MN Human Services must change

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Saying that Jason Rarick’s statement on the state of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services isn’t filled with compliments is understatement. Sen. Rarick opens the statement by saying “It’s time to break up the Minnesota Department of Human Services. This was the recommendation of Acting Commissioner Pam Wheelock this past August. It is not a brand new idea, but it is the only reasonable option. I can no longer see an alternative path that gets the agency turned around and functioning at the level Minnesotans demand.”

While there’s no doubt that DHS needs to be broken up, that’s only part of the problem. Another part of the problem is the corruption. There must be a way to get rid of corrupt employees.

In the heart of Sen. Rarick’s statement is this paragraph:

In just November, we have learned that the agency has habitually been violating state contract law to award more than 1800 illegal contracts last year alone. We have learned that DHS illegally instructed counties and Indian tribes to claw back $727,000 in overpayments to poor people, which must now be returned. We have learned a DHS screw up led to $624,000 in improper county payments to foster homes that didn’t meet federal background check requirements. And we have learned of an additional $22 million in illegal payments that must be repaid to the federal government, including $13 million that occurred even after the mistake was discovered. Again, that’s just from November. [emphasis added]

A department filled with waste, fraud and lawlessness needs transformation. Leadership is required to accomplish that. That doesn’t exist:

The Senate has held several hearings to get answers straight from those in charge. Unfortunately, those answers were mixed at best. For the most part, the officials we asked to testify evaded questions, stalled, or merely offered vague promises about being engaged and committed to comprehensive changes. The administration has also delayed for as long as possible responding to data requests we have made.

In fact, rather than address these problems head on, Gov. Walz seems disinterested. We’ve asked him to engage and help us fix the department, but instead he has placed his priorities elsewhere – like his newly-formed sub-cabinet to fight climate change.

It’s apparent that the DFL isn’t interested in fixing DHS. When it comes to Human Services, the DFL is interested in the status quo. Gov. Walz’s formation of a cabinet department on climate change is proof that he’s disinterested.

It’s also proof that Gov. Walz’s priorities aren’t Minnesota’s priorities. If you polled Minnesotans about what’s more important, it’s a safe bet that they’d say eliminating waste, fraud and lawlessness at DHS rates far higher than forming a new bureaucracy dealing with climate change.

This DFL administration is tone-deaf. This DFL administration is oblivious to the need for transformation. Watch Commissioner Harpstead’s testimony and you’ll see what obliviousness looks like:

She couldn’t care less if DHS is transformed. It isn’t clear whether she cares about the department she’s been charged with leading. Her opening statement was 100% incomprehensible word salad.

There’s an age-old principle about presidential candidates. It says that a presidential candidate’s vice presidential pick says much about the presidential candidate. That’s transferrable to this situation. When Gov. Walz picked Jodi Harpstead, it said that fixing DHS wasn’t a high priority. Further, the DFL House has followed Gov. Walz’s lead. They offer the same word salad as Gov. Walz. If the DFL won’t help fix the problem, then they’re part of the problem. Next November, it’s time to fix that problem.