Most vocational rehabilitation specialists work hard to find jobs and training for people with disabilities. The State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency has an outstanding program and has always produced excellent results on a shoestring budget. Alumni of the program owe a debt of gratitude for the hard work and commitment to doing the right thing for the disability community.
Recently, Mr. Howard Glad, Director of Minnesota Rehabilitation Services, said that his department is not out of money, but at the rate they’re spending on the caseload already being serviced they could run short on funds before the end of their fiscal year. The department is still providing services to those who already have a work plan. At this time, anyone that applies for vocational rehabilitation will need to be put on the waiting list.
Vocational Rehabilitation Services will still be taking applications and determining eligibility and assigning individuals to one of four categories. The high priority category, Priority One Eligible Consumer, would have a significant (severe) impairment resulting in serious limitations in three or more functional areas in terms of employment, and require multiple vocational rehabilitation services over an extended period of time. 14 individuals are currently in priority one. Level Two Eligible Consumer would have the same as above with the exception of involving two functional areas in terms of employment. 847 people are now in priority two. Priority Level Three Eligible Consumers would have serious limitations in one functional area in terms of employment; 875 are in this category. The final level would include people who have a physical or mental impairment that results in a substantial impediment to employment but who do not have significant disabilities that result in serious functional limitations or who do not require multiple vocational rehab services over an extended period of time; only 34 are on this list. (these numbers were accurate when Access Press went to print) Everyone will be put on the list and currently 1,770 people are on the Voc. Rehab. waiting list. People will be taken off the waiting list by category at regular intervals. Management staff will determine the number of eligible consumers who may be taken off the waiting list and served. Consumers come off the waiting list on a first-come, first-serve basis.
One might think that a wiser way to spend these funds would be to put those who don’t need extensive help to work and to get more people employed, paying taxes, but it is mandated to use the priority system in which individuals with most needs will receive the needed help first.
An interesting point to keep in mind is the state pays 20 percent of the voc. rehab. costs and the federal government pays 80 percent of the costs. The federal government gives the states four-to-one matching funds to a limit that Congress has allocated. Then the money is divided amongst the state using a formula that consists of pre-capita income and population growth. Minnesota doesn’t fare well in this formula process. The state received a .58 percent increase over last year (2003). Not even equal to the inflation rate. Approximately 40 states received an increase of less than 2 percent; six states received a less than .58 percent increase.
So much for George W. Bush’s statement that his Administration “remains committed to ensuring that the more than 54 million Americans with disabilities learn and develop skills, find meaningful work, and realize the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To achieve equality of opportunity, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency, last year I announced the New Freedom Initiative, a comprehensive plan that promotes the full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of American life.”
In order to control costs, Mr. Glad has also put a freeze on hiring any new employees throughout Minnesota Rehabilitation Services. This freeze will hold down daily spending but this is also a time that the state is in dire need of an improved job market. Mr. Glad is will aware of this and he has written, “I can’t begin to tell you how much your efforts are appreciated and what a key role you play in the vitality of our state’s economy.”
Making this statement shows he is aware of the economy’s need for more jobs. The main point I see from the freeze on hiring within the department is to save those funds for services for the disabled.