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Minnesota Welfare Rights Leaders Say

Stop The War On The Poor

February 1 Protest Planned for State Capitol
by Linden Gawboy |
December 26, 2000
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St. Paul, MN -- Poor people will take over the Minnesota State Capitol on February 1, 2000, the opening day of the legislative session. While politicians try to have their opening ceremonies, angry welfare recipients will storm into the rotunda, raising loud voices for justice.

"We have to let them know that they are criminals for passing these welfare laws," declared Brenda Boettcher of Winona. "The longer they go unattacked, the worse off we families are going to be."

The Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition (MN-WRC) planned the opening day protest at a statewide meeting in November. Coalition members are also getting ready for a serious fight to change Minnesota's disastrous welfare law, MFIP. The February 1 protest will be the opening blow in this fight.

"I'm protesting because people's voices are not being heard. People's needs are not being met. Families are suffering. Children are not getting what they deserve. The system is not set up to help us; it's failing us. I feel something desperately and urgently needs to be done!" stated Dolly Clater of the Duluth group, Low Income People Organizing for Power (LIPOP).

A Plan for Justice

MN-WRC members also worked out plans to change the MFIP law in the year 2000. "We know what's bad in MFIP, and we came up with law changes to fix it," said Deb Konechne, when asked how the group decided on its legislative priorities. "We are sick and tired of hearing the poverty pimps and others who make their money running the welfare system say that everything's fine. We can't count on anyone but poor people to work in the interests of poor people."

MN-WRC will fight for several key demands this year. They are:

Stop sanctions: Sanctions are cuts to the welfare grant and food stamps that are imposed on the family when the parent is seen as not "complying" with welfare rules. The grant cuts are devastating, causing homelessness for many and misery for all. Most sanctions are imposed illegally.

Education choice: MN-WRC wants to allow parents to have education (including ESL, GED, and post-secondary) as a first choice. Currently, parents are being denied the right to go to school, and forced into low wage, dead end jobs instead.

Food stamps and welfare for immigrants: State funding for food stamps and MFIP for immigrant families is slated to end in 2001 and 2000. MN-WRC fought for this funding in the past, and will fight to see that it is continued.

Stop the time clock on welfare: Minnesota's five-year clock started ticking on July 1, 1997. MN-WRC demands that the state government stop the time clock, and use state money if needed for anyone who hits the federal time limit.

Other priorities include stopping the $100 cut to families in subsidized housing (set to take effect in 2001), and making it so that parents, not welfare workers and job counselors, have the power to decide what work activities they do.

At press time, MN-WRC had sponsors for most of its legislative priorities.

MN-WRC members are determined to never give up the fight for justice for poor people. "Politicians are hurting people. They are tearing families apart," said Dawn Leahy, of Working Poor of Mankato.

Brenda Boettcher, of Winona, added, "We'll let the politicians know that we are not going to take their treatment of us lying down. They need to realize that we are the experts on poverty, not them. They should put themselves in our shoes. Feel what it's like to scrimp and save and scrounge for food, and to keep a roof over our heads and raise our families the best we can."

The February protest starts at noon, on the front steps of the capitol. "The biggest reason for the protest is we want to stop the war on the poor and people of color," said Marvella Davis of LIPOP. "We've had enough!"