2020 Legislative Session Update: Six Weeks In

By Sara Grafstrom posted 03-09-2022 08:32

  

It is hard to believe we are only in week 6 of the legislative session, as things have been moving at a rapid pace. Below is an update of where ARRM’s Legislative priorities sit and other pieces of legislation critical to disability services

ARRM’s Legislative Agenda:

Immediate Workforce Relief (SF 2968/ HF 3268)

  • $1500 Retention Bonuses for staff that remain in their position until December 31, 2022
  • Monthly grants to help with the cost of childcare for DSPs
  • HCBS scholarship fund for disability waiver services
  • 5% rate increase for ICFs
  • Removal of the separate license for Alternative Overnight Supervision

ARRM’s Immediate Workforce Relief bill was heard in the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee on Thursday, March 3rd. ARRM’s CEO Sue Schettle testified, along with Cindy Ostrowski, CEO of Hiawatha Homes, highlighting the dire workforce crisis and the need for immediate investments to retain and recruit Direct Support Professionals. Anna Hegland, Senior Director at Dungarvin Services also provided testimony to the success of Alternative Overnight Supervision. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the Health and Human Service Omnibus bill.

To view the hearing click here, HF 3268 is first on the agenda.

The Senate Human Services Reform and Finance Committee held an informational hearing on the bill on February 17th. ARRM CEO Sue Schettle again spoke to the need for immediate legislative action to address the workforce shortage.

To view the hearing click here, beginning at the 11:20 mark.

Long Term Investments (SF 2771/ HF 3100)

  • Adjust the Competitive Workforce based on legislatively mandated reports from the Department of Human Services
  • Make adjustments in the Disability Waiver Rate System based on most recently available BLS and CPI data
  • Add the Competitive Workforce Factor to Supervisor Wages

ARRM is partnering with the Best Life Alliance in bringing forward legislation to make long-term, sustainable adjustments to the Competitive Workforce Factor to raise the wages of Direct Support Professionals. The Senate Human Services Reform and Finance Committee held an informational hearing on the bill on Tuesday, February 22nd. Best Life Alliance representative, Kevin Goodno, walked through the various components of the bill.

To view the hearing click here, discussion begins around the 56:45 minutes mark.

In the House, the Best Life Alliance legislation was heard on Tuesday, March 8th. Testifying on behalf of the legislation included Tracy Murphy, CEO of Mount Olivet Rolling Acres, Christina Kushner, a Supervisor at Mount Olivet Rolling Acres and a parent advocate whose son receives services from MSS. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the Health and Human Services Omnibus bill. Here is the link to the hearing on March 8th. Testimony for our bill starts at the 42 minute mark.

 

Regulatory Changes (SF 3128/ HF 3163)

  • Creates an hour unit of services for IHST
  • Allows providers providing Out of Home Respite to individuals under 18 to access an Adam Walsh Background Study and creates a certification for Out of Home Respite for individuals under 18 in an un-licensed setting
  • Allows for up to three additional extensions to a transitional lease when an individual is living in their own home
  • Removes Unit Based Respite from the DWRS, making it a market rate service

ARRM’s policy bill was heard in the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee on Thursday, March 3rd. I presented the bill along with our bill author, Rep. Kelly Moller and the bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the Health and Human Service Omnibus bill.

To view the hearing click here, HF 3163 begins at the 31-minute mark.

In the Senate, the bill was given an informational hearing on February 17th. You can access that hearing here, the bill is the first on the agenda.

What’s Next?

In the House, all of our priority pieces of legislation have been heard and laid on the table. The Department of Human Services has reached out to ARRM with some concerns about some of the initiatives which we will continue to work through and engage in conversations to find compromise language, ahead of the drafting of the Health and Human Service Omnibus bill.

In the Senate, we are awaiting formal hearings for all of our bills and will keep members updated as those become scheduled in the coming weeks.

Other Legislation:

Along with ARRM’s legislative priorities, many other pieces of legislation that would have a direct impact on our workforce and services have been moving through the legislative process.

Emergency COVID Waivers Extension and Emergency Staffing Pool (SF 2876/ HF 2914)

  • Extends certain COVID Waivers put in place by the Department of Human Services
  • Creates an Emergency Staffing Pool

Legislation that would extend certain COVID waivers, including the ability to work un-supervised while awaiting the results of your background study and the re-establishment of the Emergency Staffing Pool for HCBS has been moving through both the House and Senate.

In the Senate, Liz Westrom of Volunteers of America testified to the importance of the Emergency Staffing pool, you can view her testimony here at the 42:13 minutes mark. The bill was passed off the Senate floor on February 21st and is awaiting action in the House where the bill currently sits in the Ways and Means committee.

Long Term Care Rescue Package (SF 2786)

  • Provides funding for recruitment and retention bonuses
  • Moves up the DWRS 2022 adjustment to impact all rates by April 1st, 2022

Senator Housley and Senator Abeler have moved forward a bill that would provide immediate funding relief for Nursing Homes and HCBS services. Titled the Long-Term Care Rescue Package, the bill has been passed out of the Human Services Reform and Finance Committee and is currently waiting on a fiscal note in the Senate Finance Committee before it can be moved to the floor for a full vote from the Senate. There is currently no companion legislation moving in the House.

ARRM member Gene Leistico from ACR Homes, as well as parent advocates from ACR Homes and Mount Olivet Rolling Acres, spoke to the critical need for immediate funding for our workforce.

You can access the hearing here, testimony begins at the 17:14 mark.

Frontline Workers (SF 2650/ HF 2900)

On February 24th, the House passed off their floor the Frontline Workers Bonus Payment legislation. This bill would provide $1500 bonus payments for Essential Frontline Workers who could not work from home during the COVID pandemic. Companion legislation in the Senate has not yet received a hearing.

Governor’s Budget Recommendations

In mid-February, Governor Walz released his supplemental budget recommendations. Of note, the recommendations did not include any long-term sustainable funding for Disability Waiver Services. The recommendations did however call for one-time funding of $114 million for both HCBS and Nursing Home services in the creation of a worker retention pool, providing resources to providers to incentivize workers to remain in their position through such things as retention bonuses, childcare grants and scholarship programs.

Updated Budget Forecast

In early March, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released an updated budget forecast for the state. This forecast showed that our projected surplus grew by approximately $1.5 billion from the December forecast. This change now brings the state’s projected surplus to approximately $9.2 billion.

Looking Ahead:

In the coming weeks, both the House and Senate will be coming up to committee deadlines. These deadlines are the timelines that bills need to be heard in order to remain “alive” going into the end of session. The legislature will be on break beginning Saturday, April 9th through Monday, April 18th, from here, Omnibus bill will begin taking shape.

Please reach out with any questions about anything included in this update or anything that wasn’t covered. We will keep members notified of any late breaking changes and when your advocacy is needed with your legislators!

--Sara Grafstrom, Director of State and Federal Policy

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