Bills to strengthen Minnesota’s direct care workforce and promote independent living heard in Human Services Reform

Minnesota is facing a workforce shortage crisis for direct support professionals who provide care for people with disabilities. Wages for many direct support staff in this field are less than $12 an hour for very demanding work, and are almost entirely influenced by the reimbursement rates set by the state. People working in this field provide essential, life-changing services to our seniors and people with disabilities. The services provided help people stay in their homes and communities and avoid expensive institutional care like nursing homes.

The Senate Human Services Reform Committee heard two bills this week to address the workforce issues for home and community based services and to promote independent living for people with disabilities.

The first bill increases the individual reimbursement rates for various Medicaid home and community-based services by 4% on July 1, 2017 and another 4% on July 1, 2018. To target the funding increase on direct support staff, the bill requires employers to increase employee wages by 4% to match the rate reimbursement increase. (SF 669)

The second bill proposes a number of policy reforms and has five main components to strengthen the workforce and to promote people with disabilities living independently:

  • streamline background checks for child foster care to increase turnaround times and put staff to work more quickly;
  • clearly define volunteers and natural supports so friends and family are able to assist with care;
  • ensure people with disabilities have choices and options available to move into more independent settings by expanding the continuum of services to cover individualized home supports;
  • enhance the use of technology for people with disabilities by requiring a discussion of technology options available to them when developing care plans; and
  • modify the training requirements for direct support staff by allowing for a competency-based training system. (SF 359)

Both bills will be considered further this session as the Legislature prepares the state’s budget.

Senate DFL Media