Minn. welfare changes go into effectby Julie Siple, Minnesota Public Radio
One of several welfare reform measures passed by the Minnesota Legislature takes effect on Sunday.
The name of the head of the household must now be printed on the plastic cards that carry food stamp benefits. Until now, no name has been printed on the card.
"Our concern was fraud and misuse," said Republican Rep. Jim Abeler, the chairman of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee. "And we were very interested in making sure that people who qualified and needed assistance would get it. But those who were not getting it or were selling their cards would be discouraged from doing that."
Abeler added: "When they money becomes tighter, you should look at every dollar and make sure it's going where it's supposed to go."
The Legislature also required the cards to include the following statement: "It is unlawful to use this card to purchase tobacco products or alcoholic beverages." That notice has been included on new cards issued since July 2011.
The reforms were primarily aimed at cash benefits, not food stamps.
Food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are distributed on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. The card, which works like a debit card, carries both cash assistance and food stamps.
The federal food stamp program is supervised by the state and administered by Minnesota counties.
Another recent change makes it more difficult for people to get replacement cards. Previously, food stamp users were able to pick up a replacement in person at a county office. Beginning this month, replacement cards will be mailed to beneficiaries within 30 days at a cost of $2.