This November is the first one in 15 years when we haven’t held the Charlie Smith Awards banquet. I missed the ceremony, and I even missed the work that it took to put it together (although the heaviest load was always carried by my coworkers, Dawn, Michelle, Jane, and Board members who started months before and kept at it through every minute of the event). This year, as we deal with financial challenges and strategies, we just couldn’t, ironically, afford to put together what we always affectionately called “a fundraiser.” Unfortunately, while the dinner was always fun it never raised very much in the way of funds. But the Charlie Smith Award will continue. We want to keep doing some kind of gathering that can also be a helpful fundraiser, and we’d like to do it soon. In the first part of next year, along with support from UCare and some other philanthropic supporters, we’ll start planning to make sure it’s run lean and cost effectively while still being one of the best gatherings in Minnesota for the disability community. It’s important that we honor Charlie and all the people who have come to this event over the years to enjoy time with others they don’t get to spend time with throughout the year. If any of you have ideas on how to have a celebration and honor a community member who has made the disability community better, stronger and more cohesive, let us know.~
The Minneapolis City Council passed a $15.00 wage bill last year that was very confusing, and it will be phased in over many years to come. Now, the St. Paul City Council is considering a similar law. No one would like to see this happen more than I would. If it were only up to me, I’d say let’s start the increase at the beginning of this year. But I know that that cannot happen. There are far too many other factors to consider. What if an employee travels in different parts of the metro area and makes $15 per-hour in St. Paul and Minneapolis but when they crossed the line into a suburb, they would make a different pay? The accounting alone would be a nightmare along with agency staff-hours to keep it all straight. I’m thinking here mostly about the PCA program, but what if it was another business, like Applebee’s—would employees make more money inside the city limits than Applebee employees in the suburbs? Unfortunately, this is a question that should have been thought about years ago. By the time the phase in period happens in 2020 or 2025, $15 per-hour won’t be a livable wage. (Some people say it is not a livable wage today.)
Health and Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper tabled the sub-committee’s Olmstead plan to give DHS more time to understand the recommendations and estimate what the proposals will cost, including how they’ll be affected by the workforce crisis. Commissioner Piper has had two months to look over this plan and could have had some talking points, some questions, some recommendations and some thoughts on how to resolve work shortage that she could bring to the legislature. The rumor is that the delay is intended to see who will be elected governor and who will be appointed Health and Human Services Commissioner. By the time you read this, we will know who our new Governor is and who will be our next Commissioner of Minnesota Health and Human Services.
Usually, we have lots of articles about people with disabilities and employment. We did not get too many this year; I hope that’s a good sign and that our people are working and don’t have time to write about their job search. There sure seem to be more incentives to employ people in every job sector. There’s no doubt that workforce shortages throughout business mean that companies are more willing to employ people with disabilities. Let’s hope that the result is a turnaround in employment rates for people with disabilities. All we’ve needed for a long time is to get our foot in the door because once they find out what great workers we are, employers won’t let us go.
It is starting to get colder, and the snow is just around the corner. Be prepared, and read the article that Jane wrote about winter safety on page 3. There’s lots of useful information that we all may know but can use a reminder about. Let’s have a good winter with lots of fun, slip sliding away without an injury or a cold.
I hope you all did your civic duty on November 6. By the time you read this, we’ll all be thinking about what the elections mean for 2019.
Please send us your thoughts for the Charlie Smith Award celebration. Let’s see if we can come up with an excellent way to do three things: honor one of our own with the Charlie Smith Award; raise funds for Access Press; and make sure everyone in the disability community who wants to, can attend.