Editor’s Column – May 2015

I’m wearing a short sleeve shirt today for the first time this season. I’m sitting in my office with the […]

Tim BenjaminI’m wearing a short sleeve shirt today for the first time this season. I’m sitting in my office with the window open, too, and am very comfortable. Summer warmth has officially begun. I hope it sticks around.

The end of the 2015 legislative session is around the corner. The gavel will fall to end the session on May 18, but there’s still a lot up in the air. The next couple weeks will be very busy at the capitol.

There are plenty of questions and concerns in the community about the program that was PCA Choice. It has been redesigned and is now called Participant Employment Options (PEO). All those who were on PCA Choice will need to decide which of two PEO models to use, but they’re not well defined yet. The Department of Human Services has offered to provide information, receive suggestions, and answer questions. We should take them up on the offer in order to make sure this program works even better than PCA choice. Some obvious questions concern whether or not individuals or their families will become employers, and whether individuals and families will become responsible for, say, unemployment insurance, liability insurance and employer tax requirements. The state’s original PCA program, before there were agencies, worked this way and it was charged with being fraud-ridden and full of tax problems.

The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ (MN-CCD) PCA/CFSS Work Group submitted 45 questions to DHS to be addressed and answered before MN-CCD would endorse the program. They haven’t yet received the answers. There have been continuous delays on Community First Support Services, and while they wait for federal decisions, DHS is introducing this new program as a transitional approach.

Partners in Policymaking, a program offered by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, is accepting applications for the 2015 session. All self-advocates who really want to become good at their craft should get into this. The sessions are held once a month, on Fridays and Saturdays, for nine months. You can learn some vital information about how to keep our disability rights movement strong, in a fun environment with peers you’ll get to know and enjoy for life. People who have gone through the program have nothing but praise about the experience. They talk about gaining confidence and self-determination and learning to reject No or that’s not possible as an acceptable answer. There are many scholarships, and most of the program is paid for, so the only out-of-pocket expense is what you want to donate to support this incredible training program.

We have an article by Carrie Salberg, a board member of Access Press, on sub-minimum wages and how other state legislatures are restructuring and cutting back on a practice that goes back to 1938, when a law was passed to help employers hire veterans who came back from war with a disability. Salberg has shared some pretty sobering statistics: in 1977 only 10% of people in sheltered workshops ever worked outside the walls of the workshop, and by 2001 only 5% ever left the sheltered workshop. The intent of the law was to give veterans with disabilities a learning platform to move back into the mainstream workforce. That’s not what’s happening today. The Employment First policies of the Olmstead Plan may eliminate the sub-minimum wage and these obsolete practices.

Speaking of the Olmstead Plan, there is plenty of misinformation out there concerning the plan and its Employment First policies. These laws will eventually allow people with disabilities to live more independently with much better opportunities to live where we want in our communities, and to get jobs that pay a livable income. On page 7, we have a Q&A about these two plans that will be helpful for any of you who might be concerned that these plans may affect you detrimentally.

In July, Access Press will celebrate its 25th anniversary— along with the ADA. We’ll have much more discussion about both celebrations in the June issue of Access Press.

Don’t forget to submit requests for our St. Paul Saints baseball tickets; a note on the criteria for the giveaway is on page 12. Check it out and we’ll see you at a Saints game at their new, more accessible downtown stadium.

Have a good month, and if you want to share any news or comment, you know how to contact us. We’ll talk soon.

 

 

 

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