – 7:15 pm
Presented by: Minnesota Inclusive Higher Education Consortium
This event is part of the Learning Community series. The event is geared towards students and families and is an introduction to inclusive higher education in our country and state. Your spheres of influence and contacts are vital to improving and growing Minnesota college options for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
2022 Disability Advocacy Day
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Join us for Disability Advocacy Day on Tuesday, February 22nd! The event will be online again this year. But even though we can’t go to the Capitol, it is still critical for disability advocates to show that we are better together by fighting for equity, access, and belonging in community.
A virtual poster gallery will be from 10:00 am-11:00 am.
The virtual rally will be from 11:00 am-11:45 am.
Then we will have an in-depth policy “Lunch & Learn” from 12:00 am-1:30 am.
Keep the email you get after you register. You will need that to log-in to the event.
With questions or for more information, contact Grace Seifert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disability Policy Seminar 2022
March 28-30, 2022
Presented by: AAIDD, AUCD, Autism Society, NACDD, TASH, NDSC Center, SABE US, The Arc US, UCP
We’re getting excited for this year’s Disability Policy Seminar (DPS)! DPS is a three-day event, where passionate advocates, self-advocates, experts, and professionals in the field come together and learn about key issues that affect them. This year, there are options to participate either virtually or in-person in Washington, D.C. Registration costs will be the same for both options.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Virtual Conference
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Registration is coming soon. Fill out the Interest Form to receive event updates.
Presented by: AHRC Nassau & The Arc of the United States
The DEI Virtual Conference, “Beyond the Comfort Zone: Understanding and Eradicating Injustice, Racism and Inequality in the Field of Developmental Disabilities”.
The conference seeks to increase fluency and understanding of the history, challenges and opportunities impacting people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This conference will connect attendees with leaders from the private and public sector ready to share research, case studies, best practices, and feedback on topics.
Noteworthy News & Resources
From the Arc Minnesota:
Precinct Caucuses are on Tuesday, February 1 at 7PM!
By Tim Schnell, Grassroots Organizing & Engagement Intern
The Precinct Caucuses are great opportunities for neighbors to get together and elect delegates to party conventions, hear from candidates, and consider Resolutions on various issues. Caucuses are part of a grassroots tradition in Minnesota going back decades.
Why are caucuses important?
Candidates for local, state and federal offices will be seeking endorsements. Having the chance to speak one-to-one with those candidates about disability issues can be important in making your decision about who to support.
There are also opportunities to discuss issues important to the disability community and pass Resolutions. These Resolutions can become part of the public commitments of the parties and candidates.
How does the pandemic affect the Precinct Caucuses?
It depends on the political party. The recognized parties eligible to have caucuses include the DFL Party, the Republican Party, the Legal Marijuana Now Party and the Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis Party.
Please continue to check the political party’s websites and alerts from the news media, because the pandemic could still change plans for the caucuses before February 1.
Here is information on how each political party will be participating this year:
The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office has a helpful Precinct Caucus Finder
The DFL in Minnesota will be holding both in-person & virtual caucuses.
Attending in-person is optional, but if you want to participate and do not want to attend, you can download and print a PDF version of the Non-Attendee Form and deliver it to your caucus location from 6:30-9pm on February 1, or email it to a local party leader.
Here is a Precinct Caucus Participation Guide including a fillable DFL Resolution Form.
The Republican Party of Minnesota appears to be having in-person caucuses.
Use the Precinct Caucus Finder to find your location.
Any changes to these plans should be publicized through their website.
The Legal Marijuana Now Party says they will be having virtual precinct caucuses.
Visit their website for further information
The Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis Party will be having their precinct caucuses in-person.
To find your caucus location use the Precinct Caucus Finder.
Further information may be posted on their website.
If you have questions about participating in Precinct Caucuses, please contact Tim Schnell, Grassroots Organizing & Engagement Intern at email@example.com