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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Thursday, April 18, 2024

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota House of Representatives has approved a comprehensive human services bill that, if signed into law, could be detrimental to Minnesotans who are working with a disability.


The provision would eliminate the subminimum wage, which was created more than 80 years ago to give disabled residents more opportunities to enter the workforce. The individual hired under this program receives an amount that is less per hour than Minnesota’s minimum wage.


“The problem with eliminating this program is that it would now create a one size fits all approach,” Torkelson said. “Everyone understands that within the disabled community, there are those who are high functioning and can excel in most situations, and those who are exactly the opposite. My concern with this plan is that it will eliminate work opportunities for those with the most significant disabilities.”


The legislation states that beginning August 1, 2026, no businesses could hire new employees under a subminimum wage, and beginning August 1, 2028, no employer could pay employees with disabilities a subminimum wage.


Torkelson said if this provision becomes law, it will most likely end the rehabilitative and socialization employment programs that were developed to aid more severely developmentally disabled persons. Once that happens, some people with significant disabilities will be unemployed.


“We have a number of local industries that provide hands on jobs to workers with severe disabilities,” Torkelson said. “It’s a win-win situation, as the employees feel good about having the work experience and can build camaraderie with other employees at the facility. I truly fear these statewide opportunities will disappear if the elimination of the subminimum wage becomes law.”