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MN Group Calls for State Stimulus for Families in Poverty

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Each year, nearly 30,000 families get help from the Minnesota Family Investment Program, which provides payments to households with children to help cover basic expenses. (Adobe Stock)
Each year, nearly 30,000 families get help from the Minnesota Family Investment Program, which provides payments to households with children to help cover basic expenses. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
February 5, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As talks ramp up on another federal COVID-relief package, Minnesota groups point out that some families in poverty are still falling through the cracks - and they want to see a state-level stimulus payment for them.

Many levels of government have responded to the pandemic crisis by increasing access to basic needs. But Jessica Webster, staff attorney at the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, said not everyone gets approved for unemployment, or has transportation to pick up free school meals.

That's where the Minnesota Family Investment Program comes in. MFIP provides monthly cash payments to families who qualify - and Webster said right now, it's the last sliver of hope for some households.

"We have a parent who's a single dad, who has one child but is also the guardian of his younger brother," said Webster, "who lost work at a grocery store and hasn't had any income since then. And COVID is really hurting those employment prospects."

She said other examples include survivors of domestic violence who need money for supplies like diapers.

Gov. Tim Walz proposes a one-time extra payment of $750 through MFIP, with funding from the state's share of the federal subsidy. But Republicans in the Legislature recently balked at a similar idea, saying people not in the program would be left out, despite their struggles.

There's a separate plan to streamline the state's process for qualifying for income-support programs. Bharti Wahi, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota, said that could help families stay off the path of income volatility.

She said she thinks improvements to MFIP could make a big difference for children living in poverty.

"The vast majority of Minnesotans who benefit from the program each year are children," said Wahi. "Seven in ten recipients of MFIP, or 59,000 children across the state of Minnesota. Almost half of them are under the age of six."

Wahi made those comments before a House committee this week.

And Webster noted federal stimulus payments were not a given for families enrolled in MFIP.

"Some families are still waiting for those payments," said Webster, "or they received a stimulus check but it was the wrong amount. Maybe one child was missed."

Last year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported some low-income families, not required to fill out income-tax returns, received payments smaller than expected, amid communication gaps in reporting dependents.

Disclosure: Children's Defense Fund- Minnesota Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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