Two hundred forty thousand pieces of paper per month, 2.88 million pieces of paper per year.
That’s the amount of paperwork state human service employees must deal with for the 30,000 state residents receiving public assistance.
Seems like a waste. Gov. Tim Walz thinks so too.
He has proposed removing the requirement that public assistance recipients fill out a complicated eight-page form every month to not only prove their income and eligibility, but then for state workers to adjust that payment every month after they’ve spent hours and days dealing with the forms.
Walz proposes having eligibility verified every six months, as is the case for many other state assistance programs, such as food stamps. Some 25 years after welfare reform at the federal level, Minnesota is the only such state to still use the form that was perhaps once necessary but now obsolete and burdensome.
The complicated nature of the requirement compares to filling out tax returns every month. It’s inefficient and creates extra work for state employees who also likely spend time and taxpayer dollars helping correct forms with mistakes or omissions.
Walz’s human service budget also calls for adjusting welfare payments for inflation. The state’s maximum cash payment of $632 per month for a family of three. And the Walz plan calls for each recipient of the state’s Minnesota Family Investment Plan to get a one-time payment of $750.
The relatively small investment from a state budget of $50 billion will likely save the state in not only form processing costs, but health care and housing costs for those on public assistance. When people become desperately poor, they end up going to the emergency room more and have other medical expenses, according to a study by the state department of human services.
And we can’t forget the pandemic has affected lower income and poor people more than others as most of the jobs that were lost were lower paying service industry jobs.
The benefits of the Walz plan will far exceed the costs. Experts who work with the poor say an increase in regular monthly payments and the one-time payment will be a “game changer” for most poor people.
But, as one human service expert said, a reduction in paperwork may allow recipients more time to fill out job applications instead of forms for a bureaucracy.