Without action by the Minnesota Legislature, services for the disabled could face a 7 percent cut in funding. That includes the Developmental Achievement Center (DAC) in McGregor and DAC Mart in Aitkin.
Budget cuts for disabled services is not uncommon, according to Tammy Jo Johnson, who has been the director of the DAC for the last two years.
“We get paid through waivered services by Aitkin County,” Johnson said. “The state sets the payment scales. If there is no increase through the waivered services, we can’t increase staff wages. We can’t grow if cuts continue and there’s a lot of room for growth in this area.”
According to Mike Burke, president of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR), the cuts involve complex formulas that determine rates paid to disability service providers which are tied to an inflationary factor and funding agreement with the federal government. A House bill led by Rep. Joe Schomacker and Senate bill authored by Sen. Paul Utke would alleviate the problem which, if left unaddressed, could mean damaging cuts that are permanent.
Representing more than 100 providers in Minnesota, MOHR members provide skills training, employment services, community involvement, behavioral supports and life enrichment activity to more than 26,000 people with disabilities in Minnesota.
DAC has 55 disabled employees and 18 staff members. Many of the disabled employees need one-on-one coaching, said Johnson.
Funding is a continual challenge, Johnson said, and has fostered creativity. DAC Mart, which sells used clothing and household goods, helps sustain the wages of DAC employees.
Johnson said a 7 percent reduction in funds would have a huge impact on these services in McGregor and Aitkin.
“But any cut is significant,” Johnson said.
For more information about the proposed bills in the House and Senate, go to mohrmn.org.