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Minnesota Legislature

Stricter MFIP bills raise DFL ire

Published (2/24/2012)
By Sue Hegarty
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Deb Konechne, representing the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout, testifies before the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee Feb. 22 in opposition to a bill that would modify Minnesota Family Investment Program eligibility, sanctions and time limits. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kurt Daudt, listens to the testimony. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)Amid shouts from protesters, proposed changes to the Minnesota Family Investment Program and harsher sanctions for the improper use of electronic benefit cards were approved by a House committee.

The Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout shouted, “Stop the attacks on the poor; make the rich pay more,” during the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee as it approved three bills Feb. 22.

Among the provisions, HF2080, sponsored by Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), would:

• restrict EBT card use to Minnesota and four adjacent states, such as North Dakota, where state residents may cross the border to shop or seek professional services;

• reduce certain MFIP benefits from

60 months to a 36-month time limit;

• prohibit drug offenders with convictions from the past 10 years from receiving MFIP benefits;

• change when MFIP clients exit the program from 115 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines; and

• require clients seeking to be recertified to pay for a background check.

The bill now moves to the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) sponsors SF1833, the companion, which awaits action by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Daudt also sponsors HF2081, which would permanently disqualify a person from receiving EBT cards in the future if that person is found to have of purchased tobacco products or alcohol with the card. The committee approved the bill and referred it, as amended, to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. SF1674, a companion, is also sponsored by Benson awaits action in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester) called the bill “inhumane” and said “An adult has made an error . . . The children are the ones that are punished.”

A third bill, HF1956 sponsored by Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth), also drew DFL criticism because of the way the bill’s language was crafted.

The bill would enable law enforcement to notify the Department of Human Services when a criminal suspect is arrested and multiple EBT cards are subsequently found in their possession during the intake process. Approved by the committee, the bill was referred to the House floor, but not before DFL members and Anderson agreed that the name of the bill, “Reporting Welfare Fraud,” should be changed so it is not misconstrued. It was noted that there may be several reasons why a person possesses multiple EBT cards. Additional bill language implies the suspect is already an eligible EBT card recipient.

Rep. Susan Allen (DFL-Mpls) called the language “offensive,” and said it perpetuates a stereotype that welfare fraud is prevalent. She didn’t see the need for a law to enable one agency to report data to another agency. Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) sponsors a companion, SF1598, which is in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

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