Employment Action Center’s Welfare to Work division is dedicated to legislative advocacy on behalf of program participants as it pertains to the mission of RESOURCE, Inc.
RESOURCE enables people to achieve greater personal, social and economic success.
In 2008, the division developed the E3 initiative. The mission of this initiative is to Educate, Empower, and Enlighten ourselves and the communities we serve about the legislative process, as well as to facilitate grassroots advocacy within our division.
E3’s main focuses are poverty elimination and welfare policy. We work closely with the Affirmative Options Coalition on issues that impact the lives of our participants and the organization.
E3 has helped engage people in communities who do not have faith in the civic process.
We strive to take the mystery out of legislation and make advocacy less intimidating through this work. Through direct contact with lawmakers and capitol rallies, E3 constituents have learned that they have a voice.
Please Reject Cuts to Assistance for Families and Children
7 out of 10 recipients of the Minnesota Family Investment Program are children. Several legislative “reform” proposals will put more children at risk of homelessness and hunger. Welfare 2.0
In March, EAC staff and participants, in cooperation with the Legal Services Advocacy Project, mailed over 200 postcards to their own senators and representatives asking them to reject the proposed assistance cuts under HF 2080 for Minnesota families and children.
EAC staff thank Commissioner Lucinda Jesson for sending letter addressing HF 2080.
Legislatures continue to consider harmful changes to MFIP through HF 2080, which passed its first committee today. DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson sent a letter to legislative leaders addressing HF2080 and the impact that these changes will have on recipients of MFIP public assistance. (see below)
- Cuts in eligibility for low-income families;
- Burdensome new application “fees” requiring families to pay for drug tests and background checks;
- Changes to lifetime limits for families in unstable work situations;
- Severe sanctions
- Unconstitutional residency and substance abuse testing requirements; and
- Unnecessary/duplicative use of background studies and residency verification data.
Staff testify and voice concerns over new Welfare legislation
EAC staff testified at a House Committee meeting hearing on February 22, opposing a new bill being introduced that would change the requirements and time limits for MFIP recipients. This bill would:
- Reduce lifetime limit of assistance from 60 months to 36;
- Reduce exit level from 115% of the Federal Poverty Guideline to 100%;
- Expedite full sanctions to 3 episodes of noncompliance instead of 7; and
- Disqualify people with a drug offense in the past 10 years.
Taxpayer-Funded Drug Testing: Legislation that Wastes Taxpayer Money and Government Time
Legislators in both the Minnesota House and Senate have introduced bills that would require drug testing for Minnesota Family Investment Program and General Assistance applicants. Employment Action Center signed on to a letter opposing this action as discriminatory and likely unconstitutional. This letter was sent to each legislator, the Governor, and each DHS Commissioner in February.
Second Chance Day on the Hill
The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition is a partnership of over 65 organizations that advocate for fair and responsible laws, policies, and practices that allow those who have committed crimes to redeem themselves, fully support themselves and their families, and contribute to their communities to their full potential.
Since its recent inception, the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and its member organizations have effected significant policy change while increasing awareness and visibility of second chance issues on a local and national level. Minnesota is now the first state to require all public employers to wait until someone has been selected for a job interview before inquiring about criminal records (“Ban the Box” bill).
Each year the Second Chance Coalition brings hundreds of ex-offenders and their supporters to the Minnesota State Capitol to rally and meet with legislators. On January 31st, staff attended this event and met with legislators to create awareness and voice their support for policy changes that impact this group.
The Pathways Back to Work Act
- $2 billion for subsidized employment programs patterned on the successful and widely implemented Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund that created 260,000 jobs in 2009 and 2010.
- $1.5 billion for summer and year-round employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
- $1.5 billion competitive grant program for promising and research-based work and learning opportunities that help low-skilled adults and youth obtain jobs and credentials.
Staff and program participants contacted their own legislative representatives and Senators Franken and Klobuchar asking them to co-sponsor this bill in January.
Defend Education and Training for Low-Income Parents
The MN House of Representatives unveiled the first pieces of their budget proposals for the state health and human services budget in March. Among the policy changes being suggested is a proposal to require parents on the state’s welfare to work program to work at least 20 hours a week if they want to pursue education or training.
Low-wage parents who are not earning enough to buy the basics are stretched too thin when their waking hours must include caring for their children, working jobs that often provide unpredictable and unreliable shifts, and concentrating on education. Reintroducing this policy to MFIP will result in fewer parents pursuing education and training – and that is not good for Minnesota.
Studies out of Rutgers University found that 59% of parents allowed access to education and training were still in jobs a year after leaving welfare compared to 22% of parents without access to education or training. Minnesota’s prior experience has demonstrated that when low wage working parents are asked to combine education, work and child-rearing responsibilities, the number of parents in education and training programs fall. Minnesota’s employers need a skilled workforce: encouraging parents who turn to MFIP to improve their work-related skills is a cost-effective way for the state to help meet that need for employers.
EAC participants mailed 20 “diplomas” to 24 of their legislators describing how access to education through MFIP allowed them to obtain better jobs as compared to what they have held in the past.
Save the Safety Net
Over 30 Welfare to Work staff contacted their legislators to express concern to a proposed ‘cuts only’ approach to a balanced budget. Increasing revenue too, is the only way to maintain adequate funding that begins to close the gap between the wealthiest and everyone else.
Employers Supporting TANF Emergency Fund
Thirty six states now have subsidized employment programs through the TANF Emergency Fund. The program has provided employment for over 240,000 workers nationwide and provides additional stimulus to local economies. Small businesses benefit in particular from subsidized employment, since having additional workers can make a big difference to a company with a small staff. Getting a worker with subsidized wages frees up cash for other types of needed investments. These benefits, in essence, make the TANF Emergency Fund a small business program, as well as a jobs program.
In honor of Labor Day, Employment Action Center worked with their business partners to sign a petition encouraging Congress to extend the TANF Emergency Fund for an additional year before the program expires on September 30, 2010.
In addition, staff and participants wrote to Senators Franken and Klobuchar asking for their support to extend the TANF Emergency Fund.
General Assistance and MFIP account for barely half of 1% in the state’s general fund budget. Minnesota has not increased the amount of assistance offered in these programs since 1986.
During March, April and May of this year, staff and program participants called members of the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Committee asking them to reject the Governor’s proposal to eliminate General Assistance and cuts to MFIP grants for people who also receive Social Security Insurance.
The most common reason a parent enrolls in MFIP is due to a recent job loss.
In April, EAC’s participants wrote to their representatives explaining why they had to turn to MFIP assistance.
The Human Services budget bill in the House of Representatives passed the Ways and Means committee, bringing the House’s total cut for supported work to $8 million.
Minnesota has been using welfare to work funds to subsidize short-term, skill building jobs. The organization signed a letter outlining how this funding has been used to move people back into the workforce and sent it to the House and Senate Human Service Budget Committee members. This job creation initiative has more than doubled the number of people put into paid jobs from the beginning to the end of 2009. Employment Action Center partners with many metro businesses to assist our jobseekers getting back into employment.
The division currently hosts a database with the names of the 102 staff members living in 49 MN House districts. As issues pertaining to our mission arise, E3 can easily contact people in targeted districts and organize advocacy efforts.
To find your own representative, please click below:
Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the Greater Twin Cities Area of Minnesota