Senate Republicans called the three and a half hour hearing a “chipping away process” and state their intent to have more hearings on the situation at DHS.
The lawmakers took a deep dive into the shortcomings of DHS, including their recent overpayment to two Minnesota tribes by $25 million for medicaid services.
Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) asked Acting Commissioner Pam Wheelock “Who’s going to pay back the feds?” Wheelock responded by saying that DHS will follow state law that says the provider, which in this case is DHS, has to pay the money back. Sen. Benson then asked “where will that money come from” if DHS cannot get repayment for the $25 million from the tribes? Wheelock responded stating DHS’s intent to request funds from the Governor and the Legislature.
Fay Bernstein, a human services program consultant, and DHS whistleblower testified at the Tuesday hearing. Bernstein stated that she was told she could be fired for testifying at the hearing. Acting Commissioner Pam Wheelock defended DHS’s decision to threaten Bernstein saying she “stands by that personally.”
DHS has had a multitude of issues in recent months including the release of a report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor released that exposed major fraud within Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and caused DHS Inspector General, Carolyn Ham, to be placed on paid.
In July, Tony Lourey resigned from his position as commissioner of DHS. His Chief of Staff, Stacie Weeks, resigned shortly after. Two other individuals in DHS also had planned to resign during this time as well, but rescinded their resignations shortly after Weeks resigned. Pam Wheelock was quickly appointed as interim commissioner of DHS by Governor Tim Walz.
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