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House passes measure to provide emergency staffing, COVID-19 waivers

(House Photography file photo)
(House Photography file photo)

The Department of Human Services could continue some COVID-19-related program modifications and waivers, under a bill passed Thursday by the House. Many of the provisions were allowed by executive order during the peacetime emergency.

On an 87-46 vote, the House passed HF2914/SF2876* to continue programs that offered flexibility for child care centers, group homes and social service operations during the pandemic. The bill, amended by the House Ways and Means Committee Monday, now returns to the Senate where it originally passed 46-21 in February.

The legislation includes a $1.03 million appropriation for an emergency temporary staffing pool. The pool is open to a variety of facilities including nursing and assisted living facilities, adult foster care, group homes and shelters. 

“Our work to defeat COVID-19 is headed in the right direction, but we still have a crisis remaining that frankly existed well before the pandemic. Residents in our nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and group homes have unacceptable staffing levels, putting them at risk of not receiving the level of care they deserve,” Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth) said in a statement. She is the House sponsor.

“A temporary pool will help us target staffing resources to facilities with the most urgent needs to protect residents. There are also a variety of waivers we need to urgently enact to allow services and programs to proceed without interruption.”

The Human Services Department had contracts with temporary staffing vendors from September 2020 to December 2021.   

The bill would also allow out-of-state medical professionals to provide services in Minnesota under out-of-state credentials.

Other provisions include extending waivers that would allow oral or written signatures by applicants for public assistances programs, video conferencing for monthly foster care visits and flexibility for people to work while waiting to complete background checks under some circumstances.

The bill would allow state child care assistance programs to pay a provider when the center was closed due to health concerns related to COVID-19. These payments would be retroactive to Nov. 1, 2021.

There are also temporary modifications to child care staff distribution requirements.

Rep. Jordan Rasmussen (R-Fergus Falls) unsuccessfully offered an amendment to extend the waiver on child care staffing for two years instead of three months.

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