Wednesday January 26, 2022
| Last update: Wednesday at 12:00 PM
Welfare Rights Activists Meet

Plans Laid to Turn Up the Heat!

by Deb Konechne |
October 21, 1998
Read more articles in

Duluth, MN - On August 8th, the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition held a statewide meeting in Duluth to discuss the effects of Minnesota's new welfare program, MFIP-S (Minnesota Family Investment Program-Statewide) and to lay plans for fighting at the county and state level.

Members of the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition, a statewide coalition of low income people's organizations from across Minnesota, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, Duluth, St. Cloud, Moorhead, Winona, Mankato, Northfield, Virginia and Bemidji, laid out the effects of MFIP-S on low income families in different counties around the state.

Members of the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition echoed that the new welfare program is a "disaster for Minnesota's poor all over the state." "MFIP-S is ridiculous," stated Kathy Krueger of Minnesotans United for Social Justice of St. Cloud. "In Stearns and Benton Counties, welfare recipients who wish to better themselves with an education are being denied anything over 6 months. If there is a limit on assistance, wouldn't it make more sense to become educated so we can get a position that will sustain our families?"

She continued "What's going to happen to people when we use up the system's five-year limit and lose our jobs? We'll end up homeless with our whole family. Welfare recipients can't work their way out of poverty with low-wage, entry level jobs. People can't survive off of $5-an-hour jobs when they have a family to feed. MFIP-S is just setting us up to fail."

Coalition members from counties around Minnesota related similar stories about the new welfare program in their counties. "MFIP-S pushes work at all cost. The idea behind MFIP-S is that if you work, you'll be better off - but that is a lie," stated Mimi Molina of the Welfare Rights Committee of Minneapolis-St. Paul. "The fact is, MFIP-S creates a pool of low-wage workers, that will affect not just welfare recipients but the working poor, by driving down everyone's wages and displacing workers. Education should be the first choice because it gives us a better opportunity at a livable wage job, not a dead-end job."

In St. Louis County, members of Low Income People Organizing for Power, state that MFIP-S is a "big flop." "MFIP-S just throws you out there to get any kind of job whether it can take care of your family or not. They're just pushing people off welfare to save money for the state," stated Derrick Parker. "MFIP-S has opened the doors to racism and discrimination. In St. Louis County, more people of color are being pushed off the welfare, with no chance for education, are being forced into looking for low wage jobs, and are being sanctioned right away. Job counselors are also telling folks they can't get education and are counting job hunting as job training."

Hector Martinez, Director of Centro Cultural de Fargo/Moorhead related that in Clay County there is a large community of migrant workers who come to Minnesota to do agricultural work every summer. "Families are being denied assistance because of the 30 day residency requirement, even when there is no work available." Young families being forced to take low wage jobs and the threat of sanctions are some of the worst problems, stated others from Moorhead.

Brenda Boettcher of the Winona Chapter of the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition, gave this report: "Financial workers and job counselors are giving out misinformation and denying services to people, that were promised, to help with child care, transportation, uniforms and materials for employment. Workforce counselors are forcing people to leave education plans and take a faster, cheaper route."

"For example, one woman in her 2nd year of college to be a registered nurse was told by her job counselor to change her major to fit into a shorter program, even though she had already invested time and money into her education. People without job skills are being forced to work at sheltered workshops for low wages - work that will never give us training for decent jobs and will never get us livable wage jobs! I'm working a $6 an hour job full time, and I don't have enough to feed my entire family and I have no medical care for my three kids. Families are going hungry all over, and parents are not eating to make sure there's enough for the kids, because of these welfare changes!" she added.

"There is extreme discrimination and abuse of immigrants being carried out in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties. Parents who do not read or write, and do not speak English, are being forced to go do job search for thirty hours a week, instead of being exempted and allowed to attend ESL (English as a Second Language) classes," stated Debra Howze, of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Welfare Rights Committee.

Repeated stories of abuse, lies, and discrimination being carried out by workers and job counselors were related by Coalition members. "People are being forced to work even if they have disabilities and a doctor's note saying that they can't work," stated Alexis Neeland of Centro Cultural of Fargo/Moorhead, relating the story of a friend who suffered this abuse by workers. Coalition members demanded that workers be held accountable for lies, abuse and discrimination. "For the first offense workers should be demoted and for the second offense they should be fired," stated Hector Martinez.

At the statewide meeting, Coalition members laid out demands to the counties, and discussed the fight back that is needed at both the county and state level to stop the lies, abuse and attacks on families in poverty in Minnesota.

"Government and agency people are all saying that MFIP-S is a great program," stated Brenda Boettcher. "But they want us to just judge a book by its cover. It might look nice on the outside, but when you take a closer look on the inside, you can see that MFIP-S is a disaster for poor families. We have to fight back every attack on welfare and on our lives from our County agencies to the State Capitol!"

The real issue is that poverty is the real problem, and we cannot reduce the welfare 'dole' without first attacking poverty," stated Kathy Krueger. "We all need livable wages, affordable housing, a decent education, and universal health care to begin reducing the 'problems' of welfare. We demand that politicians attack poverty, not the poor!"

"As low income people, we have to fight back and confront these people in their faces," stated Derrick Parker. "We have to go to both the Counties and to the Minnesota State Legislature starting in January to get more education, to stop cruel sanctions, to stop forced work at low-wage jobs and to stop all the attacks on our families!"