Friday, April 30, 2010

Is the Minnesota welfare system helping the people it wants to help?

Welfare spending in Minnesota is among the highest in the nation and it's been growing steadily for more than 10 years due to the rising cost of providing health care for the needy. Nearly 23 percent of all state and local government spending in Minnesota during fiscal 2007 went toward services that fall under the Census Bureau's broad definition of welfare, according to the 2007 Census of Government Finances. Among states, that ranked behind only Maine at 24.3 percent and Rhode Island at 23.7 percent.

However, the efficiency of this welfare system has been questioned. People are asking “is the Minnesota welfare system helping the people it wants to help – people who are really in need and MN residents?”

The first concern is about the transactions in the EBT system out of Minnesota. The EBT card provides cash and food support benefits to Minnesotans. In 2007, 12.9 million transactions totaling $496,330,741.25 were made. Of those transactions, 309,717 took place in states other than Minnesota for a total of $10,226,758.50.

According to House Minority Leader Marty Seifert :

“About 310,000 purchases were made out-of-state, using debit cards that are issued to welfare recipients. Those purchases totaled more than $10 million. I can understand some out-of-state purchases, especially in border states. But I'd like to know, for example, why $3,000 was spent in Hawaii”.

Citing millions of state taxpayer dollars being spent in other states through the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, Minnesota House Republicans called for legislative hearings and an audit of the state’s EBT system.

Another concern has to do with Minnesota’s reputation as a “welfare magnet”. House Republican Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, cited an analysis by the Minnesota Department of Human Services of welfare applications showing that 13.9 percent of applicants moved to Minnesota from another state or nation within 12 months of submitting an application.
ST. PAUL, March 11, 2009 – Minnesota House Republicans proposed a new round of welfare reform to end Minnesota’s reputation as a “welfare magnet” and help balance state government’s $4.8 billion deficit.

Under the proposal, anyone who applies for state welfare benefits within one year of moving to Minnesota would be granted no greater level of benefits than the person would have received in their previous place of residence. New recipients would then remain under the rules of their previous state or nation of residence until their benefits run out.

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