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Opening the door for more: New grants will help those with disabilities

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 9/21/2022

Sep. 20—According to the most recent American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half a million Minnesotans report a disability, equating to roughly 10.9% of the state's population. Disabilities defined by the agency fall within the realms of hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care and independent living; it is important to note that those living in group settings or institutions such as nursing homes and correctional facilities are excluded from these data, making the actual number for those living with a disability higher than those figures previously mentioned.

Minnesotans with disabilities will soon have more opportunities to earn competitive wages and support their own independence due to a new round of state grants totaling $10.5 million. Approved by the legislature and Governor Tim Walz in 2021, the new funds will help providers make changes such as eliminating subminimum wages and help to expand support services to people with disabilities in competitive employment.

Provider reinvention grants from the Minnesota Department of Human Services will go to 22 employment services providers throughout the state. The University of Minnesota'sInstitute on Community Integration will also receive funding to provide statewide technical assistance, engaging with job seekers and their families and helping providers with training and toolkits.

"Many people with disabilities want to be part of the general workforce, but have not had the opportunity," explains Jodi Harpstead, the human services commissioner. "Working-age Minnesotans with disabilities should have the chance to work and earn a competitive wage if they want to."

Eight employment service providers will receive grants to phase out subminimum wages by Apr. 1, 2024. One of those is The Rising Phoenix in Wadena, a thrift store that supports disabled community members through purchases and donations.

Fourteen employment service providers will also receive funding to support more people in reaching employment goals, one of these being Productive Alternatives in Fergus Falls, a non-profit human social services agency that has been serving area residents since 1959.


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