MRCI seeks emergency funding from state legislature amid COVID-19

Earlier this month, MRCI made the decision to suspend most of their services and temporarily lay off over 300 workers amid COVID-19, impacting approximately 1,3
Updated: Mar. 31, 2020 at 10:59 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Amid COVID-19, many businesses find themselves having to lay off workers.

Such is true for organizations like MRCI, a non-profit which serves and offers opportunities for individuals with disabilities, which had to temporarily lay off over 300 of their staff.

Earlier this month, MRCI made the decision to suspend most of its services, impacting approximately 1,300 of the people they serve.

Now, CEO Brian Benshoof said they’ve been working with state lawmakers to try and get emergency funding.

“Everything we’ve done in the last couple of weeks has been centered around the safety of our staff and the people we serve," Benshoof said.

Benshoof said MRCI started making preparations when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started to lay out social distancing guidelines.

“One of the things that’s going to be really critical for us to restart is to get funding coming in quickly and to help us make up the difference for what we’ve lost," he added.

MRCI gets paid based on the service hours they provide.

That means that money isn’t coming in despite the costs they still incur during this time.

“The sooner we get emergency help, the better, and that’s going to enable us to start bringing people in quicker," Benshoof said.

MRCI gets most of its money from the Department of Human Services, which said the legislature would have to appropriate money, Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL - North Mankato) said.

“I would hope that we see action on things like that on April 14th. That’s COVID related funding that benefits MRCI, which is important to our area," said Frentz.

The next scheduled floor session for both the House and the Senate is on April 14, when state lawmakers are expected to take on a variety of COVID-19 related legislation.

Sen. Rich Draheim (R - Madison Lake) said funding is on the radar.

“I think most of us thought it would be in the last bill. We have to fund them," Draheim said.

State lawmakers recently gave the green light for $330 million in additional aid in response to COVID-19.

That bill, which has been signed by Gov. Tim Walz, provides support for, among other things, small business emergency loans, licensed child care providers, Minnesota’s 11 tribal nations, emergency service grants, food banks and more.

Meanwhile, MRCI is working with community organizations to keep their staff working.

“All of the people we serve ended up going home, staying in their residential program. So we are working on contracts probably close to a dozen residential providers through our whole system to hire our staff or contract with us to have our staff work for them," Benshoof said.

MRCI said they’ll at least be suspending services for the time period of the Stay at Home executive order.

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