News from DHS for December 2021

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News from DHS archive

In this issue:

Register by Jan. 4 to participate in the Children's Summit

The upcoming Children’s Summit, set for Jan. 11 through Jan. 14, will bring together experts from across Minnesota to create solutions to issues facing the state’s behavioral health system for young people and their families.

It will include presentations as well as working sessions where participants create immediate, actionable solutions for the urgent problems facing the system of care.

Register on Webex by Jan. 4 and indicate which days you plan to attend, and if you plan to participate in a working session. You may only choose one working session, as they will occur simultaneously.

Learn more about the summit and find descriptions of each working session on our public participation webpage.

Help coming to families whose children miss school meals because of COVID

P-EBT sandwich graphic

Minnesota families who rely on free and reduced-price school lunch programs will soon get extra help to cover food costs when COVID-19 keeps their children home from school.

By early January, a first round of Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer food benefits will go to small number of families whose children attend schools that closed or shifted to remote learning for at least five consecutive days in September, October or November. Future rounds of P-EBT benefits will include families whose children have to stay home because of quarantines for individual students, groups of students, or entire classrooms.

More than 200,000 Minnesota schoolchildren will be eligible for the P-EBT benefits for the 2021-22 school year, with $186 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. Families will receive $7.10 for each child for each missed day.

More details are in a department news release.

Governor Walz allocates $47 million for COVID-19 response

Governor Tim Walz announced this week an allocation of $47 million in federal American Recue Plan funds as the state continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child care access

The Governor has allocated $20 million to help child care programs experiencing increased costs and staffing challenges related to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases remain open for families.

The flexible funding will be used to assist providers who are experiencing lost revenue and increased costs associated with COVID-19 temporary classroom quarantines, pandemic-related worker vacancies and staffing limitations, among other needs. Child care providers may receive these funds through the DHS January Child Care Stabilization Base Grant application.

Food security across the state

Amid rising food costs and other continued pandemic impacts, $20 million will be used to provide urgent relief to Minnesotans experiencing food insecurity. 

Funds will be targeted to a diverse network of food resources, such as food shelves and meal programs, representing the efforts of community-based organizations, tribes and local governments. The funding will be used to cover food purchases, food distribution costs, meal preparation, cleaning supplies, technology needs, outreach efforts, and training and technical assistance.

Availability of at-home COVID-19 rapid tests

A $2.5 million allocation will expand the state’s COVID-19 testing infrastructure, get more at-home rapid tests in the hands of Minnesotans, and enhance the equitable distribution of testing for Minnesotans facing health care barriers.

In social media

Need to talk to someone

Posted Dec. 20 on our social media channels: 

News and current events, winter days and holidays can leave many feeling stressed, depressed or anxious. These are real and valid feelings. You don't have to work through it alone. Multiple services are available to help you or someone you care about.

Call 651-288-0400 or 877-404-3190
Text "support" to 85511

Call the Crisis Text Line at **CRISIS (274747) from a cell phone
Text "MN" to 741741
Minnesota county crisis lines:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

To see more posts like this and for timely updates on DHS news and events, follow DHS on Twitter and Facebook.

Accessible formats

For accessible formats of this publication or assistance with equal access to human services, write to, call 651-431-2911, or use your preferred relay service.

Commissioner's Circle of Excellence Awards

Organizations honored for human services excellence

The department is recognizing organizations that have partnered with the agency and done an exemplary job of providing access to food, health care and other assistance to Minnesotans in need. This is the 10th year the Circle of Excellence Awards are being awarded. This year, special consideration was given to COVID-19-related efforts.

“The challenges our communities are facing require us to rethink how we do our work to ensure people are able to meet their basic needs,” said Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “The organizations we’re honoring this year have partnered together and stepped up in really creative ways to ensure all Minnesotans have access to essential services.”

The six winners are:

  • American Indian Food Security Work Group members
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Metro Transit
  • Hennepin County, Olmsted County, Wabasha County, Wright County, and Code for America
  • Lutheran Social Service Willmar Youth Services
  • North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems
  • Red Lake Nation

More details are in a department news release.

Start your career as a certified nursing assistant at no cost

CNA training promotion

Interested in becoming a certified nursing assistant? Now there's an opportunity to complete coursework at no cost.

Minnesota has set a new goal to train at least 1,000 new certified nursing assistants to help Minnesota health care facilities experiencing staffing shortages.

The initiative is made possible through federal American Rescue Plan funding and will pay for qualifying expenses associated with CNA courses (i.e. tuition, fees, books, technology needs, test fees) to ensure these courses are available at no-cost to students.

Learn more online:

newspaper beside a coffee cup

In the news

State approves $2.86M to help hospitals find care for kids in mental health crisisMinnesota hospitals are about to get help with an often-overlooked symptom of the pandemic, children suffering from severe mental health issues, stuck for days or weeks in emergency departments. Learn more in a KARE 11 news story, featuring an interview with DHS Assistant Commissioner Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa.

Learn about Minnesota's Autism Portal: Sheletta Brudidge talks with Kim Hicks from DHS about the state's Autism Portal in a recent WCCO radio show.

Health officials push education, testing as they monitor HIV outbreaks:  The state health department is monitoring two active HIV outbreaks in Minnesota, and is encouraging people to get tested and educate themselves about prevention and treatment. Mariah Wilberg, statewide HIV strategy and services coordinator at DHS, says the stigma against people living with HIV has exacerbated inequities in testing and treatment in communities of color. Learn more in a KARE 11 news story.

DHS fact sheets updated

Facts about Minnesota Family Investment Program (PDF)