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Cuts could threaten developmental disabilities providers

More than 1,000 advocates swarmed the Minnesota Capitol Rotunda last week to rally against looming cuts to non-profits that help people with disabilities. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)

ST. PAUL — More than 1,000 people swarmed the Minnesota Capitol Rotunda last week to rally against looming cuts to non-profits that help people with disabilities.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said it will wipe out cost-of-living increases given to disability providers from 2013 to 2015. That 7 percent cut, along with new programs and new rates for disability providers, means most providers could face a roughly 9.5 percent cut as soon as this July.

The changes have implications throughout the state and in southwest Minnesota. Elizabeth Schear, executive director at Rock County Opportunities (RCO), was one of many in the industry in St. Paul last Tuesday to rally for a legislative solution.

RCO serves around 50 clients, half of whom have jobs in the community and half of whom take part in other activities meant to make the day more productive and meaningful. The threatening cuts, equivalent to about two full-time RCO staff members, would force providers to make tough decisions, Schear said.

“We’re completely reliant on the state for our revenue … so do we take that money away with our staff or eat the cost in our budget?” Schear said. “We’re already barebones in providing enough staff so that we’re within our staff to client ratio. How do we cut that from a barebones budget?”

Centers simply want stability and the ability to pay their workers competitive wages, said Mike Burke, president of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, which represents more than 100 providers statewide, including the Nobles County Developmental Achievement Center in Worthington.

A fix has been proposed by District 22A Rep. Joe Schomaker, R-Luverne. His bill, H.F. 3193, would reverse the 7 percent cut and change the way the state sets its rates. The Senate version is authored by District 2 Sen. Paul Utke, R, Park Rapids.

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