Minnesota State Plan for Assistive Technology
Attachment 6: Comparable Support
6.1 Source and Amount of Support
Identify the State-level activity for which there is comparable support, the source of this support, the amount of the support, and the project year for which this support is being provided.
Minnesota's AT Council recommended that the AT Plan for year one and beyond should include a declaration of comparable support for State-level financing activities. Minnesota has a federally funded Alternate Financing Program (AFP) through its community-based partner, Assistive Technology of Minnesota (ATMn*). Therefore, STAR will not pursue duplicating such financing activities during the next three years. STAR will, however, provide evidence in its yearly report that there continues to be comparable alternative financing for Minnesotans and file an amendment to the state AT plan, if needed.
The Minnesota Governor's Advisory Council on Technology for People with Disabilities, the STAR Program and interested stakeholders created a community based organization to provide statewide activities related to the Assistive Technology Act of 1998. Organized and incorporated as a statewide 501(c)(3) non-profit in 1998, Assistive Technology of Minnesota was identified as the organization that would provide alternative financing for the purchase of assistive technology devices and services. In the early years, 1998-2000, ATMn* was managed under an Executive Loan Agreement with the STAR Program. In 2000, a local foundation provided a grant award of $10,000 to ATMn* to begin the process of developing a loan program specifically for the purpose of financing AT devices and services. Over the next four years, ATMn* was privatized and continued developing the loan program. Without long-term financial support to operate the program ATMn* realized how important it was to access available federal funding under Title III of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998.
In September of 2003 Assistive Technology of Minnesota (ATMn*) jointly applied with the Minnesota Department of Administration and the STAR Program for federal funds under Title III of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 to ensure long-term funding for an Alternative Finance Program for Minnesotans with disabilities. Concurrently, an application was submitted to the U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration for funding to support the development of a new program, Access to Telework (loans for the purchase of employment related equipment). The federal government approved both applications. A condition of the award required Minnesota to provide a "matching" share of funds. The federal government awarded $1,270,981 to develop the Alternative Finance Project referred to as the ATMn* Micro-Loan Program. With the addition of the local match requirement of $423,660, ATMn*'s Micro-Loan Program will total $1,694,641 offering a long-term funding solution for the purchase of assistive technology devices and services to Minnesotans with disabilities.
ATMn* is required by the contractual agreement with the State of Minnesota, the STAR Program to raise the required match. To date, ATMn* has raised $210,000 that was matched by $630,000 of federal funds for a balance of $840,000. A portion of the funds, $100,000 was recently awarded to ATMn* by the 2005 Legislature through a one time special appropriation to support the required local match. Additional funds for the required local match were provided by foundation, corporate and individual donors. ATMn* will continue fund development activities until the entire balance of the required local match are raised ensuring the federal dollars allocated to Minnesota are capitalized. Securing all the federal and local funds will ensure that alternative financing is available to consumers in need and provide fiscal sustainability for ATMn*'s Micro-Loan Program many years into the future.
Given the substantial amount of funding already in place under the AFP it makes better sense to serve the AT needs of its citizens by using the alternative financing portion of the AT Act grant for the other required activities.
As part of contractual agreement with the federal government, the STAR Program and ATMn* are required to assist all eligible Minnesotans to obtain AT devices and services regardless of their type of disability, age, income level or location of residence within the state. ATMn*'s policies/procedures governing the program require comprehensive access (i.e., that services be provided in a non-discriminatory manner and protect the privacy of all applicants).
6.3 Coordination and Collaboration
Describe how the State will coordinate activities and collaborate with the appropriate entity, if the comparable funds are provided to, or the activities are conducted by, an entity other than the Lead Agency or Implementing Entity.
The Minnesota Department of Administration has designated the STAR Program to administer the contract with ATMn*. ATMn* operates the AFP independently from STAR. STAR and ATMn* usually meet monthly as part of a collaborative of AT organizations and discuss AFP issues when needed in person. ATMn* provides written reports to the STAR Program on a quarterly basis with details of the loan activities, progress toward program goals and information required by the federal government in the administration and implementation of the AFP.
The STAR Program through its information and referral service promote the AFP, link to ATMn*'s Web site, provide information at education/vendor/AT events and work to increase awareness of the program. Educators have direct access to the information through the State of MN Department of Education Assistive Technology Specialist who leads a Statewide Leadership Team. Dissemination of information through an annual AT conference sponsored by the Education Department ensures that school personnel, case-managers, parents and other professionals have access to the program information. Other collaborative efforts with vendors, hospitals, clinics, specialty medical personnel and social/rehabilitative counselors assist in increasing awareness of the program.
The Minnesota AT Advisory Council issued an invitation to ATMn* to attend a council meeting to share information about the AFP. ATMn* accepted the invitation and told the council about its financing options. The AT Council also discussed at the 8/16/05 meeting offering one of its members to ATMn* as a member of the AFP advisory council so that there is better communication between the organizations.
With more than $1 million available for loans, ATMn* continues to provide comparable support for state-level financing activities.