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Eligibility to expand Nov. 1 for assistance for food

WILLMAR -- Starting Nov. 1 more people will be eligible to receive government assistance to buy food.

The federal government is raising the gross income level for individuals and families to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is known as food support in Minnesota.

The federal change means that 16,000 more food support cases could be opened in Minnesota.

In Kandiyohi County, the number is estimated at 153 cases.

"We're hoping the word will get out and people make application," said Barb Kavanagh, family services supervisor, during an update Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners. She said it's important for those who are eligible to fill out applications and "have food on the table."

The change won't increase the financial amount of the benefits, said Kavanagh, but more people will be eligible to receive food support by raising the income limits from 130 percent of federal poverty guideline to 165 percent.

Currently, a family of four is eligible for food support if their gross monthly income is $2,380. Under the new guidelines the gross income limit will be $3,032 a month.

For individuals, the current gross revenue limit is $1,174 a month. On Nov. 1 the level will be raised to $1,490.

Another significant change is the elimination of the asset test.

Currently, elderly and disabled residents aren't eligible for food support if they have assets exceeding $3,000. For others the limit was $2,000.

Kavanagh said elders who may have certificates of deposit to help pay for long-term costs have not been able to access food support for daily needs because of the asset limits.

Taking the asset test away should increase participation by elderly residents, she said.

Kavanagh said some older residents are reluctant to fill out the paperwork for the minimum award of $25 a month. But she said that extra grocery money can go a long way.

Family Services Director Jay Kieft said he hopes more elders use the program to help buy healthful foods they wouldn't normally buy. Doing so, he said, could help them avoid more expensive community care in the future.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said he's disappointed there's "still an extreme negative stigma of those on food support."

Kavanagh said the "dignity" of clients is always kept in mind when they are served.

Meanwhile, Chairman Richard Falk asked Kieft to address the issue of welfare fraud at a future meeting "so people can have their misconceptions straightened out."

Commissioner Dean Shuck said when people read reports of violators convicted, "they think we're not doing a good job," when in reality, the criminal convictions show the county is stopping welfare fraud.

Kieft said most of the fraud cases do not involve cash distributions, but are instead payments made for health insurance premiums that recipients were not eligible to receive.

Kieft said less than 10 percent of the fraud cases involve cash or food support.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750