The Minnesota Legislature reconvenes March 8 for its 2016 session, scheduled to end May 23. For the Minnesota Catholic Conference, a shorter session than last year’s means focusing on a few key priorities, said Jason Adkins, MCC executive director.
In a Feb. 5 interview with The Catholic Spirit and The Visitor, newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Adkins outlined the MCC’s top three priorities for the legislative session:
1. Increasing the cash grant available through the Minnesota Family Investment Program.
MFIP is the state’s basic welfare program for low-income families with children. The cash assistance has not increased since 1986, including adjustments for inflation.
“We think especially because of the major increase in the cost of living for essentials since then that that’s a prudent thing to do, especially in a time of budget surplus,” Adkins said. “We always have to prioritize the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our public policy choices, especially in our spending decisions, and that’s really a top priority — working with other groups to ensure that’s part of our supplemental budget or any spending that gets passed.”
The state currently has $1.2 billion budget surplus.
The MFIP awards assistance based on the number of family members in a household. A family of four is eligible for $1,207 per month, with $586 for food and $621 in a cash grant. The average monthly cash assistance awarded by the program is $348 per family. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the program is intended to help families move to financial stability. Parents are expected to work to be eligible for the program, and most families have a lifetime limit on MFIP of 60 months. In 2014, 24,752 adults and 60,154 children received cash assistance.