Some families in need get aid boost

DULUTH (AP) — Minnesota’s cash assistance program for low-income families will offer a $100 boost in monthly aid starting next year.

State lawmakers approved the Minnesota Family Investment Program’s monthly grant increase in May, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. The extra funding will be available beginning February 2020.

It’s the first increase to the program since it was launched 33 years ago. Minnesota officials estimate the change will help more than 30,000 families.

Toshieka Washington started having seizures that prevented her from holding down a job and led to her reliance on the cash assistance program. She and her children were homeless for two years before they moved to the Steve O’Neil apartment building in Duluth, which is designed to help families experiencing long-term homelessness.

Under the state’s Family Investment Program, families of three with no income, such as Washington’s, can apply for $532 in grants each month, as well as extra money for food assistance and housing.

The program requires parents to meet with job counselors to remove barriers to finding employment. Families are gradually phased out as their income increases to a monthly threshold determined by federal poverty guidelines, and there’s a five-year cap for most participants.

Washington said the $100 per month increase will help her get basic necessities she can’t afford now, such as laundry detergent and more toilet paper. The boost could also help the family pay for Wi-Fi in their apartment, clothes for Washington’s teenage son and colored pencils for her 6-year-old.

“I know $100 doesn’t seem like a lot, but to a single mother like me and other mothers out here, it feels like we hit the lottery,” Washington said.