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No Five-Year Limit On Welfare!

by Linden Gawboy |
July 11, 2000
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Welfare rights protest at Governor Jesse Ventura's office. Fight Back! News/Kim Defranco

Minneapolis, MN - "It's time to declare war, on the war on the poor," said Glen Johnson of the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition (MN-WRC) as fighters gathered here, June 23, for a crucial statewide meeting. At the meeting, MN-WRC groups laid plans for a campaign against time limits on welfare.

"We demand that the Federal Government undo any and all time limits on welfare. We also demand that the State of Minnesota ensure that no one is cut off, ever. They should put a time limit on poverty instead!" declared Deb Konechne, of the Minneapolis/St. Paul-based Welfare Rights Committee.

There is a five-year lifetime limit on welfare nationwide. Some states have different time limits, and people in these states have already hit two-year limits. President Bill Clinton started the time limit by signing the Federal Welfare Reform Law on August 22, 1996. "Minnesota's time bomb started ticking on July 1, 1997," said Michael Wood, of St. Paul. "By July of 2002, over six thousand families could be thrown into the street. Unless we stop it."

"How dare this system take our kids?" said Marvella Davis of Low Income People Organizing for Power, Duluth. Fellow LI-POP member Nancy Polonia continued, "One of the things going on right now is that orphanages are being built." One poverty pimp in Minneapolis is planning to open an orphanage timed for when the first families would be cut off, in the summer of 2002.

Coalition members agree that time limits on welfare will shape up to be a major issue. "This is the Federal government undoing a promise it made 60 years ago. It would be the worst poverty since the 1930s!" said Alice Solheim of the Welfare Rights Committee. "Their whole agenda is to get cheap labor for businesses," added Martha Crowe of St. Cloud's Minnesotans United for Social Justice. Duke Schemp, People Escaping Poverty Project (Fargo, ND-Moorhead MN), said, "The time limit is anti-poor and just plain mean. It doesn't eliminate poverty, it just eliminates the program."

MN-WRC plans to build a coalition of groups against the time limit. Members say that the time limit won't affect just people on welfare, but the whole community. "In two years, if everyone is kicked off, people will be looking out their windows and seeing all the homeless families," said Kathy Krueger of St. Cloud.

"The idea of the time limit is racist, sexist, anti-children and anti-immigrant at its core. A lot of groups are accepting the time limit, saying that it's federal law and that we can't do anything about it. That's bull!" stated Glen Johnson of St. Paul. "We did not vote for this, congress did, and we can unite to defeat it. We need to set aside our differences, organize, and understand this limit as an attack against the people!"

MN-WRC plans to issue a declaration, along with an action checklist, that other groups can sign on to. A statewide day of action and protest is planned for August 22.

"We have to hold the government accountable," said Derrick Parker, from Low-Income People Organizing for Power, Duluth. "This is definitely a racist thing. It attacks people who are already shut out of access to jobs and a decent life."

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