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Long-Awaited State Funding To Go Toward Disability Services

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities have suffered unforeseen consequences of COVID-19.

Not from getting sick, but seeing their services go away due to social distancing and other restrictions.

WCCO shares how long-awaited state funding will help and what these programs mean for some of Minnesota's most vulnerable.

For the last decade, Chris Poppe has watched her daughter, Lisa thrive at Rise -- a program committed to breaking down barriers for people with disabilities to live their best lives.

"People who have disabilities are often, well they are marginalized," Poppe said.

"My favorite things to do are exercise and go on the bike," her daughter, Lisa said.

Lisa was also working six hours a day doing computer data entry.

"Well, all of a sudden one day it was don't come in anymore. That's the way it was for six months basically," Poppe said.

They are one of 3,500 Minnesota families who received services at one of 30 Rise locations last year. From transportation and employment help, to art and music therapy.

Lynn Noren is president and CEO of Rise.

"What that meant is most of the people in these services meant they were home 24 hours a day," Noren said.

Noren says the pandemic has cost them $1 million a month in lost billing. Forcing nearly half of their employees to lose their jobs.

Finally, after waiting for months, some relief came at the capitol this week setting aside some $30 million in CARES Act money to disability service retention and public health grants for places like Rise.

"Decrease our losses by about a third which is huge helps us tremendously without those dollars really a little uncertain about the future," Noren explained.

For now, that future includes serving about 20% of the clients they once did. Social distancing restrictions and other health concerns will still keep most home.

Lisa's back to work a few hours a day as the fight continues to make sure those like her aren't forgotten.

"We hope over time just to get back to normal like everyone else," Noren said.

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