$30 million disability service package passes Legislature

ST. PAUL — Day services for adults with disabilities have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. But assistance for disability service providers, in the form of retention and public health grants, will now be available, state legislators said this week.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill including a $30 million package for disability service providers during Wednesday’s special session. Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill on Friday.

The bill appropriates $20 million from Minnesota’s Coronavirus Relief Fund for retention grants to home- and community-based disability service providers affected by COVID-19 restrictions. The bill also includes $10 million for public health grants to help providers re-open safely with proper social distancing, and expands eligibility for an elderly customized living program to people with disabilities.

Area legislators said the grants will help keep crucial services available for people with disabilities.

“I am extremely pleased the House DFL majority finally decided to join the Senate and pass aid for providers,” said Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls. “Unfortunately, this decision was long overdue. Some providers have been forced to close. Nonetheless, the passage of this bill is a win for those who are receiving care and a chance for independent living through the assistance of community providers.”

Dahms said home and community-based service providers were in dire financial straits before COVID-19 added a need for more supplies, social distancing, and increased transportation costs.

“These community-based programs really do fill a need to help support those in local communities who have disabilities,” said Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent. “These dollars will really go a long way to help support them so, at the end of the COVID issue we are having right now, these programs will still exist for people who need them.”

“The people most impacted by COVID-19 have been our most vulnerable populations. Directing this funding to disability service providers will help ensure we don’t leave anyone behind,” Walz said Friday. “This bill will provide direct support to ensure Minnesotans with disabilities and older Minnesotans continue to receive critical services amid COVID-19.”

Now that Walz has signed the bill, there is a Sept. 15 application deadline for the retention grants and public health grants will be available through 2020, Swedzinski’s office said. For more information, people are encouraged to call the Minnesota Department of Human Services at 651-431-2000.


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