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Support shown for rate increase for disability services

(Updated 12:46 p.m. 3/19)

(CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the sponsor of HF2408. Rep. Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids) sponsors the bill.)

Direct care professional Kim MacInnes is college educated, and at the end of a 19-year career that included 15 years with one company, she made $10.22 an hour.

Testifying Tuesday before the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee about the challenging work done in her work as a direct care professional, she broke down into tears as she explained how the stress of over-work due to understaffing led her to change her career.

Kim Macinnes, director support professional for REM MN, right, and Jody Fisher, a self-advocate from Rochester, testify before the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee March 18 in support of HF2408. Photo by Andrew VonBank

“It’s upsetting because I’ve been with my clients for a long time,” MacInnes said. “I love them and I know that they trust me and want me to stay, but… it’s gotten too hard.”

Rep. Jerry Newton (DFL-Coon Rapids) sponsors HF2408, which would require the Department of Human Services to apply a 5 percent reimbursement rate increase for facilities that care for people with developmental disabilities and for providers of home and community-based services. The home and community-based services program allows individuals who meet certain criteria to receive services outside of an institutional setting, such as a nursing home.

According to the bill, providers and facilities would have to use 75 percent of the additional funds resulting from the 5 percent raise to increase the pay or other benefits, such as health insurance, of certain employees.

The committee laid the bill over for possible omnibus bill inclusion. A companion, SF1993, sponsored by Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

Multiple representatives spoke in support of HF2408 while stating that they may not be able to approve the full 5 percent requested in the bill.

No one would argue that the employees need a raise, said Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka). He added, however, that the cost to the state to enact the bill is more than the committee’s funding target, which makes it likely the facilities and providers would not receive the full 5 percent rate increase. He asked proponents of the bill to take their request to the governor.

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) agreed that committee members would prefer to have more funds, but said they would have to make do with the funds they have to work with. Perhaps, the state would have more funds, she added, if there were less insistence “on the other side of the aisle” to cut taxes.

Another representative expressed concerns about facilities and providers in Greater Minnesota. If the Legislature passes a minimum wage increase to $9.50, asked Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River), how would the many facilities and providers that pay less than $9.50 afford to stay open without the 5 percent raise from the state? He, too, called on bill advocates to take their request to higher levels of leadership.

A bipartisan approach is needed, Nelson said in his closing remarks on the bill. “We, in our respective caucuses, need to go to our leadership and work on coming up with the additional $20 million that this is going to cost,” he said.

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