February 23, 2011
The Welfare Rights Committee is an organization of parents and families who are current or former welfare recipients, who are living in poverty, are low income or working poor. We would like to remind this committee that families who have no other choice but to receive welfare are forced to live at over 60% below the federal poverty level. Poor families in Minnesota have not seen an increase in the welfare grants in 25 years. That means that a family of three who received a mere $6384 dollars per year to live in 1986 is still receiving $6384 dollars a year in 2011. That is $532 per month. $532 does not even come near to covering rent. So for years, this legislature has been condemning families with children to homelessness. We also would like to remind this committee that we are still in an economic crisis, the last ones hired but the first ones laid off.
We are glad to see that the governor’s budget does not steal more money from the MFIP grants. But the reality is, millions have been stolen from the TANF fund in previous years, and those millions could have gone to undoing huge suffering in this state. This means that our families can no longer tolerate having the budget balanced on our backs.
We would like to speak against some of cuts to low income and working people in the Governor’s proposed budget.
• The cut in consolidated funds to counties could result in more counties eliminating emergency assistance for the poor. When the so-called “consolidated fund” was created, it was to hide a huge cut to the poor. Reducing the consolidated fund means more cuts that will hurt workers and poor families.
• The cuts in MNCARE mean that over 7,200 will no longer have health care.
• The merging of Emergency General Assistance and Emergency MSA will have the effect of creating more homelessness, since those funds are used as we are forced to bounce around apartments at the very bottom of the housing market.
• We would like to speak against taking $14 million per year from the TANF fund to go into the childcare and working family tax credit. If this state really respected the idea of helping to provide childcare and the Working Family Credit for low-income working families, it would ante up from the General Fund, not take money that is meant for the poorest of the poor.
We say that not one dime of cuts should come out of programs for poor and working people. We have borne the brunt of the budget deficits for years and our programs have been shaved to the bone.
We also urge you all not to pass any bills that will hurt our families economically, not to pass any bills that would criminalize poor families, not to pass any bills that eliminate or make it even harder to receive the services that we need to survive during this economic crisis.
On the other hand, we applaud the Governor’s proposal to tax the rich. While we have paid for the budget deficits with our blood for many years, the wealthiest in Minnesota have not paid even one dime. In fact they have gotten richer and richer at the expense of poor and working Minnesotans. While we applaud the Governor’s tax increases, we say it is not nearly enough. Look at the facts: if the governor’s proposal to raise taxes on 5% of the population with the most income results in over $3 billion, this signifies just how much the State of Minnesota has been losing in tax income, year after year after year because the rich have not paid their fair share and because of the massive tax breaks they have benefitted from. This is incredible. It also means that the richest have amassed billions of dollars in extra income year after year while the rest of the people in the state have been living in desperate times.
We feel the rich should actually PAY BACK the wealth they have gained at our expense, and, in this time of budget crisis this state should be prioritizing the survival needs of the families and individuals in who are coping with disabilities and unemployment in this time of overall economic crisis.