I am writing this in the last week of October, and the trees outside my window are covered with snow. This early stuff will be gone in a day or two, but it won’t be long before snow has covered the ground completely until March or April at least. I’m not looking forward to the cold. I know plenty of people who love winter because of the chance to get outdoors for sports like hockey or skiing. I even watch those extreme wilderness types on YouTube who like to camp in the snow. But my shiver threshold is way too low for that. The weather has been so unpredictable, dry to the point of wildfires in the western states and severe flooding with hurricanes and tornadoes in the eastern states. But here in Minnesota, winter is dependably coming.
Well, the campaign messaging and advertisements are nearly over, and with any luck by the time you read this, we will all know who our president will be for the next four years. I hope the candidate you voted for was the winner. As a first priority, I hope the new president and legislators will be able to turn down the pandemic and get the economy back in order. We have to get people back to work and move into a somewhat normal lifestyle again. Since this is a column, I can go ahead and tell you I voted for Joe Biden, not least because I think that he is best equipped to fight the pandemic. Whoever won, I am really concerned that we round the corner and solve this virus problem. There can’t be any solid improvement in the economy until we do. While the rich are still getting richer, almost everybody else has to hope for a government stimulus. The extent of homelessness is unbelievable, and the food shelves have record-breaking usage and are running out of food. This is not a greater America.
It seems odd to me that there hasn’t been more stimulus money to keep some of the hospitals afloat. M Health Fairview is going to shut down Bethesda Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital. St. Joe’s won’t be closed for a year or so, while it functions as Fairview’s leading COVID hospital, but Bethesda is closing down right away. Many of us have stayed at Bethesda hospital for transition from a major hospital stay before we were discharged to go home. It was just recently remodeled for the overflow of COVID-19 patients. Fairview must’ve lost a lot of money to have paid for the remodeling and then right away decide to close. Within a couple weeks Ramsey County announced that it would lease the Bethesda facility and use it as a homeless shelter. I would hope they could also use it as a medical facility for the homeless and disabled.
In the most recent special session to approve the governor’s continuance of the orders of a peacetime emergency, the legislature passed a bonding bill. The bonding bill will increase funding for rebuilding state infrastructure like highways, bridges and many state facilities. Along with the infrastructure funding, there were also some changes to the PCA program related to the COVID pandemic. One change that we know of for sure is that the number of hours per month a PCA can work has changed from 275 to 310. The legislation also allows, temporarily until Feb 7, 2021, for parents and spouses to work as PCAs for their family members. There is also a temporary increase, through February 7, 2021, in the reimbursement rate for PCA agencies.
It sure would be nice if all of this was retroactive going back to March and would continue indefinitely, as all our advocates were requesting. I believe this is coming too late, but better late than never. No question something needs to be done about increasing the availability of home care rather than hospitalization or institutionalization of people with disabilities who need help. Of course we also need low-income housing so people with disabilities can live independently in their own apartments or houses. It really saddens me to see all the tents in the parks with people using walkers and wheelchairs to get from tent to public transportation– which is limited now also.
Have a good month. I know we’ll have a lot more to talk about next month after the election. It’ll be interesting to see how many changes there will be at the state and national levels. Will people once again choose to have “divided government” with opposing parties controlling the legislature and Congress? See you for post-election conversation on Facebook or Twitter.
Stay healthy and stay warm!