The Minnesota Family Investment Program, commonly known as MFIP
, is Minnesota’s state welfare to work program for families. Funds comes from a combination of federal dollars through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant program and state appropriations.  Changes to MFIP laws during the 2003 legislative session included cuts in assistance to certain MFIP recipients, such as those disabled recipients who receive Social Security Income (SSI) and recipients living in public housing, an increase in family co-pays and lower eligibility levels for the child care assistance program, and the implementation of the Family Cap in MFIP.

 

The Family Cap is a law that does not allow parents who have a new baby more than 10 months after becoming eligible for and first enrolling in MFIP to receive an increase in cash assistance for their baby. The Minnesota Catholic Conference (the voice of the Bishops of Minnesota) strongly oppose the Family Cap law as it may encourage families receiving assistance from MFIP to abort babies conceived after the family’s enrollment in the program. By creating financial incentive for families receiving MFIP assistance - families living every day in situations of dire poverty - to not allow a new baby to be born, the Family Cap law is a direct threat to the inherent sanctity and dignity of human life. The Family Cap is also an economically unjust policy, as it financially punishes a child born into a poor family and threatens the security of that family, which could jeopardize that family’s ability to lift themselves out of poverty.

 

Some may argue that welfare programs should not pay people to continue having children and not work; however, MFIP is already designed to be a welfare to work program. Recipients of MFIP must meet certain work or work-related activity requirements or else risk sanctions. It is important to note, also, that the income of a family of three (one parent with two children) on MFIP with no other income is a modest $884 a month or $10,608 a year, an amount which includes both cash assistance and food support. At such low income levels, MFIP recipients live in poverty, and where the Family Cap is not in place, a child born into a family this size would only be allotted an additional $89 per month in cash assistance. 

 

Senate File 154 and its companion, House File 605 propose many reforms to MFIP, including repeal of the Family Cap, removal of cuts to the assistance of those in public housing and who receive disability SSI, and increased eligibility and lower family co-pays for childcare assistance.  The Minnesota Catholic Conference supports these bills and their efforts to end the Family Cap and make MFIP into a program that truly helps stabilize Minnesota’s poorest families and move them up and out of poverty.  For assistance in contacting your legislators in support for Senate File 154 and House File 605 log onto the Minnesota Legislature’s Web site at www.leg.mn. Or call 1-800-657-3550 for State Representative or 1-888-234-1112 for your State Senator.