WALKER -- Brenda Erickson, Cass County Human Services financial services supervisor, reported to the county board Tuesday on limits to financial benefit programs.
Minnesota Family Investment Program began in July 1997, offering financial assistance to families and individuals for a lifetime maximum of 60 months.
That runs out next July for those who have been on it continuously.
This year, the Legislature enacted an extension for people who are unable to work or who work a minimum number of hours.
Erickson said those unable to work will include people caring for a family member who is ill or incapacitated; people diagnosed as mentally ill, mentally retarded or learning disabled; those otherwise unemployable or unemployable due to a limited IQ.
To qualify for an MFIP extension, single working people must have 30 hours of work activities, such as continuing education and 25 hours of work. Two-person working households must have 55 hours combined work activities and 45 hours of work.
They also must comply with these work requirements for 10 of the next 12 months before reaching the 60-month MFIP limit, she said.
Families who are out of compliance for four months will lose their MFIP benefits, Erickson said.
Cass received a grant last year to hire Jill Geroy to visit families on this program in their homes to try to help them work their way off the program.
Erickson reported more MFIP recipients are gradually becoming employed and earning slightly higher wages. By June 30 this year, 45.3 percent of those who started in MFIP in Cass County have left the program because of obtaining employment.
Some families have been sanctioned the last four years, receiving reduced benefits for failure to comply with job search and employment requirements, Erickson said. Under a sanction, recipients receive reduced benefits.
Families still at risk for using all of their lifetime MFIP benefits include those chemically dependent, mentally ill, having learning disabilities, having family violence and those who are working, but have a hard time keeping a job or cannot earn a high enough wage to become self-supporting, Erickson said.
Some people having illnesses or are pregnant or victims of domestic violence may be eligible for Social Security benefits instead of MFIP, she said.
A related Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children) program is serviced by county health services.
Ane Rogers, children's health supervisor, reported Cass County public health nurses made a total of 148 visits to the homes of 84 families on this program July 2000 to July 2001. Of those families, 51 also were receiving MFIP benefits.
Of those receiving TANF, 82 percent of the care givers never had been married and only 66 percent had a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.
Rogers listed obstacles to self sufficiency public health nurses find in TANF homes include chemical dependency, mental illness, single parent homes, no transportation or unreliable transportation, domestic abuse, unreliable child care, no driver license, no telephone and no high school diploma.
Starting in July 2001, Leech Lake Reservation began receiving visits from state TANF public health nurses rather than the county's, dropping Cass' case load from 84 families to seven, Rogers said.
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