ProAct participants and staff from Red Wing enjoyed an informative Capitol tour followed by an engaging sit-down session with their state senator and representative.
Rep. Barb Haley and Sen. Mike Goggin took many questions from participants and staff and expressed their support for disability services.
“One of the things we want to make sure continues is to provide choice,” said Case Coordinator Gloria Solsaa, referring to threats to the special minimum wage option that many utilize at ProAct. “It’s important to our individuals to have that base of work in-center.”
Sen. Goggin said there’s nothing better than a good days work, accomplishing something and feeling proud about what you’ve done. “I don’t want to see that go away either.”
After some discussion about limited employment options for people with disabilities in small towns like Red Wing, the senator later went on to say that the ability to maneuver and match skill-sets to different jobs is important. “I’m an options person . . . I like a lot of flexibility because things are different. You can’t put everything in a square box and call it good. It doesn’t work for everybody.”
Participant Stephanie McLain said keeping good staff all comes down to money.
“We have to fund the reimbursement those folks get,” said Rep. Haley, “in order to provide caregivers for your support.” The representative said she is a co-author of a bill to increase that funding and she has done that in the past. The goal is to increase the reimbursement rates year after year rather than “playing catchup.”
Solsaa said unfilled staff positions limit participant options for community outings and volunteering. Her comments were echoed by Case Coordinator Rachel NaSal. “Keeping people safe, that’s our job number one. The extras we are supposed to be doing, we can’t do, because we don’t have the staffing.”
Rep. Haley has visited ProAct on several occasions, and Sen. Goggin was on hand for the nonprofit’s 50th Anniversary open house last fall. Both have met and talked with several participants in the past, before the Capitol meeting.
The group of eight participants and three staff visited the House and Senate chambers, the Supreme Court and the governor’s office where bill signings and other special events are held.
They also discussed several local items and community organizations people are involved with. Two of ProAct’s participants were planning to return to the Capitol for a Council on Quality and Leadership meeting in March.