A Ramsey County judge Wednesday temporarily barred the state from cutting the pay of about 6,950 relatives who deliver personal care assistance to low-income Minnesotans.
The 20-percent cut, which took effect Oct. 1, was one of dozens of budget trims approved by the Legislature in the final hours a special session in July to erase a $5 billion deficit. State officials have estimated that the pay cut would save the state $24.1 million over the next two years.
The state was sued by eight home care agencies that argued that the measure violates the Minnesota constitution and the federal Civil Rights Act because it discriminates against women, minorities and immigrants. Attorneys said it will not be clear whether the order is retroactive to Oct. 1 until the judge issues a written order in coming days.
The aides typically help aged or disabled people with dressing, eating, cleaning and other non-medical assistance so they can remain in their homes instead of moving into institutional care. The care must be supervised by home care agencies.
Judge Dale Lindman granted a request for a temporary restraining order listening to oral arguments and will hold another hearing within a month on whether to make it permanent.
The personal care agencies were joined in the lawsuit by nine personal care assistants, or PCAs, and seven care recipients. They argued that there was "no rational reason" for the pay cut except to save the state money, and that amounted to giving unequal pay for equal work. The result would be especially harmful to people needing care who had complex needs compounded by cultural or language barriers.
They said the pay cut -- from around $11 an hour to about $9 an hour -- would force some aides to quit and seek work elsewhere or to go on welfare programs themselves in order to keep giving care.
Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253