Testimony on House HHS Finance bill – for March 23, 2011

This is the testimony that we will try to give on March 23, at the House Health and Human Service Finance division. The Welfare Rights Committee is #72 on the testifiers list.

This budget bill is full of attacks on the poorest in this state. Here are just a few reasons why this bill HF927 should be voted down in its entirety.

— First, the part that makes it illegal for MFIP families and people on General assistance to withdraw most of the cash from the cash portion of the grant. In fact, it essentially makes it illegal for poor people to possess more than $20 in cash or coin at any given time.

This bill calls for all MFIP and GA business to be transacted via a state-issued debit card, which is so impractical it’s ridiculous. The cost and hassle to landlords and businesses to add EBT terminals across the state would be huge. But the burden placed on the poorest in this state would be worse. How would we pay our utilities? You can’t use an EBT to buy postage, do laundry, ride the bus, set up a checking account, pay children’s school fees, pay medical co-pays or many, many other things. In short, this is part of the bill would be laughable — if it weren’t so mean-spirited and insulting.

— The part of the bill that makes it illegal to withdraw MFIP benefits out of state puts burdens on families who are forced to leave MN to attend funerals, sick relatives, visit family members in the military, hunt for jobs and all the other things we have to leave home for. It is a restriction on our constitutional right to travel from state to state.

— The part of the bill that says “others” can’t use the EBT card is bad for disabled people who need to have a friend, relative or personal care attendant go to the store for them. Also consider the head of household might be working or ill and need to send an older child to do household errands. Under the first part of the bill, it’s not like we can give them cash to make the purchases.

— The proposed restrictions on General Assistance (which has benefits of $203 per month) are just strange. This bill blatantly cuts disabled people, minors, caregivers of severely disabled people and many others from the program. General Assistance is not a supplement to other income, it all people have; it’s GA or zilch. These cuts are outrageous.

— We are against the 90-residency requirement; it’s unconstitutional. At least half of the MFIP grant is federal money and if we’re eligible, we’re eligible. When we are that broke and desperate, we don’t move to other states for “fun” or for “great benefits.” We move because we have concrete hopes and plans to make a better life. In this time of economic crisis, everyone in this country should have equal rights at survival.

It is not right to punish a whole group because of the supposed actions of a few. Would you like it if used a few examples of bad behavior on the part of some legislators to impose rules on all rest of you?

You must know that a family of 3 on MFIP gets only $532 per month – far below the federal poverty level. A disabled person on GA gets a whopping $203 to live on. When we are forced onto assistance, life is already a miserable struggle, 24-7. We don’t need any more idiotic, hate-driven laws to make things even worse.

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