On March 12, more than 650 advocates convened at the Minnesota State Capitol for Homeless Day on the Hill. The event was coordinated by the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (MCH), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner. MCH is co-leading the Prosperity for All campaign, a coalition of 70 Minnesota organizations working to augment the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). Prosperity for All is promoting bills to increase cash assistance for families with children by $100 per month, which would be the first MFIP increase since 1986.
MFIP is the largest workforce development program in the state, providing employment support for approximately 28,000 parents and assistance for 70,000 children each month. MFIP helps families with children meet their basic needs while helping parents move to financial stability through work. Parents are expected to work, and are supported with both cash and food assistance.
Minnesota created the current $532 MFIP monthly benefit at a time when the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $480 per month and gasoline cost $0.93 per gallon. Since then the state’s median rent for a two-bedroom apartment has increased to $945 while fuel costs have risen to $2.03 per gallon.
Bills in the Minnesota legislature would provide $632 per month to MFIP recipients. The bills have strong statewide and bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The House bill is authored by Representative Mary Franson (R) and the Senate bill by Senator Jeff Hayden (D). Both bills propose to fund the $80 million biennial increase in MFIP cash assistance through a reallocation of federal TANF funds not currently distributed to TANF-eligible families.
The Prosperity for All proposal is based on a recommendation of the Minnesota TANF Expenditure Task Force, convened by the legislature to determine whether current TANF allocations meet the purposes of that federal program. The primary recommendation of the Task Force was to increase the monthly MFIP payment. The Task Force learned that neighboring states of similar circumstances were providing significantly higher cash assistance monthly payments. For example, Wisconsin provides $653 monthly while South Dakota allocates $602 monthly.
As part of the campaign, Prosperity for All organizers collected hundreds of stories from parents about how an additional $100 per month from MFIP would help. “We know how many homeless people in Minnesota rely on MFIP to get to job interviews, find child care when working, or to help with monthly housing costs,” said Liz Kuoppala, Executive Director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. “Beyond our neighbors who are currently homeless, there are thousands of Minnesota renters who are severely housing cost burdened and need MFIP to maintain their homes,” said Ms. Kuoppala.
At Homeless Day on the Hill, advocates also urged passage of a bill to provide an additional $39 million to prevent homelessness and expand housing options. The $39 million proposal builds on the $100 million budget increase that the Homes for All campaign, co-chaired by MCH, won last year (see Memo 5/30/14). During Homeless Day on the Hill, a packed hearing room watched as the Health and Human Services Finance Committee advanced the $39 million appropriation to the House floor.
For more information about Prosperity for All, contact Liz Kuoppala, Executive Director, Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, at firstname.lastname@example.org.