VRS_Updates on the MOU, WIOA 511, and LUV limits

Vocational Rehabilitation Services header


This email is to provide updates on three important issues: 1) a new memorandum of understanding between DEED VRS/SSB and the DHS Disability Services Division, 2) new federal guidance on the implementation of WIOA Section 511 Youth, and 3) an increase to the Limited Use Vendor spending cap for some community partners. There’s a lot of information here, so let’s take them one at a time:

Memorandum of Understanding

We’re very pleased to announce that VRS and State Services for the Blind now have an approved memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the DHS Disability Services Division. Directors from all three agencies signed the MOU on Monday, September 23, and I’ve attached a copy to this email.

As many of you might know, the MOU has been in the works for a couple of years and was developed to meet the requirements of our federal funders and regulators. During this process, we sought and received valuable guidance from a number of sources, including the VR technical assistance center WINTAC, and other states (particularly Colorado) that have developed and implemented similar MOUs.

The terms of the MOU are specific to individuals on a waiver (DD, TBI, CADI, CAC) who want to pursue competitive, integrated employment. Employment First and Person-Centered principles form the basis of the shared vision for how our agencies can provide employment services for people with disabilities in a coordinated manner. The goal is to align systems so that common customers – those who receive home and community-based service disability waivers and vocational rehabilitation services from VRS or SSB – can get seamless and timely supports to make informed choices and meet their competitive integrated employment goals.

Here is what you can expect moving forward:

  • While we now have a signed MOU, the roll-out and implementation of the agreements in the MOU will not happen right away. We anticipate that January 2021 is when any MOU changes will begin to take place. In the meantime, we are beginning the intense work of developing and implementing the MOU work plan and strategic plan to gather key stakeholder input (including from front line staff with VR, CRPs and the lead agencies) that will build the process of how to implement these agreements. In addition, DHS will need to seek changes to waiver rules during the 2020 legislative.
  • DHS’s Interim Guidance will remain in place while we work on the implementation and roll out of the MOU guidance.
  • Communication, training, and guidance will be coming out over the next few weeks on the MOU, as well as the work plan and stakeholder engagement process. We will be working with two consultants to help us develop our strategic communication and stakeholder engagement as part of the MOU work plan.

The development and signing of this MOU represents significant forward progress that will allow VRS to provide better and more effective services to the people we serve.  

Section 511 Youth

As most of you know, a Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) monitoring team came to Minnesota in August. An important aspect of any RSA review is the opportunity it gives the monitoring team to provide technical assistance on a variety of focus areas. We were very pleased to receive this assistance in one area in particular: the implementation of WIOA Section 511 requirements. As you all are keenly aware, the changes brought on by WIOA have created a significant burden for VR programs. The monitoring team acknowledged this to be the case, and provided verbal guidance to VRS which now changes the process for allowing a youth, age 24 or under, to enter subminimum wage employment if the youth is not interested in competitive integrated employment (CIE).  The monitoring team gave the OK to do the following:

  • Emphasize “Informed Choice” for individuals under 25 years old
  • Allow individuals and families to say that they have no interest in pursuing competitive integrated employment, and to accept that as sufficient reason to determine them to be ineligible for VR services because they are not able to benefit from services.

If a youth, age 24 or younger, applies for VR services and is not interested in competitive integrated employment, VRS counselors can then close the youth’s case as ineligible for services.  The counselor will then complete the 511 documentation and provide it to the youth (or parents/guardian) without the need to provide an assessment or work evaluation/work experiences in the community.  The documentation or paperwork to allow a youth to enter subminimum wage employment remains the same as before.  Of course, in the process of providing the youth with informed choice, the counselor will provide information about CIE, supported employment (which can include customized employment), subminimum wage employment, as well as leisure/recreational activities not involving work.      

LUV Limits

DEED-VRS is in the midst of shifting two activities that have previously been provided through grants to P/T contracts. Previously, DEED-VRS granted funds through the VR/IL Collaboration to the Centers for Independent Living for benefits coaching services. DEED-VRS also previously granted funds to Title I partners, 180 Degrees, ProAct, and Goodwill to provide Pre-Employment Transition Services. This is necessary because the VR federal funder, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, recently clarified regulations that prohibit granting of VR funds. DEED-VRS has asked those service providers to either enter into a P/T contract with us to provide these services, or add the services to their existing P/T contract. In order to facilitate the transition from grants to a fee-for-service contract model, it is necessary for DEED-VRS to raise the spending limit for Limited Use Vendors that are Centers for Independent Living or for organizations who received a Pre-ETS grant from 2017-2019. The current limit is set at $20,000/year, $40,000 over two years and will be increased to no more than $150,000 per year or $300,000 over two years only for these entities at this time. In future amendment periods, all community partners will have the opportunity to add benefits coaching services and Pre-ETS services to P/T contracts.

The LUV limit for most providers is not changing at this time and remains at $20,000/year, $40,000 over two years. DEED-VRS will open the discussion regarding raising the LUV limit for all providers in the coming months. We’re opening this discussion for several reasons. First, it is important that DEED-VRS ensure there are community partners available to offer individuals in the VR program adequate choice in selecting a service provider. Second, DEED-VRS has committed, as part of the MOU discussions with DHS, to work towards a common provider pool with 245D providers to allow for service continuity between the funding streams where possible. This discussion will include how to build a structure of quality assurance and accountability for community partners who provide services to individuals in the VR program.

More to come

You can expect to hear more about all of this as we move ahead with these important changes. Thanks for everything.

John Fisher | Interim Director
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Department of Employment and Economic Development
1st National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota St., Suite E200, St. Paul MN 55101
Direct: 651-259-7367 | Mobile: 612-709-8425