Senator Abeler – Letter to Governor Walz Regarding the Plight of Disability Service Providers

Thursday, June 4, 2020

VIA ELECTRONIC DELIVERY

Dear Governor Walz and Commissioner Harpstead:

Minnesotans with disabilities have had their lives disrupted in a number of ways during the COVID-19 pandemic including limitations on community-based services. In compliance with Centers of Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing, Executive Order 20-20, and now Executive Order 20-48, several community-based service providers, particularly Day Training & Habilitation service providers, have had to close their doors since March.

Executive Order 20-11 and Executive Order 20-12 gave Commissioner Harpstead and the Department of Human Services (DHS) the necessary flexibility to respond to the pandemic and ensure that vulnerable Minnesotans continue to receive the services they need. We want to thank the administration for the work DHS has done thus far, especially the work that has been done to allow for remote and alternative delivery of Adult Day Services. There is still more that must be done for the other community-based disability service providers in our state.

Service providers who are unable to open have seen significant financial shortfalls. Without swift action, we will see many temporary closures become permanent closures for many providers across our state. We know that these services offer emotional and social supports that greatly contribute to a high quality of life for Minnesotans with disabilities. If more providers close their doors for good, Minnesotans with disabilities will have to bear the burden.

We urge your administration to exhaust all options available under the authority DHS has been granted under Executive Order 20-11 and Executive Order 20-12 to provide short-term financial relief to disability service providers who are unable to open at this time. Executive Order 20-12 explicitly grants your administration the authority to waive or modify state law governing payment procedures, including “payment for closed days.” If federal approval is needed for this modification, we urge Commissioner Harpstead to use the authority under Executive Order 20-11 to seek federal approval at once, as demonstrated in other states who have successfully obtained federal approval.

Additionally, we encourage the administration to utilize authority granted under Executive Order 20-11 and Executive Order 20-12 to provide temporary financial support to Personal Care Assistance providers. Individual personal care assistance providers (PCAs) are important front-line workers who have continued to serve vulnerable Minnesotans every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that PCAs are doing this work despite concerns for their personal health and safety; additional, temporary financial support for their industry is well deserved as a historically underpaid vital service.

Thank you for your attention to these very important matters.

Sincerely,

Senator Abeler           Senator Dziedzic      Senator Limmer           Senator Ruud

Senator Hoffman       Senator Frenz           Senator Westrom        Senator Relph

Senator Wiklund        Senator Wiger          Senator Pratt                Senator Goggin        Senator Marty            Senator Hawj            Senator Newman         Senator Koran

Senator Eken              Senator Eaton           Senator Utke                Senator Simonson  Senator Tomassoni   Senator Kiffmeyer    Senator Draheim          Senator Isaacson

Senator Newton        Senator Dahms         Senator Rarick               Senator Anderson

Senator Pappas         Senator Howe            Senator Senjem            Senator Laine

Senator Chamberlain         Senator Ingebrigtsen

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