At the Capitol: No Cuts for Senior Services in Walz Budget

As the legislature enters the last week of January, the pace of the legislative session has picked up and Governor Walz has released his proposed 2022-2023 budget, which holds senior services harmless. Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening at the Capitol:

This Week

In the shadow of the a $1.273 billion deficit, Governor Walz’s released his 2022-2023 budget proposal on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The proposal totals $52.4 billion in state spending and includes $150 million in cuts as well as $1.64 billion in new taxes. Republicans responded critically to Walz’s tax increases and in contrast said they support a 5% agency-wide budget cut to balance the deficit. 

Notably, Walz’s proposed budget does not include changes for the nursing home or assisted living funding. Although it is somewhat disappointing that Elderly Waiver rates would not increase for another two years despite being dramatically underfunded, it is a good sign that the Governor decided that providers could not withstand rate cuts despite the state budget deficit.

One area where cuts are proposed in the Governor’s budget is in customized living services for disability waiver clients, which the Department of Human Services (DHS) has identified as a major growth area in recent years. The budget recommendation which came from the Blue-Ribbon Commission discussions last year proposes to reduce spending in that area by a little over $5 million in the biennium. The changes include a cap on authorized services of 24 hours of support a day, limits on hours of service for lower case mix clients and a moratorium on new settings serving four or fewer clients. We are glad to see that a proposed cut to adult day services related to the absence factor, also part of the Blue-Ribbon Commission recommendations, is not included in this budget proposal.

The budget proposed by Walz is simply a starting point for lawmakers, who will spend the next several weeks vetting the proposal. Ultimately, lawmakers in each chamber will build budget recommendations of their own, which they will then take into budget negotiations near the end of session. It is the constitutional duty of the legislature to pass a balanced budget in order to fund government past July 1, 2021. Throughout the process, we will advocate on your behalf to ensure seniors services receive adequate funding to cover the cost of care.

Last Week

Notable committee activity last week included the House and Human Services Finance and Policy hearing on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. During the hearing, the committee members heard recommendations from Anthony Taylor of the Governor’s Council for an Age-Friendly Minnesota on how best to coordinate efforts across agencies to support the state’s aging community. Additionally, Kari Benson from the Department of Health and Human Services gave an overview of the state’s Vulnerable Adult Act and, more importantly, highlighted supported recommendations for its redesign.

What’s Ahead

The Senate’s Aging and Long-Term Care Policy committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 27 to discuss the latest updates on the state of the COVID-19 vaccine for Minnesota’s seniors. While the focal point is on how seniors in the community are being vaccinated, we are carefully watching the issues and will engage in the conversation if and when it turns to vaccination in long-term care settings.

What to Watch

We have engaged the author of House File 41/Senate File 330, which establishes emergency paid sick leave to healthcare employees excluded from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill received its first hearing this week and was laid on the table for further discussion. While we are supportive of adequate paid-time off for essential workers, there are concerns about the cost burden the proposal will place on senior care providers due to a lack of appropriated funding in the bill and the administrative burden resulting from the retroactive application of the legislation to March 13, 2020.

Each week during the legislative session, follow Advantage for regular updates about what’s happening at the Capitol.

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