At a glance: Health and Human Services budgetby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — When Gov. Mark Dayton signed the new Health and Human Services $11.4 billion budget into law, months of political wrangling over spending for health care and welfare programs came to an end. Here's a look at its impact on specific programs.
The bill makes it more difficult for some low-income adults to receive General Assistance. The program provides up to $203 a month for low-income adults who cannot work, usually due to an illness or disability. To be eligible, adults need to have an injury or illness that is expected to last for more than 30 days. The budget bill changes that to 45 days.
The bill also eliminates one of the less common ways that people can receive General Assistance. People who live more than four hours round trip from any potential suitable employment used to be eligible for the monthly payments. The bill deletes that category.
Minnesota Family Investment Program
The bill makes it more difficult for some families to access the state's welfare program by changing a rule about assets.
Right now, families that apply for the Minnesota Family Investment Program cannot have more than $2,000 in assets. The value of a family car isn't included in that total unless the car is worth more than $15,000. The new bill drops that to $10,000. That means families who own a car worth between $10,000 and $15,000 could lose some or all of their welfare benefits.
Personal Care Assistants
The bill cuts payments for family members who serve as personal care assistants. When a PCA is a relative of the recipient, the state will now pay only 80 percent of the regular provider rate. The state defines "relative" as a "parent or adoptive parent of an adult child, a sibling aged 16 years or older, an adult child, a grandparent, or a grandchild."
Welfare benefits cards
Republican lawmakers introduced several bills earlier this year to restrict the use of welfare cards. They argued that some welfare recipients use the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, which look like debit cards, to buy alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets - although a detailed look at a month's worth of EBT card transactions found no evidence of widespread fraud.
Some lawmakers had proposed making it illegal to withdraw cash from the card, which recipients said would make it impossible to pay rent, do laundry or ride the bus. People who receive welfare already sign a form that says they agree to spend the purchases on basic needs.
The final bill removed most of the proposals welfare recipients found most troubling. The bill requires the state to print the following statement on each EBT card: "It is unlawful to use this card to purchase tobacco products or alcoholic beverages." And it requires the state to print the recipient's name on the card.
The bill also requires liquor and tobacco stores, gambling establishments, and tattoo parlors to work with credit card processors to block EBT card transactions. And it creates a task force to draft a plan to "eliminate the purchase of tobacco and alcoholic beverages" by people using welfare cards.