As we approach the New Year, I want to thank each of you for being a part of NorthEast Residence. I also want to thank Corrine Schmidt for her 28 years of unwavering support to clients, staff, and families of NER. As you are all aware, Corrine is officially retiring from her position of Executive Director on December 31, 2014. I personally want to thank Corrine for being so gracious in this transition from her duties to me in my role as the incoming Executive Director and to Shari Newgard in her position as Program Director. Now we all know Corrine is retiring but we also know she won’t be going far. Thanks Corrine!
As we reflect on the last year and look to the New Year, we have so much to be grateful for and to look forward to. 2014 was a very busy year in that we had new regulations we had to follow and after 28 years NER has new staff leadership. In 2015, we will certainly continue to implement the new regulations and look to implementing the Board approved strategic plan which includes considering an expansion of the services and education we provide. In 2015 we also have the opportunity to engage in the area of advocacy.
The rest of this article will provide an update to you all about the upcoming legislative session and provide you with information about what we are doing at NER and ask each of you to consider taking action.
The legislature goes into session on January 6, 2015 and is scheduled to be finished on May 18, 2015. As you may be aware, the way that we are reimbursed from the state for the services we provide makes it very difficult to provide wage increases to staff without first receiving rate increases from the state for the services we provide to our clients. When I say “the state” what I really mean is the legislature and Governor. So, when the legislature passes and the Governor signs a rate increase, we have been able to provide wage increases (i.e. the increase in 2014).
You will note that the state of Minnesota has a $1 billion surplus that they will either save or spend – probably a combination of both. The House is run by Republicans, the Senate by Democrats and the Governor is a Democrat. Each will have their own priorities and it will be a long session. The priorities include: investments in K-12 spending, long-term care increases, 5% campaign, transportation, college tuition freezes, providing funding for state building projects, etc., etc., etc. Our goal is to be at the top of that list of funding but we cannot succeed at that unless people speak up and that is all of us speaking up individually.
In 2015, NER Board and staff, and clients that want to, will be participating in a bigger way in advocating for rate increases and policy changes. One way that NER has increased our level of advocacy is by hiring me (I am a former lobbyist working on behalf of rate increases), and by officially joining ARRM. ARRM is a trade association made up of other providers of very similar services that we provide. ARRM hires lobbyists and coordinates activities to advocate on behalf of providers, caregivers and the clients we serve. I am very happy that we have joined and we will become active members of ARRM. Other strategies that we plan to undertake are listed below.
Will you consider also taking action?
While my request is not a requirement of you as an employee or friend of NER, I know first-hand that legislators can only hear us when we speak up.
I strongly believe it is a good idea to know who represents you where you live and where you work. If you type in your home and/or work address into the Minnesota House of Representatives website via this website address, http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/, it provides you with the names of the people elected to represent you at the state and federal government. For purposes of what I am talking about today, you should focus on your state elected officials. While Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken are elected officials and generally good people, they do not make decisions on the rates that we are paid to care for our clients in the same way that the state legislators do.
What you can do to make a difference:
¨ Engage in the NER Advocacy Committee – In 2015 we will form planning committees for our activities for the Board and Staff. We will have a new committee for 2015, The Advocacy Committee. Please consider serving on this committee. It will include a field trip to the Capitol and planning visits from legislators to our NER homes!
¨ Send Governor Dayton a holiday card and ask him to support 5% in 2015. Visit the ARRM website at www.arrm.org and print a copy of the card to send to Governor Dayton.
¨ Write to your legislator – use this http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/ link to write a personal letter or e-mail to your legislator. I know they read them. The more they hear from you, their constituents, the more likely they are to listen. If we don’t communicate to them, they don’t know what we need. I have a sample letter you can use if you would like. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like it.
¨ Join the conversation on social media where updates and additional ways to get involved will be posted. Share the campaign’s posts to spread the word!
-Like The 5% Campaign Facebook Page
-Follow @5PercentMN on Twitter.
-View The 5% Campaign on Pinterest
Watch this video clip – http://www.mnvideovault.org/index.php?id=27206&select_index=6&popup=yes#6
The 5% campaign was mentioned on the Almanac TV Show which airs on Friday evenings (and watched by political junkies like me) which highlights the number of issues that lawmakers will be dealing with in the 2015 session. As I said earlier, note that they have a $1 billion surplus that they will either save or spend – probably a combination of both.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your service to NER! Have a very Happy New Year!
Heidi Holste, Executive Director