DFL legislators are exploring ways to help cover costs for disability service providers – who have had to close or severely limit services because of the Stay-Safe-at-Home Executive Order – and increase payment and reimbursement rates for PCAs and direct support workers amid COVID-19.
Many disability providers are struggling to cover their rent, utilities, and other fixed costs as a result of the pandemic. Senate DFLers have been working to find solutions to ensure the state’s day and employment service providers–who offer a range of therapies, skill building opportunities, and employment training–are given help for their required expenses and are exploring options for alternative billable services. Like many businesses, their revenue has been severely reduced during the pandemic, and permanent closures will leave thousands of older adults and people with disabilities with gaps in care.
PCAs are facing an increased risk during COVID-19 as their work limits options to stay at home and self-isolate. On top of this, PCAs have been historically underpaid, and Minnesota was already facing a severe PCA shortage before the pandemic. In 2018, there were over 5,000 unfilled PCA jobs – jobs necessary to serve over 44,000 individuals in need of PCA services. Now, positions are even harder to fill, and options for overtime and paid sick leave are limited.
This week, the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy committee discussed a COVID-19 relief bill that addresses a range of disability services supports. Along with funding for direct support workers and disability service providers, the proposal includes temporary increased funding for non-emergency medical transportation providers and offers financial relief for parents of children with disabilities. As we continue to evaluate these proposals, Senate DFLers are hopeful that meaningful relief will be provided to our vulnerable populations and those who support them. (SF 3694)