By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – More billing mistakes at the Department of Human Services mean Minnesota counties are on the hook for $9 million. A spreadsheet shows every single Minnesota county owes money for chemical dependency programs.

Hennepin County owes $2.1 million, Ramsey County owes $629,000 and Dakota County is expected to pay $423,000. St. Louis County, which includes Duluth, owes $629,000.

A letter from DHS to all Minnesota counties says because of the department’s mistakes, they will start seeing “increases to monthly invoices” next month.

“How would you respond to counties saying it wasn’t our fault that you overspent money, and you’re making us to double down and take more money out of our county taxpayers,” Republican Representative Tony Albright said to a DHS manager and state budget officials at a Minnesota House Committee.

DHS’s mistake is that it under-billed counties for a federal chemical dependency program. Now it was wants the counties to pay the difference back.

Counties are objecting. Hennepin County, on the hook for $2.1 million, said “we cannot set a precedent that we pay for things we don’t control.”

“I think it should come from DHS’s budget,” said Rep. Albright.

Rep. Mohamud Noor said it would mean cuts to programs that help one million vulnerable Minnesotans. He said the state, which is projecting a $1.3 billion surplus, should pay.

“If the counties are unable to pay, we have to come back with a structure to help the counties pay,” Noor said.

The counties aren’t the only one the hook for DHS accounting mistakes. DHS over-payed two Minnesota Native American tribes $29 million for drug addiction programs. The two tribes, White Earth Band and Leech Lake Nations, say they also don’t have the money and a similar debate is raging on how this money should be paid back.

DHS says by law they are required to bill the counties for the mistake.

Governor Walz said in a statement he is working with the state legislature to find a solution for counties impacted by the issue.

Esme Murphy

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