In my 21 years serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I have rarely been so concerned as I am now, for our future sustainability. My non-profit organization stands to lose $430,000 in public support if the Legislature does not do what is within its grasp. This cut would come out of the pockets of my co-workers – a loss they simply cannot afford.

I have 34 colleagues in Kanabec County. Together we care for 122 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in several group homes and in the community. Three years ago, the state made a commitment to support us. Due to a technical policy failure, Minnesota is at risk of breaking that commitment and cutting about seven percent from the total financial assistance people with disabilities depend on to live independently and participate in their communities.

Should this cut be allowed to take effect, effective July 1, our ability to support our community members with intellectual and physical disabilities to live their best lives will be threatened. Our ability to provide services tailored to meet individual needs – whether that means help getting to work or supports to live independently in the community – will be threatened.

The Minnesota Legislature has legislation before it to fix the issue. They need to act now to avoid a damaging blow to an industry with a critical mission already straining under the burden of a significant workforce shortage, especially in Greater Minnesota, with an average wage of $12.50 per hour. That means individuals with disabilities struggle to maintain their independence.

On March 13, 22 people with Volunteers of America-Minnesota joined more than 1,000 people with disabilities and support staff rallying at the State Capitol, asking lawmakers to stop the cuts. Money from these cuts was put in the budget surplus, and it needs to go back to people with disabilities to access supportive services.

Please help Minnesota uphold its commitment to people with disabilities and the people who support them. Legislation is currently introduced to address this issue (SF 2889 / HF 3191); add your voice to the others from our community and ask our legislators to stop this cut.

Natasha Zahler 

Regional Manager, based in Mora, for Volunteers of America –Services for People with Special Needs

 

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