State council seeks resources to aid in its work

In order to fully meet its state-mandated duties, the Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) needs adequate staff and resources. The […]

MN state council virtual meeting

In order to fully meet its state-mandated duties, the Minnesota Council on Disability (MCD) needs adequate staff and resources. The council is taking its theme of capacity building to the 2022 Minnesota Legislature. 

MCD is seeking a $2 million expansion of its budget, so it can better represent and advocate for the more than one million Minnesotans with disabilities. The need for funding was discussed during the council’s legislative update in January, outlined by Executive Director David Dively and Public Policy Director Trevor Turner. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the Minnesota disability community,” said Turner. “For many in our state, the pandemic is a  disruptive inconvenience to but for Minnesotans with disabilities, the pandemic is drastically altering our livelihoods.” he added that it will take many years for those livelihoods to recover. 

This disruption is coupled with “pandemic fatigue” as people with disabilities all too often experience a cavalier disregard for their health and safety. Too many Minnesotans flout COVID-19 mitigation measures, which are meant to protect the lives of those most vulnerable. 

In almost 50 years, MCD has responded to more a half of a million requests for technical assistance from businesses, employers, state agencies, elected officials, legislators, people with disabilities and the general public. From 2015 to the present, MCD engaged 380,000 technical and policy-related inquiries. 

A recent audit of the statute that created the state council found that MCD needs dozens of employees to adequately carry out its expected duties. “We have eight employees and are unable to hire more with our current budget,” Turner said. Instead, the budget has faced cuts and hasn’t kept up with cost of living increases. the tight budget means the council must at times choose between advising state agencies or providing programming for the public. 

Along with seeking more funding for its staffing and needs, the council is also calling for state government to hire more people with disabilities. Even though about 20 percent of Minnesota live with disability, that percentage isn’t reflected in state government. 

In 2014 just 3 percent of state employees self-identified as having a disability. Then-Gov. Mark Dayton issued an executive order to provide more resources for affirmative action programs for people with disabilities. Dayton championed the Connect 700 program, which allows people with disabilities to choose an alternative hiring path from the traditional hiring process. They could work in a position for 700 hours to demonstrate the competency and ability to do the job. 

Disability representation among the state government workforce are rose from 3 to 7 percent by 2019, which could be seen as progress. But it wasn’t clear how the numbers are broken down between new workers and existing employees who then indicated disabilities. 

Another uncertainty of the success of the program came from an internal study that showed that more than half of the employees with disabilities resigned from their positions within the first year. Many cited hostile work environment, discrimination, or inadequate workplace accommodation. 

Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order, 1915, which established the goal to raise disability representation in the state’s workforce from 7 to 10 percent. He ordered all state agencies to prepare a plan on how they will hire more people with disabilities. Provisions in the 2019 state government omnibus bill also created the state employment and retention and employees with disabilities task force, which was made up of different disability agencies, councils and commissions. 

MCD continues to work on legislation to solidify Minnesota’s commitment to hiring more people with disabilities in state jobs.  

Read the complete council 2022 legislative agenda at https://www.disability.state.mn.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/CM-2022-Public-Policy-Agenda-Overview-2022.01.20.pdf 

Double your impact - support quality journalism - give nonprofit, give now