Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

DHS may waive some face-to-face requirements during COVID worker shortage

Some monthly visits with children in foster care may happen virtually instead of in-person, under a bill approved by the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee Thursday.

On a 12-6 vote, HF2914, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth), was referred to the House Health Finance and Policy Committee.

The bill would reinstate and extend Department of Human Services’ program waivers in several areas, including allowing virtual, rather than in-person foster care visits, in some circumstances.

It would also allow oral and written signatures for public assistance applicants; let some people work without direct supervision when waiting for background studies; allow required oversight of personal care assistants to happen through telecommunication; and let the department implement an emergency staffing pool program for care facilities.

The waivers for some in-person activities offer flexibilities and resources that have helped caregivers stay on the job in the first year of the pandemic, Wendy Underwood, vice president of social justice advocacy and engagement at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, wrote in a letter of support. 

“As DHS waivers expired and variants of the virus have surged, however, we have experienced growing case numbers and frequent outbreaks that have added stress and strain to our workforce, clients and guests,” Underwood wrote.

After hearing about significant workforce shortages among caregivers, Rep. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove) said she wants to support the bill, but has concerns about waiving the in-person meeting requirements for children in foster care.

“I think it is very important that people go to the home,” she said. “What you see on the screen is very narrow.”

“We believe face-to-face should be the standard; this would be an alternative when certain situations arise,” said Angela Youngerberg, Blue Earth County human services director of business operations, giving an example of a family that has a COVID-19 exposure. 

She said the waiver would be used when placement is not a concern, but health concerns are.

Schultz said modifications to some of the bill’s child care requirements are to be discussed at a later date by the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee as part of a clone bill, HF2927, sponsored by Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul).

The companion to Schultz’s bill, SF2876, sponsored by Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), was to be heard by the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee Thursday. The Pinto-sponsored bill has no Senate companion.

Related Articles

Priority Dailies

House passes tax package that includes rebate checks, $1 billion in new revenues
Rep. Aisha Gomez and House Majority Leader Jamie Long talk during a break in the May 20 debate on HF1938, the tax finance and policy bill. (Photo by Catherine Davis) Is it the largest tax cut in Minnesota history? Or the biggest tax hike the state has ever experienced? Could it be both? That’s the crux of the debate about the conference ...
House passes finalized cannabis legalization bill, sends it to Senate
A supporter of cannabis legalization demonstrates in front of the Capitol in 2021. The House repassed a bill to legalize recreational cannabis, as amended in conference committee, May 18 and sent HF100 to the Senate. (House Photography file photo) The House gave the green light to adult-use recreational cannabis Thursday. “The day has finally arrived. Today is the day that we are going to vote here in the House for th...

Minnesota House on Twitter