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Anti-Poverty Advocates Pushing MN Lawmakers to Take Real Action

Advocates for Minnesota's low-income families are pushing lawmakers to pass an increase in monthly cash assistance. (iStockphoto)
Advocates for Minnesota's low-income families are pushing lawmakers to pass an increase in monthly cash assistance. (iStockphoto)
February 8, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A year has passed since a state task force laid out solutions to some of the serious problems facing Minnesota's Family Investment Program, but not much has changed. Today, advocates for low-income families are in the Capitol, again asking lawmakers to implement some of the changes laid out in last year's report.

Jessica Webster is a lawyer with Minnesota Legal Aid who also worked on the task force. She says the thousands of families who rely on public assistance haven't seen a raise in that help since 1986.

"It's now been a year, we're facing even deeper erosion," she says. "It just recognizes the consequences of doing nothing. These are 64,000 kids living in deep, extreme poverty by federal definition."

The report found most Minnesota families in need in 2013 received on average about $350 a month, the same amount as 30 years ago. Advocates argue that's not enough to cover even half a month's rent in many parts of the state.

Last year a bipartisan group of lawmakers tried to pass a raise in the cash assistance by $100 a month, an idea backed by Gov. Mark Dayton. But ultimately that move went nowhere. Now, just a few weeks ahead of the upcoming legislative session, Webster is urging lawmakers to finally take action.

"Frankly, we were advocating increases in years of deep deficit, and now we're in another year with an incredible surplus," says Webster. "The money is there, the time is right, the issue is so urgent, we just want leaders to do the right thing."

Among other solutions, Webster is asking lawmakers to redirect about $23 million from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund to increase grants to low-income families.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN