2015 legislative review: Goodwill-Easter Seals makes progress at the legislature; opportunities remain for 2016

For workforce advocates, the 2015 legislative session brought high hopes. A $2 billion budget surplus and a strong interest in addressing Minnesota’s skills gap pointed to a session filled with promise. And, while there were plenty of positive steps forward, we did not see the hoped for systems change or stronger investments this session. The 2016 legislative session and beyond hold great promise as we continue to educate legislators on the opportunities to strengthen Minnesota’s current and future workforce.

Here is a quick update on what happened with some of Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota’s legislative priorities:

1) Expand Career Pathways for Low-Income Adults

Accomplished: A slight increase in funding for Adult Workforce Competitive grants and level funding for FastTRAC Adult Career Pathways initiatives means that DEED will move forward with combining these two funding streams into the Pathways to Prosperity grants. These grants will aim to increase competencies and credentials through education, skills-training and job placement in high-growth, high-demand industries.

In addition, Goodwill-Easter Seals, in partnership with the Minnesota Employment Services Consortium (MESC), introduced a Workforce On-Ramp bill (HF2157/SF2013) to address the needs of those who need to build skills for employment but are not quite ready for post-secondary education. While this bill did not move forward this session, it received bipartisan support and will still be a viable piece of legislation for the 2016 legislative session.

2) Extended Employment

Accomplished: This year the legislature and Governor agreed as part of the Special Session to make a one-time increase of $250,000 for Extended Employment permanent to the “base” budget moving forward.This program provides long-term supports to help individuals with disabilities retain a job and advance in a career.

3) Individual Placement and Support (IPS)

Accomplished: IPS received an additional $1 million per year to continue projects that were converted to IPS last year.

IPS is a practice of supported employment for persons with serious mental illness. Supported employment typically provides help in finding work, training or retraining on job tasks and managing changes in non-work environments or life activities that affect work performance.

4) Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD)

Accomplished: The MA-EPD premium increase will be repealed on September 1, 2015 and will return to pre-October 2014 levels.

MA-EPD is a positive work incentive for individuals with disabilities. Premium increases were implemented on October 1, 2014 and dramatically raised monthly premium payments.

In addition to these workforce related issues, Goodwill-Easter Seals also worked on legislation related to Fatherhood, Voting Restoration and bonding. All of these initiatives will continue into the second year of the biennium (2016).