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Housing Advocates: Time to Boost Assistance for Low-Income MN Families

Anti-poverty groups are urging the Minnesota Senate to consider boosting a monthly cash assistance program for low-income families for the first time in 30 years. (iStockphoto)
Anti-poverty groups are urging the Minnesota Senate to consider boosting a monthly cash assistance program for low-income families for the first time in 30 years. (iStockphoto)
April 28, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. – As the state Senate continues to debate its budget plan today, anti-poverty advocates are urging lawmakers to boost funding for a program aimed at helping low-income families.

Supporters of the Minnesota Family Investment Program, or MFIP, say the amount of cash assistance hasn't been updated in 30 years.

Kenza Hadj-Moussa communications director for the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, says the current maximum of $532 per month for a working family of three doesn't go as far as it did in 1986.

"Since cash assistance has eroded, we've seen family homelessness increase dramatically since the 1990s,” she states. “And so, while a $100 increase wouldn't necessarily prevent homelessness, it definitely helps in terms of general family stability."

Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a raise of $100 a month for the program. Even though the idea was backed by Gov. Mark Dayton, it wasn't approved. Currently, the Senate has no plans for an MFIP raise.

According to research from the St. Paul-based Wilder Foundation, while MFIP assistance has remained the same, the costs of housing and transportation have almost doubled in the state.

Hadj-Moussa argues that even a modest raise for the program in the next budget could make a big difference for low-income families.

"Thirty years is too long for families to wait,” she stresses. “No family can get by on $532 a month. We've got a $900 million budget surplus, and it's time for lawmakers to figure this out."

Meanwhile, Dayton's budget plan includes setting aside about $68 million to boost the monthly grant. That plan would be funded by a mix of federal and state dollars.


Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN