The Arc Minnesota fought vigorously to defend Medicaid and defeat the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal bill. Staff and volunteers from The Arc Minnesota and The Arc Greater Twin Cities participated in a phone bank with partners in the This is Medicaid coalition making calls to West Virginians. As a result, more than 100 West Virginians made calls to U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s office asking her to vote no. Additionally, the chapter joined 156 other organizations in signing the This is Medicaid coalition’s letter to the Minnesota congressional delegation.
The Arc Minnesota and other organizations are participating in Renter’s Week of Action, which takes place September 18-22. This series of Events in the Twin Cities provides organizations with an opportunity to collaborate, learn from each other and take action to expand access to affordable housing. The week involves multiple rallies, forums and other advocacy opportunities. Ellen Baudler, Director of Housing Access for the chapter, will attend a St. Paul City Council hearing to advocate for housing for people with disabilities at the site of a demolished Ford truck assembly plant.
Ellen Baudler, Director of Housing Access for The Arc Minnesota, has been meeting with members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation to advocate for affordable housing for people with I/DD. She attended the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ “Coffee with Congress” event to discuss housing policy with Sixth District Congressman Tom Emmer. Additionally, she joined members of the Protect Our Homes coalition in a meeting with Fifth District Congressman Keith Ellison. Congress is considering massive cuts to housing and it must pass a budget by the end of September.
Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director for The Arc Minnesota, recently retired after 15 years in that position. During his last two months on the job, he received several awards. The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award. He received an award for his commitment to expand access to and improve consumer-directed services at the National Applied Self-Direction Conference. Additionally, he received a certificate of appreciation from Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Human Services for “for his dedication to improving the quality of life for persons with disabilities and their families throughout a lifetime of service and advocacy.”
The Arc Minnesota, as part of the “This is Medicaid” Coalition, hosted three town halls across the state on the proposed Medicaid cuts in the American Health Care Act. The town halls were held in Bloomington, Northfield, and St. Cloud. Attendance ranged from 20 in St. Cloud to 200 in Bloomington. At each town hall, coalition members discussed the basics of Medicaid and the many supports and services it provides to Minnesotans. Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director of The Arc Minnesota, and Cindy Owen, Executive Director of The Arc Midstate, were panelists at the St. Cloud town hall. Cindy shared her family’s story, and Steve discussed how Minnesotans with a variety of disabilities have benefitted from Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, noting that Medicaid is a “lifeline for Minnesotans with disabilities and their families.” Attendees filled out cards sharing their families’ stories for the Congressional delegation.
Thanks to the advocacy of The Arc Minnesota, the Minnesota Legislature passed and Governor Mark Dayton signed a Department of Health and Human Services funding bill that makes modest progress on several key priorities including:
- A 13% reduction in parental fees for participation in the TEFRA program.
- A 1% increase in the Medicaid spend-down, or about $10 per month
- $496,000 for statewide self-advocacy efforts;
- New services for those seeking competitive employment, pending approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and
- A 1.5% increase for personal care attendants under the SEIU contract, however there was no across the board increase for DSPs.
The Arc Minnesota, as part of the This Is Medicaid coalition, met with Congressman Tom Emmer to discuss the impact of the American Health Care Act on Medicaid beneficiaries. Specifically, they discussed the potential of the law to limit access to community-based services, increase waiting lists, and limit the ability of schools to bill Medicaid. Mike Gude, the chapter’s Communications Director, shared stories with Congressman Emmer of individuals with I/DD and their families who benefit from Medicaid.
As a result of The Arc Minnesota’s advocacy, the Minnesota House recently approved HF919/ SF562 to expand benefits to individuals with autism and related conditions. This bill is meant to modify the 2013 law surrounding intensive treatment for children with autism. Sponsored by Representative Roz Peterson and Senator Jim Abeler, this bill will extend Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI) to 21-year-olds as well as children with other qualifying conditions. Other benefits of the bill include: coverage of individualized treatment plans, training for parents and caregivers, monitoring of treatment plans, and evaluations of treatment goals. The bill passed the Senate in March by a 66-0 vote and passed the House this week by a 131-0 vote. The bill was recently signed by Governor Mark Dayton.
The Arc Minnesota has had many successes this year at the State Capitol and in Congress due to the personal stories the chapter received from individuals with disabilities and their families. Many of these were delivered through the chapter’s “Telling Your Story” app, developed by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, which can be downloaded to a smart phone or tablet. The app can be used to create a story and send it to elected officials.
The Arc Minnesota as part of the Best Life Alliance participated in a rally at the state capitol in support of higher wages for DSPs. Attendees included more than 1,000 DSPs, family members, self-advocates, and other advocates. They held more than 160 meetings with legislators. That afternoon, the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee held a hearing on HF 873, the bill to increase DSP wages, and approved it for consideration in the Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill.