Bills centered on personal care attendant (PCA) pay and duties remain at the forefront at the state capitol. With the Minnesota Legislature’s first bill deadline March 10, getting bills through initial hearings and votes is a must.
Two key issues being watched closely are staff compensation and the ability to have staff paid for driving disabled clients. The PCA driving bill is making its way through the process, to make a needed technical fix under Community First Services and Supports (CFSS).
Part of the testimony last month before the House’s Human Services Committee was from Marshall resident Ted Stamp, in the form of a letter read to lawmakers. He and other advocates have worked for years to find a solution for state restrictions that prevent PCAs from being compensated for driving clients to and from work, appointments, shopping and other places. Stamp notes the restriction is especially difficult for Greater Minnesota residents, whose transit and paratransit options are often limited. He pointed out that anyone needing to get to a medical appointment may have to call an ambulance at times, at state expense.
“Unnecessary, illogical program restrictions like this one not only prevent individuals from gaining and maintaining competitive employment and access to other community activities and services, in many cases it puts individuals at greater risk of death or serious medical conditions that might have been prevented if adequate transportation had enabled the person to gain timely access to needed care,” Stamp said.
Advocates are also working to address staff compensation, as debate continues over the reimbursement rate negotiated recently in the SEIU contract. While the wage increase has broad support, it also is seen as inadequate to support staff as well as the growing expenses staffing agencies face. There are deep concerns that the contract could have the unintended consequence of forcing out staffing agencies, including those that are BIPOC-owned and operated.
Advocates are calling for more attention to be paid to needs such as overtime and holiday compensation as well.
There’s been a request for more input from staffing providers to outline what their needs are and how those should be covered. A big concern disability rights advocate are raising is that if the compensation package is passed without changes, Minnesota could have only one provider agency in the entire state for both Traditional and Choice PCA.
Want an update on bills? The Minnesota Council on Disability hosts a virtual listening session 4-5 p.m. p.m. Thursday, March 30. ASL and CART will be provided at the Zoom session, which will feature legislators and advocates presenting updates.
Council officials also want to hear perspectives on the session so far. Watch for details on the council website and social media