Ramsey judge temporarily stops state from cutting payments to care assistants

A Ramsey County judge has issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from imposing a cut in payments to personal care assistants who provide care for disabled family members.

The bench ruling by Judge Dale Lindman on Wednesday prevents the state from cutting the payment rate for 30 days while the court considers a lawsuit brought by home health care agencies, PCAs, and disabled Minnesotans against Gov. Mark Dayton and the commissioner of the state Department of Human Services.

"We believe the judge received the correct result," said David Bradley Olsen, a Minneapolis-based attorney representing the plaintiffs. "His ruling will benefit a lot of Minnesota families with mentally and physically disabled people."

The PCA program pays for personal care assistants to provide in-home care for people with a disability or illness. During the special legislative session earlier this year, lawmakers voted to cut reimbursement rates by 20 percent for PCAs who provide care for a family member. The rate change went into effect on Oct. 1.

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Olsen says the cut violates the state's constitution by arbitrarily creating two classes of workers who do the same work and have the same training, but receive different wages. He said the cut also violates state law because it disproportionately affects women and people of color.

"With the 20 percent cuts, there would be extreme economic hardships on all of these families and we think irreparable harm," Olsen said.

Minnesota Department of Human Services spokesperson Terry Gunderson said the state is moving quickly to comply with the court order. She said the agency cannot comment further until it receives the written order, which is expected to be released later this week.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said the governor already has said he will work in the next legislative session to change the law.