COVID-19 Updates

 

UPDATE: April 2nd, 2020

 

A Message from Brian Benshoof, CEO

 

Hi everyone,

 

I hope you are all doing ok. I know one of the questions on all of our minds is, “When will we be able to return to work?”. Right now, that is a hard question to answer.

 

Our goal from the beginning is to keep you and the people we serve safe and that is still our focus today. We have been following the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health and the Governor’s recent stay at home order which is in effect through April 10th.

 

The end of that order does not necessarily mean we are safe to return. We will continue to listen to the state and federal experts for guidance as it seems the next two weeks are critical in the life of this epidemic.

 

Despite the desire to return to work, we will not put you, your family or our clients at risk.

 

In the meantime, we are seeking financial relief through grants and loans and have made application for aid through the Federal CARES Act.

 

We also continue to be fully engaged with the State of Minnesota in efforts to restore our program funding. Stay tuned to this site and I will give more updates as things happen.

 

These are very challenging times and I ask that you continue to keep yourself safe, take care of your families and know we will do all we can to come back strong as soon as we possible.

 

Stay strong,

 

Brian

 

UPDATE: MARCH 31, 2020

 

Your Voice Continues to be Needed

 

Below is a request we received from ANCOR, who has been advocating for organizations such as MRCI on a federal level. Please take 2 minutes to click the link and to help us thank and advocate again!

 

The Ask: Use ANCOR’s one-click email tool to (1) thank Congress for including key disability provisions in the CARES Act, which became law last week, and (2) lay out essential next steps Congress must take to further stabilize I/DD supports during the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

The Details: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law by the president on Friday, March 27. It contained three key provisions (listed below) which ANCOR’s community of advocates fought hard to obtain in the week leading up to the vote. Thanking your members of Congress when they support important disability legislation creates long-term goodwill and an opportunity to lay groundwork for future advocacy. In particular, thank Congress for:

 

• Making permanent “Margie and Isaiah’s Law,” which enables states to reimburse Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) for the time they spend supporting individuals during short-term hospitalizations.

 

• Making Medicaid-funded disability service providers eligible for emergency small business loans. Medicaid providers had been excluded in previous drafts, but your advocacy made a difference!

 

• Renewing the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program through November 30, 2020.

 

In addition to expressing our appreciation, please help educate Congress on important next steps it must take when working on a fourth COVID-19 relief package in May. Notably, advocates should emphasize the need to (1) improve provider organizations’ cash flow to ensure they can sustain their operations; (2) prevent the closure of programs or service lines on which people with I/DD rely; and (3) supercharge staff stabilization efforts so providers are well-equipped to retain, recruit and protect the health of direct support professionals.

 

By taking action today, you will help members of Congress and their staff—many of whom have been working tirelessly to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are met during this global health pandemic—feel appreciated. In turn, this will encourage their openness to future proposals that further stabilize disability supports.

 

Program Suspensions

 

At this time, the MRCI programs that were originally suspended are still suspended. There are no changes or announcements at this time. Decisions will be made after the Governor’s Stay at Home Order ends, which is at least through April 10, 2020.

 

UPDATE: MARCH 27, 2020

 

Message from Brian

 

To our MRCI Staff,

As we end our first full week of suspended services, I just want to let you know you are not forgotten. Speaking for myself and the Leadership Team, we are thinking about you every day and we miss your presence at work. We are concerned about your health and wellbeing and are hoping that all our efforts will continue to keep you all safe. We will follow the guidance we are given from our Governor and the medical experts regarding our return to work. Unfortunately, as you know, we have had to extend our suspension per the Governors order this week. We continue to do our best to keep MRCI’s business functions going, doing most of that work from home. We also have spent a great deal of time working the legislature and paying close attention to the financial relief that will be coming from Washington. I will post any updates as we have them, but nothing new today. Please continue to take care of yourselves and hopefully we will be back together soon. Brian

 

Updated Contact information

 

If you are a client, client team member, or community employer and need to speak with someone at MRCI, please choose from the following options:

 

• For Mankato, New Ulm, Fairmont, or surrounding southern Minnesota communities, please call Nate Lotton at 507-420-1273.

 

• For Shakopee, Chaska, Rosemount, or surrounding metro communities, please call Tina Stofferahn at 507-995-7127.

 

If you are a client of MRCI-Client Directed Services or a PCA and you need to speak to someone, please call 800-829-7110.

 

If you are an MRCI employee who works at one of our office locations or contracted community employment sites and have an employment or benefits related question, please call Bonnie Barnhardt at 507-720-8398.

 

For all other urgent matters, please call Janette Hughes at 507-380-2586.

 

UPDATE: MARCH 25, 2020

 

Governor's Stay at Home Executive Order

 

In response to the Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 recommendations and Gov. Tim Walz's orders, MRCI has extended the suspension of programs until at least April 10, 2020.

 

Programs, staff, clients and families previous impacted by COVID-19 are still impacted. We are asking that all friends of MRCI, please do everything within their power to abide by this executive order. You can find updated information on a dedicated hotline (the recorded message can be accessed by calling 507-386-5629).

 

As a reminder the following programs are impacted:

 

Program Sites with Suspended Programming will be extended until at least April 10, 2020

 

MRCI sites impacted include:

 

• East Park Location (Mankato)

 

• Map Drive Location (Mankato)

 

• Fairmont Location

 

• New Ulm Location

 

• Rosemount Location

 

• Shakopee Location

 

• Chaska Location

 

Retail sites closed until at least April 10, 2020 include:

 

• MRCI Bargains (New Ulm)

 

• MRCI Thrift Shop & Donation Center (Mankato)

 

Programs still operating with minimal in-person contact advisories in place

 

• Employment Services (Rosemount, Shakopee/Chaska, Mankato, Fairmont, New Ulm): MRCI will continue to support clients in job search or who work in the community, along with their community employers, to maintain employment and follow the guidance of the business partner and the State of Minnesota’s COVID-19 executive orders.

 

• Individual Placement & Supports (IPS): Blue Earth, Nicollet, LeSueur, and Brown counties as well as IPS-like in Carver County will remain open but virtual meetings/teleconferencing will be utilized instead of in-person meetings.

 

• MRCI – Client Directed Services (statewide).

 

• We are doing the very best to ensure there is no interruption in the payroll process, paying goods and service vendors and hiring employees. If you have questions for our CDS staff, please reach out via phone at 800-829-7110.

 

• Additionally, MRCI-CDS is asking all families supported to review back-up staffing plans to ensure the continuation of care.

 

• MFIP/DWP/SNAP Programs – Blue Earth County Employment Services and Steele County Employment Services will remain open at this time utilizing social distancing, to serve clients currently active or referred by their county financial assistance representative.

 

Your Voice is Needed

 

URGENT ACTION NEEDED: Urge legislators to include people with disabilities & mental health issues in COVID-19 Emergency Relief funding!

 

Last week, Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-12, which allowed for regulatory flexibility in human services programs to best support Minnesotans with disabilities and mental health challenges during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

 

As legislators plan to return to the Capitol this week and in future weeks to work on COVID emergency funding relief measures, we need them to address the significant financial challenges impacting service providers and nonprofit advocacy organizations that are working to support people with disabilities and those with mental health issues as we all navigate the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Contact your legislators TODAY with the message below. Here is a link where you can find out who represents you: https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/

 

Dear [legislator name],
I know that you have worked hard to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19/coronavirus on Minnesotans statewide, and appreciate the measures put in place thus far.

 

However, the depth of this crisis greatly impacts individuals with disabilities and those with mental health challenges, their family members, and support professionals - who are at even higher risk due to underlying health conditions, low income, and food/housing insecurity.

 

This also comes at a time when our current network of disability and mental health supports is at the brink of collapse due to the widespread workforce shortage.

 

That’s why - now more than ever - we need to maintain stability and consistency in service provision, service navigation, and advocacy to help ensure that people with disabilities and those with mental health issues can stay healthy in their homes and communities.

 

We need you to continue considering the needs of disability and mental health community members as you develop COVID-19 emergency relief legislation. PLEASE include grant funding for disability & mental health service providers, and nonprofit advocacy organizations that help connect community members to critical supports during the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Your action is more critical now than ever as this crisis deepens with each passing day, and is vital for the health and stability of Minnesotans with disabilities and those with mental health challenges.

 

Thank you.

 

UPDATE: MARCH 23, 2020

 

A Note from Brian

 

Hi everyone,

 

First of all, I hope you all are doing ok and are staying safe. Here are a few updates from the leadership team. At the end of last week, the decision was made to move many of the staff who have remained working at MRCI locations to working at home. This includes our CDS staff and our financial staff at Map Drive. We will continue to operate our MFIP programs from their locations for now, as well as some community employment work. The leadership team will also begin working from home starting Tuesday. We continue to put the safety of our staff and their families at the top of our list.

 

MRCI and its state associations working around the clock to influence state and federal leaders to fund relief for our industry. The Governors recent executive order giving him authority to waive federal regulations regarding waivered services is a positive start. We are pressing to have him use that authority to free dollars to fund us while we are suspended. I will update you when we know more. This past week has been very unsettling to us all. We have adapted the best we know how and we will come back strong when we can do so. In the meantime, take good care of yourself and your family. Keep checking here each day for updates. Brian

 

UPDATE: MARCH 20, 2020

 

It’s been a busy day staying in touch with state and federal legislators.

 

State Legislative Update:

 

Earlier today, Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-12, giving the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services authority to temporarily waive or modify provisions found in any of the following:

 

• The Human Services Licensing Act

• The Human Services Background Study Act

 

The Executive Order also applies to:

 

• Provisions with respect to the use, licensing, certification, evaluation, or approval of facilities or programs within the commissioner’s jurisdiction;

• Provisions related to appeals;

• Provisions with respect to background studies required to be conducted by the Department of Human Services;

 

Many of the provisions included in Executive Order 20-12 were also included in recently-sought legislation SF4200.

 

As clarifying language becomes available, we will be sure to share.

 

Federal Legislation (Revised Appeal)

 

On the federal level, a bill is being presented that would provide additional funding for providers impacted by COVID-19. Please use the email link to send emails to your personal legislators. It does not take long and you do not need to know the contact information of your legislators. This is an updated appeal to meet the ever-changing information available to us through ANCOR.

 

Residential Partners: Employment Opportunity (repeated)

 

If your job was impacted and are a team member who wants to pick up some hours with our residential providers, we are moving forward with staff who have their 245D training completed first. To be contacted about the employment opportunities, now is the time to reach out to Lindsey Ferguson by calling 507-386-5710 or emailing (lferguson@mymrci.org). Please note that this opportunity allows you to protect your sick and vacation balances.

 

Program Sites with Suspended Programming (repeated)

 

MRCI will close on-site services at our 7 client-program locations starting Wednesday, March 18 through at least March 31, 2020.

 

• East Park Location (Mankato)

• Map Drive Location (Mankato)

• Fairmont Location

• New Ulm Location

• Rosemount Location

• Shakopee Location

• Chaska Location

 

Retail sites closed include:

 

• MRCI Bargains (New Ulm)

• MRCI Thrift Shop & Donation Center (Mankato)

 

On-Going Communication

 

You can find updated information on a dedicated hotline (the recorded message can be accessed by calling 507-386-5629).

 

UPDATE: MARCH 19, 2020

 

Note from Brian:

 

I want to thank you all for your professionalism and understanding this week as we have processed all we have to do to be safe. You are all demonstrating the MRCI Team Promises at their highest level. I am extremely proud to work with you! They say the adversity always makes you stronger. I think that is true.

 

We continue to work to find funding solutions with the state to restore our payroll and are working with or residential partners to find work opportunities to offer to you.

 

Here are a few updates:

 

Residential Partners: Employment Opportunity

 

If your job was impacted and are a team member who wants to pick up some hours with our residential providers, we are moving forward with staff who have their 245D training completed first. To be contacted about the employment opportunities, now is the time to reach out to Lindsey Ferguson by calling 507-386-5710 or emailing (lferguson@mymrci.org). Please note that this opportunity allows you to protect your sick and vacation balances.

 

Residential Partners: Hire Our Trained Staff Opportunity

 

If you are a residential provider who would like to contract with MRCI to hire trained 245D staff, contact Lindsey Ferguson by calling 507-386-5710 or emailing (lferguson@mymrci.org).

 

Business Partners: Do you need trained staff?

 

If you are business partner, who has previously contracted with MRCI and are in need of additional staff during this time, we are also willing to alter contracts to utilize our staff. Please contact Melinda Wedzina at 507-386-5603.

 

Stay Connected

 

One of our very own, Dave Potts, established a Facebook Page: MRCI Stay Connected to keep us all connected. This is not an MRCI sponsored page; however, we wanted everyone who to know.

 

Federal Legislation

 

On the federal level, a bill is being presented that would provide additional funding for providers impacted by COVID-19. Please use the email link to send emails to your personal legislators. It does not take long and you do not need to know the contact information of your legislators, so if you have a couple minutes to spare, click the “email tool” link above to reach out to your legislators.

 

State Legislation

 

The Minnesota legislature passed emergency funding for hospitals, nursing homes, and other health facilities to address the COVID-19/coronavirus public health crisis.

 

Meanwhile, stakeholders were working together to pass additional language that would have offered some regulatory flexibility for disability service providers - including Personal Care Assistance and Home & Community Based Services - to best support Minnesotans with disabilities during these chaotic and uncertain times.

 

Unfortunately, this critical legislation, Senate File 4200, was not included in the COVID-19 relief bill. (Special thanks to MOHR who shared this information with us so we could also act.)

 

We urgently NEED YOUR HELP to get this passed. Contact your legislators RIGHT NOW, asking them to come back to the Capitol this week to pass SF 4200 to make sure people with disabilities have access to critical services and stay healthy in their homes.

 

Please contact your legislators with the message below.

 

 

Dear [legislator name],
I know that you have worked hard to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19/coronavirus on Minnesotans statewide, and appreciate the measures put in place thus far.

 

However, the depth of this crisis greatly impacts individuals with disabilities, their family members, and support professionals - who are at even higher risk due to underlying health conditions, low income, and food/housing insecurity.

 

This also comes at a time when our current network of disability supports is at the brink of collapse due to the widespread workforce shortage. Providers need flexibility to support individuals in new and different ways immediately to preserve access to services and avoid unnecessary hospitalization during this public health crisis.

 

That’s why we URGE you to reconvene at the Capitol IMMEDIATELY to pass Senate File 4200, which creates more flexibility in our service systems so individuals with disabilities can stay healthy at home.

 

That’s why we URGE you to reconvene at the Capitol IMMEDIATELY to pass Senate File 4200, which creates more flexibility in our service systems so individuals with disabilities can stay healthy at home.

 

Please return to the Capitol NOW to pass S.F. 4200. Your action is more critical now than ever as this crisis deepens with each passing day, and is vital for the health and stability of Minnesota’s disability community.

 

 

Here is a link to where you can find out who represents you:
https://www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/

 

UPDATE: MARCH 17, 2020

 

The health and safety of the individuals we serve and our staff continues to be our top priority. We will continue to take guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Human Services and other leading agencies.

 

Programs still operating with minimal in-person contact advisories in place

 

• Community Sites (statewide): MRCI will work with our community employers, who directly employ individuals served by MRCI, to follow the guidance of the business partner. If the business is staying open, we will continue to coordinate transportation and job supports as we do now. Additionally, MRCI staff will remain in conversations with persons served and guardians to confirm plans for their ability to work.

 

• MRCI – Client Directed Services (statewide) will remain open at this time.

 

• During these next two weeks we ask all clients, families and direct care workers who need to drop items off please do so using the designated envelope at the Premier Drive location. Our staff will do the very best to ensure there is no interruption in the payroll process, paying goods and service vendors and hiring employees. The State of Minnesota is actively working on contingency plans to ensure no interruption as well.

 

• Additionally, MRCI-CDS is asking all families supported to review back-up staffing plans to ensure the continuation of care.

 

• MFIP/DWP/SNAP Programs – Blue Earth County Employment Services and Steele County Employment Services will remain open at this time utilizing social distancing, to serve clients currently active or referred by their county financial assistance representative.

 

• Individual Placement & Supports (IPS) – Blue Earth, Nicollet, LeSueur and Brown counties will remain open. No new referrals will be accepted for IPS services during the suspension. Clients currently in job search mode and/or working will continue to be served by their MRCI representative as possible. Virtual meetings and teleconferencing will be utilized instead of in-person meetings.

 

Program Sites with Suspended Programming as of Wednesday, March 18, 2020

 

MRCI will close on-site services at our 7 client-program locations starting Wednesday, March 18 through at least March 31, 2020.

 

• East Park Location (Mankato)

• Map Drive Location (Mankato)

• Fairmont Location

• New Ulm Location

• Rosemount Location

• Shakopee Location

• Chaska Location

 

• MRCI staff will be contacting today (Tuesday) the persons impacted during this suspension of programming with an additional memo outlining program impact. We will work with these individuals, guardians and their teams to determine the best plan for their health and safety.

 

Retail sites closed starting Wednesday include:

 

• MRCI Bargains (New Ulm)

 

Staff Impact

 

All MRCI staff are to report to work on Wednesday, when instructions will be provided regarding work status as well as other options.

 

Future Communication/Resources

 

You will be able to find the most current MRCI status on our website (mymrci.org) and available on a dedicated hotline (the recorded message can be accessed by calling 507-386-5629).

 

Resources on COVID-19 are available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html or https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

 

Note from Brian Benshoof, CEO:

 

I want you to know that these decisions are very difficult, but must be done first and foremost with the health and safety of you and our clients in mind.

 

The hard reality is that this will result in the temporary layoff of most of our program and other support staff during this time period. We will retain some personnel to maintain the business operations of the organization, but will operate with a very small workforce

 

We are in extraordinary days right now and all I can ask of you is to bear with us, knowing we are going to do all we can to bring things back to normal as soon as possible. We are working around the clock through our state associations to seek financial assistance to restore lost wages and benefits you may use. We will let you know immediately when we know something new. In the meantime, please take care of yourself and your families and continue to limit your exposure to others.

 

UPDATE: MARCH 16, 2020

 

• Starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020 -- everyone entering an MRCI location or bus/multi-passenger vehicle will be screened for temperature and respiratory symptoms. If a persistent cough and/or temperature of 100.4oF or greater is present (per CDC guidelines), the individual will be asked to stay home or away from MRCI locations, related work sites, and vehicles until 24 hours fever free AND no further respiratory symptoms without medication. Individuals at MRCI sites needing to wait for a ride will be escorted to the designated isolation room. Bus drivers and ERT members will be asked to provide the screenings at sites and before clients enter a vehicle.

 

Until further notice, MRCI will also adopt the following social distancing measures:

• Temporarily restrict non-essential visitors from its locations (speakers, art/music therapy, outside consultants, WIOA career counseling, etc.).

• Temporarily suspend in-person client team meetings and work-related meetings; use virtual options instead.

• Reduce large gatherings of employees or clients within its buildings and temporarily suspend after-work functions.

• Limit non-essential work travel.

• Increase physical space between individuals in work and program spaces.

• Temporarily suspend client community activities that increase the risk of public transmission. Outdoor activities without travel such as nature walks are still acceptable with social distancing.

• Use larger vehicles for client transportation to job sites, when available, rather than smaller vehicles.

 

It is also recommended that immunocompromised staff members contact HR for possible accommodations.

Immunocompromised or medically fragile clients should consider going on interrupted status and staying home until the risk of community transmission has subsided.

 

UPDATE: MARCH 6, 2020

 

 General precautions against coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

• Hand wash frequently – upon arrival and multiple times a day. Soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

• Use hand sanitizer between hand washings for further prevention. Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• Cough and sneeze into a clean tissue or elbow rather than a hand and discard tissue, if applicable. Immediately wash hands using protocol above. Use sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.

• Refrain from touching your eyes, mouth, nose, and face.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.

• Stay home if you’re sick with cough, fever, shortness of breath.

• Wipe down common surfaces (door handles, tabletops, chairs, desks, faucets, drinking fountains, lockers, etc.) with disinfectant frequently following the EPA guidelines on the label of the product for contact.

 

Additional recommendations specific to our programs and line of work:

• Regularly spray disinfectant on commonly used items (jigs, craft supplies, games).

• Consult with IT on disinfecting electronic devices that involve touching.

• Consider refraining from using common pens or other hand-held items.

• Always practice universal precautions when dealing with bodily fluids.

 

 

15 Map Drive Mankato, MN 56001

MRCI is a Affirmative Action  Equal Opportunity Employer

 

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