Day at Capitol, chance for input, comaraderie

Minnesota Virtual Disability Services Day at the Capitol drew out groups from ProAct in Red Wing and Eagan. Some participated in the online rally and others met with their legislators to share their concerns.

“We talked about funding, how it is important and how it hasn’t kept up with costs,” said Red Wing Case Coordinator Gloria Solsaa. Her group from ProAct met with Rep. Barb Haley (R-Red Wing) and each person shared their thoughts.

After introductions, more than one mentioned the boredom of staying home to avoid coronavirus risks and that they are glad to be back at ProAct. Digging deeper, a question came about when mask mandates would end. “She talked about the reduction in infection rates and increase in vaccinations so the light is at the end of the tunnel,” said Solsaa.

Individuals talked about how hard it is when staff leave and Solsaa said starting wages for ProAct staff need to remain competitive, but additional funding isn’t being provided.

Rep. Haley asked how many hours each person was working, and ProAct participants shared how staff limitations and transportation rules have limited services for them.

Rep. Haley heard that more guidance is needed from the Department of Health and Department of Human Services about loosening restrictions for those who have been fully vaccinated, Solsaa explained. “She said that she thought they meet weekly and that she will bring that up,” said Solsaa.

ProAct participants in Eagan focused their efforts on the online rally itself after some attempts to meet with legislators didn’t work out, explained ADS Program Manager Doug Cowles. Eagan classrooms both in-center and online joined the group of around 500 logged in Zoom users.

When the president of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) asked people to put their location in the chat, Eagan came up amongst many others.

“One of their favorite legislators was Senator (John) Hoffman,” said Program Manager Stephanie Osman. And the executive director from the Winona ORC program was another one the Eagan group enjoyed. She recognized a number of people and raised the excitement level. Some participants watched the rally on Facebook Live.