Groups sue over cut to disability jobs program

The messy end of the 2018 legislative session has triggered a lawsuit.

Two groups representing Minnesotans living with disabilities filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper. The lawsuit seeks an emergency injunction to stop a 7 percent cut to programs that help placed disabled individuals in jobs. The cut will go into effect on July 1.

“This cut will cause irreparable harm to our members and the people with disabilities they support as we are already in the midst of a workforce crisis due in large part to lack of wage competition,” Sue Schettle, CEO of The Association of Residential Resources of Minnesota, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Since the complete breakdown of the legislative process failed to produce a sustainable fix to the regulatory dispute driving DHS to enact the cut, we are forced to seek injunctive relief from federal court to address this critical issue.”

It's a complex funding issue that was first triggered back in February after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services withdrew its match of a 3 percent rate adjustment for the programs. The state, in turn, didn’t meet its match of the funding, leading to a total cut of 7 percent, according to the groups. The issue was addressed in a 990-page budget bill that the Legislature sent to Gov. Mark Dayton, but he vetoed the proposal after session ended over objections to numerous other provisions.

Piper said the agency will “carefully review the lawsuit” filed today.

“DHS has initiated and supported numerous efforts focused on the needs and wants of people with disabilities and to create a more transparent, consistent and fair system statewide,” she said.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs say an injunction is needed immediately because people living with disabilities could lose their jobs. If it’s granted, the groups want to work with lawmakers to pass a permanent fix early next session.

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