Legislators’ “$437 Challenge” Press conference
Tuesday, March 5, 2:30 p.m. (press conf. starts at 2:40)
State Capitol Building Room 125
Several legislators have agreed to take the “$437 Challenge!” Please come and show your support! The event won’t last long (busy time for legislators at the capitol), so plan to get there before 2:30 so you don’t miss it!
For one week, they will try to live on the amount of cash that an MFIP family lives on. If the legislators can find a willing family member, those 2 would have about $101 to get by on for the week. If they go solo, that senator or representative would get $51 in cash to live on for a week.
With this amount of cash, they would have to pay rent, mortgage, utility bills, phone, children’s school costs, transportation (bus, gas, insurance, parking), clothes, additional food costs when food stamps run out, hygiene and household supplies, laundry costs, etc.
In trying to persuade legislators to take up the challenge, the Welfare Rights Committee noted that we don’t expect them to lose their housing, indeed we expect that they most likely won’t “succeed” — the aim is to expose how low Minnesota’s welfare grants are, and to report back on their experience.
The cash grants for welfare/MFIP have not been increased for 27 years. A child and caregiver get a maximum of $437 per month. Two children and a parent get a maximum of $532 per month. It is virtually impossible to find family housing for that amount, much less have anything left over the rest of the family’s needs.
Here is a list of who has agreed to take the challenge:
State Senator Chris Eaton
State Senator John Marty
Other legislators have declared that they cannot do the challenge, but will show up at Tuesday’s press conference in support.
On Monday, March 4, the bill to increase the grants, SF165, passed the Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing. Tuesday’s “$437 Challenge” press conference is another step forward to undo 27 years of inaction.
1986 to 2013…..27 Years is Too Long
Bring Minnesota’s Children Out of Extreme Poverty
We call on you to end extreme poverty for all of Minnesota’s children this year. It can be done.
• Thousands of children in Minnesota are living in extreme poverty. One bill could change all that.
• The cash grants for children and their caregivers in Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) have not been increased since 1986 – 27 years ago.
• Meanwhile the cost of living has more than DOUBLED since 1986.
In 1986, a family of two (a parent and a child) received $437 per month in cash to live on. Today, that same family of two still only gets $437. The result is homelessness and hunger. It is impossible to find housing for $437 a month. One or two percent is not enough – by rights the cash grants should be doubled.
• Currently, families on MFIP (Minnesota’s welfare program for families with children) live at 70% below the federal poverty level. Even doubling the grants would still keep MN families below the poverty level. If the grants were doubled, families would be at 30% below the poverty level.
• The money is there. If the entire federal TANF block grant was used for cash grants for MN families who qualify for welfare as it was intended, the welfare grants could nearly be doubled—bringing them almost to a level that matches the cost of living. The governor and legislators talked about paying back the school funding shift, but it is also time to talk about paying back the TANF funding shift.
• In 2012, only 27% of the yearly Federal Block TANF funds went to cash grants for MN families in poverty. TANF is the yearly block grant that MN gets from the federal government to fund its welfare program. Over the past decade, billions of dollars from Minnesota’s TANF block grant have been taken from TANF to supplant general fund spending on other programs. Meanwhile MN welfare families have been living in desperate conditions, becoming homeless, living doubled and tripled up with others, and being forced to make terrible choices.
• The amount of state dollars that go to cash assistance for poor children & families is less than 1/4 of 1%. Out of the whole state budget, it’s 1/10 of 1%.
• The average age of homeless individuals in Minnesota is age 7.
• In addition to NO increase, MN cash grants have been cut year after year. Over the past years, these extreme poverty cash grants have been further reduced with sanctions, penalties for living in subsidized housing, a family cap and a five year lifetime limit.
• Especially in these tough economic times, welfare is a working person’s issue. When Unemployment Insurance runs out, parents are shocked to find out that they still don’t qualify for welfare; because they are “not poor enough.” In most cases, welfare is the unemployment insurance for those of us who have no choice but to work seasonal jobs and temporary jobs.
Welfare is poor peoples’ unemployment insurance. When we don’t have enough work quarters to qualify for unemployment, welfare is the last stop to receive any type of help. Welfare is a working person’s issue because welfare sets the floor where wages can’t fall below.
• When women and their children escape from an abusive situation, many times the only means of support is welfare. If welfare isn’t there, women and children can be forced to stay with their abuser.
• Raising the cash assistance grants is the right thing to do and it makes sense.
-MN children’s’ health and well being, education and potential will dramatically improve overnight.
-It is good for Minnesota’s economy-families will buy needed items, putting money back into the economy
-Homelessness, hunger, health crises, domestic violence and poverty cost much more.
-It will free up more affordable housing- if families in subsidized housing have more money.
-It will help families get off welfare and into work much faster- being trapped in extreme poverty puts families in a deep hole that is nearly impossible to get out of. It is nearly impossible to look for work and apply for jobs (if there are jobs) when we can’t keep our phones on, when we are moving from one place to another and have no consistent address, when we don’t have money for transportation, or when we are living in a shelter.
FFI: Welfare Rights Committee 612-822-8020 or welfarerightsmn.com