Welfare rights activists protest as 5-year deadline approaches

Shira Kantor

Members of the Welfare Rights Committee gathered in front of Gov. Jesse Ventura’s office Saturday to voice their opposition to the limited extension of welfare benefits outlined in the health and human services bill passed last week.

Welfare benefits will be extended for those about to reach the five-year time limit July 1, 2002 – but only if they fall under a few specific categories. Roughly 50 percent of those approaching the limit meet the criteria, which include:

ï Single parents must work 25 hours per week in addition to five hours of related activities, such as job training.

ï Forty-five combined hours of working each week is required in two-parent homes, plus 10 hours of job-related activities.

ï Special provisions can be made for those involved in especially difficult situations, such as those facing extreme hardships or those unable to find employment.

An effort to repeal the five-year welfare time limit was defeated in a Senate committee in March, though Linden Gawboy, a WRC member for several years, said the WRC will continue to apply pressure to legislators to repeal the time limit and make welfare more accessible and effective.

“Our belief is that if you’re in need, you’re in need. You can’t just wave a magic wand and (say) ‘hey everything’s fine now,'” Gawboy said. “It’s really despicable and cruel.”

Gawboy estimates about 5,000 families – including between 12,000 and 15,000 children – will reach their welfare time limit in 2002. Half of those families, she said, will end up on the streets.

About 40 people attended the conference in front of Ventura’s office, where WRC members read a statement and dramatized the effects of cutting half of Minnesota’s needy families from the welfare program.

The dramatization involved a “politician” striking down every other member of the audience. “Tombstones” were erected bearing the words “Casualty of Time Limit,” “Casualty of 2001 Legislature,” and “Casualty of Minnesota Politicians.”

“This stuff doesn’t happen by accident,” Gawboy said. “There’s no excuse for it at all, and society has to wake up and see that it’s just terrible.”

 

Shira Kantor welcomes comments at [email protected]