What about welfare fraud?

Many of us cheered the recent arrest of a wealthy Minnesota couple accused of fraudulently receiving over $167,000 in medical and SNAP benefits while living the high life. A question many people are probably asking is, “How did they do it?” It’s tough to say for sure, but based on news accounts, their alleged scheme sounds very elaborate. Continue Reading

OPINION | Helping families improves schools

The one-room country school predates health insurance, medical clinics, food shelves, family planning services, after-school enrichment programs and community education. Yet, the one-room country school house defined wrap-around educational services well before anyone conceived the term “wrap around services.” There’s a lesson to be learned here.

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“It is going to mean more people going hungry,” said Minnesota Budget Project Nan Madden of impending cuts to SNAP benefits. (MinnPost photo by Tom Nehil)

As shutdown looms, Minnesota’s low-income families face cuts in benefits

As the threat of a federal government shutdown looms, it appears that Minnesotans receiving government assistance to house, clothe and care for themselves and their families have to worry most about the benefit that puts food on the table.Community Sketchbook focuses on the economic and social challenges facing communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color, and how people are trying to address them.It is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, and some Minneapolis Foundation donor advisors.Community Sketchbook articles may be republished or distributed, in print or online, with credit to MinnPost and the foundations.That’s the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is appropriated annually and that unless Congress reauthorizes it is scheduled to end Oct. 1. Last year this food support program — a.k.a. food stamps — was paid to an average of 514,907 Minnesota individuals monthly. That figures out to about a quarter of a million households.And lurking in the weeds is another food assistance setback: the Nov. 1 expiration of a temporary hike to SNAP benefits mandated in the 2009 Recovery Act. Continue Reading

The only problem with SNAP is underfunding

MPR recently ran a story explaining some of the reasons behind the error rates in Minnesota’s SNAP payments, formally known as food stamps. The federal government says Minnesota made about $38 million in 2012 payment errors, comprising about 5 percent of SNAP’s $750 million in total benefits. On its face, this number, and the corresponding rank as “one of the worst in the nation” feeds right into the idea of benefit cheaters that has helped put the entire SNAP program in jeopardy. Continue Reading

Roadblocks to help for the sake of fairness

This spring I took a new job as a social worker in a food-shelf program. I spend a lot of my time helping people access income supports like SNAP (food support), so the past few months have been a crash course in navigating human-services systems that I haven’t personally needed to this point in my life. Continue Reading