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MN Welfare Rights Committee wins first welfare increase since 1986

Victory Delayed: Politicians set increase for 2015
By Deb Konechne |
June 20, 2013
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St. Paul, MN - Because of the Welfare Rights Committee’s fierce battle at the State Capitol, the first increase for welfare since 1986 passed and was signed into law by the governor in late May. The Health and Human Services Omnibus bill includes a housing allowance for MFIP families (MFIP is Minnesota’s welfare program for poor families). The Welfare Rights Committee (WRC) won over $40 million dollars (over a 2 year period) that will go directly into the pockets of poor families. Specifically, MFIP families who do not live in subsidized housing will receive an additional $110 dollars a month.

It is a victory in that it turns the tide after 27 years of no grant increase. It is because of the relentless and persistent work of the WRC that this first cash increase passed. Members of the WRC exposed the theft of federal TANF (welfare) dollars and the extreme poverty of MFIP families. Legislative backers of the bill have declared that this is only a start. The message of poor families was heard loud and clear and the WRC will make sure it continues to be heard.

However, the fact that it won’t help a single person for two years is an outrage. While it as an acknowledgement that the cash MFIP grants that poor families get don’t even come close to covering rent, it is cynical in the extreme in that it actively condemns kids to homelessness for another 2 years.

The Welfare Rights Committee has been fighting to increase the grants since last summer. The WRC introduced a bill to double the grants and struggled with legislators until the bitter end to get even a partial increase. One reason for the disappointing two-year wait before the increase takes effect is the cowardly legislative leadership putting election politics before people. Poof families had to continually urge and re-convince legislators to do right thing, after 27 years

“What a family of two lived on in 1986 was $437. What a family of two lives on today in 2013 is $437.00. The time is now!’ said Welfare Rights member Lena Buggs. Poor families have been struggling to pay their rent and bills with the amount of money that they receive in welfare.

“People are going homeless,” states Angel Buechner, member of the Welfare Rights Committee. If the welfare grants had kept up with inflation since 1986 - the year of the last increase - they would be double. The cash grant levels condemns over 70,000 MN children to extreme poverty.

Another barrier to the full success of the bill to double the grants was interference from the ‘poverty industry’ - agencies and other areas of government that use funds meant for poor families for their businesses or their ‘studies.’

The federal money meant for welfare, the TANF block grant, has been raided for years. Only 28% of the TANF fund goes to actual people in need. The WRC’s work caused many legislators - Democrats and Republican - to question this misuse of TANF funds.

As statement from the WRC notes: “It is clear to the WRC and poor families that the legislature and the governor clearly dance to the tune of the rich. They use regressive taxes to give General Fund money to billionaire stadium owners, then turn around and tell homeless kids that there won’t be money to help them for two years.

“We will take this truth to the streets, and continue to demand justice. This is just the beginning. We will keep up the fight to Raise the Welfare Grants until poor families in MN get the justice we deserve!”

The Welfare Rights Committee will hold a protest outside Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s mansion July 10. For more info, see http://welfarerightsmn.com/

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