Budget threatens basic needs of vulnerable and disabled Minnesotans

| May 20, 2011 | 1 Comment

More than 40,000 poor Minnesotans with disabilities and serious illnesses would be at risk of losing some or all of their basic needs assistance under the health and human services state budget passed by the legislature this week.  The Minnesota Catholic Conference, representing the Catholic bishops of Minnesota, opposes cuts to General Assistance (GA) and the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP).

The proposal would eliminate the GA program and cut support to those families on the MFIP with disabled adult household members.  GA and its companion emergency programs would be replaced with an option for counties to set up adult assistance programs.  This combined program would be funded by a block grant totaling $20 million less than forecasted funding needs for the existing adult assistance programs.

In order to qualify for GA, applicants must meet a statutory category of being unable to work.  Individuals on GA survive on just $203 per month to cover housing and other basic needs. 19,000 Minnesotans on GA are unemployable adults with medically certified disabilities or illnesses.  GA demand has gone up in recent years due in part to the economic downturn.  Many of the adults receiving GA await a decision on their application for federal disability benefits.

The cut to MFIP families with disabled adults in the household will result in a $50 reduction in monthly assistance for those families.  MFIP grants are very modest to begin with and already do not include funds for any family member receiving federal disability benefits.     For example, Angie, a disabled woman with two children, survives on $1,111 per month in cash assistance from a combination of federal disability benefits for herself and MFIP for her two children.     Many MFIP families like Angie’s spend the majority of their cash assistance on housing and have little left over to cover other necessities such as clothing and school supplies.

One hundred organizations, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference, sent a letter to House and Senate members outlining concerns that, if enacted, these cuts will put more ill and disabled people at risk of homelessness and will push more children of disabled adults into deeper poverty.  These programs represent a very small portion of the state budget and are key components of the safety net for the most vulnerable.

Speaking on the issue of balancing the budget, Bishop Lee Piché, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, said, “Our state budget is a moral document that reflects our priorities as a society.  The basic needs of the poor and disabled should come first.”  The Minnesota Catholic Conference believes that other budget balancing options, such as ending corporate subsidies and unnecessary tax breaks, should be considered before programs that help provide basic needs for the poor and disabled are eliminated or cut.

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Category: Faith in the Public Arena