State Dedicates Millions of Dollars Toward Supporting People with Disabilities

State Dedicates Millions of Dollars Toward Supporting People with Disabilities

As one state department will fund efforts to help people with disabilities overcome work and life challenges, two other departments will fund public water infrastructure, and food and agriculture projects.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has awarded $2.6 million in grants to community organizations working to help people with disabilities. A core piece of the funding will go toward helping artists with disabilities market original work online and in galleries throughout the state, as well as nationwide.

“These grants will help expand options and pathways for people with disabilities to live the lives they want,” said Human Services Department commissioner Emily Piper. “These organizations are broadening choices for people to live, work and engage in their communities.”

The artists-focused initiative, called “Proclaiming Our Place,” is being carried out by the Interact Center in St. Paul. The Center will receive $491,433 to help the artists sell their work.

Overall, the grants, funded over a two-year period, aim to facilitate better choices and outcomes for people with disabilities – as the department, and an independent study coincidentally released by the University of St. Thomas and nonprofit manufacturing company MDI last week, note that people with disabilities face significant barriers when it comes to entering the workforce.

The efforts of the grant beneficiaries collectively include helping people with disabilities seek and obtain competitive jobs, stable housing and community involvement.

Aside from the Interact Center, the other grant recipients are:

  • Guild Employment Services. This St. Paul organization will use $483,470 to support youth with disabilities transitioning into employment and adults with disabilities in competitive jobs. Guild’s additional services include helping those with mental illnesses with recovery and employment.

  • The Institutes for Community Inclusion. Based in Minneapolis and Boston, this joint venture from the University of Minnesota, the University of Massachusetts Boston and other entities, will receive $560,000 to help people with disabilities across the state achieve integrated, competitive employment with an emphasis on those with more significant disabilities.

  • Opportunity Partners. This Minnetonka-based organization will use $293,035 to provide mentors to people with disabilities interning at Twin Cities businesses.

  • RISE. The state will give $294,000 to this Minneapolis organization working to match young adults in paying jobs with people who don’t have disabilities. Rise’s new “Let’s Get to Work” program focuses specifically on 18-24-year-olds eligible for public assistance.

  • Rochester Public Schools will receive $264,927 toward supporting youth ages 16 to 21 whose needs have not been met through traditional educational and rehabilitative programming. In particular, the school system’s Launching Emerging Adults Program will serve have mental health disorders, histories of adverse childhood experiences, chemical use and/or physical aggression.

  • Touchstone Mental Health. Based in Minneapolis, this organization will use $235,040 to help people find housing of their choice and explore employment and vocational services, through its Housing Innovation Program.

These grants will be sourced from the large innovation grants program, one of three disability innovation grant entities the DHS manages. Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature first appropriated funding for the three grant programs in 2015.

The people with disabilities-focused grants aren’t the only state money awarded this past week, as other departments announced funding designations as well.

The Minnesota Public Facilities Authority approved $7.06 million in loans and grants for water infrastructure projects in six Minnesota communities: Lowry, Eden Valley, Rice Lake, Mankato, Courtland and Pemberton.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture awarded $233,750 total to fourteen different projects statewide, under its Good Food Access Program. These projects involve food distributors purchasing new equipment, making physical improvements to stores, increasing access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate foods in underserved and low and moderate-income communities.

“Upgrading and purchasing new equipment can by a significant barrier for grocery stores and small food retailers and the Good Food Access Program helps to eliminate some of that financial burden,” said MDA grants supervisor Ashley Bress. 

Earlier this week, the MDA also announced the same amount of money – $233,750 – would be distributed to nine projects around the state that are designed to encourage urban youth agricultural programs. The funds will be managed under the department’s AGRI Urban Agriculture Grant Program.