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MN Report: Aid Helps, But Many Have Trouble Escaping Poverty

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Thursday, April 7, 2022   

For Minnesota to make big gains in reducing poverty, its safety net needs to be more robust, according to a new report highlighting disparities residents around the state are experiencing while elevating themselves from hardship.

Minnesota's official poverty rate is 8.7 %, which is below the national average.

Angie Fertig, social policy research scientist at the University of Minnesota, said when you dig deeper, there are broad levels of unevenness. The state is known for its racial disparities, and Fertig confirmed BIPOC residents have much higher poverty rates than white residents, and existing support systems only help meet basic needs.

"A lot of people believe that Minnesota is a very generous state in terms of its safety net," Fertig acknowledged. "And that's generally true. However, there are lots of things that we could do better."

The report calls for state action, such as expanding eligibility for SNAP benefits, to help all families prosper. Despite a large budget surplus, it is unclear if boosting various forms of assistance will happen under a divided Legislature. The poverty rate for Black residents is 21%, while 29% of Native Americans fall into the same category.

Fertig pointed out there is also variation when looking at poverty through a geographic lens, with higher rates in certain urban centers, including Duluth and the Twin Cities, and some rural regions as well. Her report calculated separate poverty rates when factoring in federal benefit programs and found it was not much better than the official rate.

"What the report reveals is that current policies and programs just aren't enough to eliminate poverty," Fertig asserted. "They exactly balance out with the higher costs that living (and) covering your basic needs entail."

Bill Grant, executive director of the Minnesota Community Action Partnership, which supported the report, said it is good to have a more accurate measure so organizations such as his know where to ask for legislative support to make them stronger.

"While a number of people have benefited from these programs, they aren't accomplishing the primary objective, which is to lift people out of poverty," Grant stressed.

The new report looked at 2019 data and called for a statewide Commission to End Poverty. Those involved hoped to issue annual findings to track how marginalized residents are faring, especially in light of the pandemic.

Disclosure: Minnesota Community Action Association Resource Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Early Childhood Education, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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