With the start of the new legislative session begins the efforts to inform our elected officials what we hope for in the upcoming year. On 2/28/17, Disability Matters Day is being held in the rotunda at the state capitol. Our organization will be participating in this event and we hope you will too. Here is some helpful information on the initiatives going on and how they affect our company and the people we serve.
Preserving the Affordable Care Act: With the recent election there was a great deal of attention paid to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With the federal sessions getting under way The ARC of MN is putting together an effort to preserve the ACA particularly parts that impact people with disabilities. The ACA contains comprehensive reforms that benefit Americans with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination based on health status and improving access to care. The ACA has improved access to care for people with disabilities to help them live healthy, independent, and fulfilling lives. The ACA has expanded Medicaid Programs to childless adults earning up to 138% of the poverty level helping millions of people with disabilities, chronic health issues, and pre-existing conditions. With reforms many of these benefits could disappear for people who need care. More information can be found at http://www.thearcofminnesota.org/tell-congress-protect-acas-benefits/
Increasing MA Asset Limits and Changing Spenddowns: In 1983 $792 a month may have been considered quite a significant amount. However, today this amount keeps almost 16,000 Minnesotans below the poverty line in order for services to be covered. There is an effort through the Brian Injury Alliance (BAI) to change this limit. This affects everything from housing availability to transportation, and basic quality of life such access to resources and daily living. BAI is working to change this amount to $990 with is the federal poverty level. This may take the burden off of housing programs and allow people to live in market rate housing. Additionally, the BAI is looking to increase individual asset limits from $3,000 to $10,000 giving people more means to get out of poverty. This will allow individuals to save for unexpected and emergency situations and increased quality of life and independence. More information can be found at http://braininjurymn.org/org-pdf/public-policy/2017MAReform.pdf
Best Life Alliance and Efforts to include a 4% COLA Wage Increase for Direct Care Staff: As many of you know there has been a continual struggle with retaining and hiring direct care staff in our field over the past few years. A difficult job combined with wages that are competing against other industries has resulted in staff shortages across the board for companies like ours. There continues to be staff turnover, increased direct care for management staff, difficulty in scheduling, and it creates stress in consumer lives. In previous years the Best Life Alliance (formerly known as the 5% Campaign) has been successful in supporting COLA legislation that increased wages up to 4%. While the Governor’s budget includes a COLA increase, it does not reflect the need there is at this time. Companies like ours need the government support to increase the wages, hire and retain dedicated staff, and make the staffing field more stable. More information can be found at http://www.arrm.org/ARRM/Advocacy/Best_Life_Alliance.aspx
If you are interested in learning more about how you can make a difference by being involved in the many events and issues going on please contact Erin Huldeen or take a look at this past article on advocacy.