The Minnesota Community Action Partnership (MinnCAP), in partnership with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, released a report on poverty in Minnesota. This report sheds light on Minnesota’s poverty disparities. For many Minnesotans, particularly African-American and Native American families, federal benefits programs and income are not enough to cover the costs of their basic needs.
The key findings of the report are that 8.6% of Minnesotans were in poverty in 2019, according to the supplemental poverty measure, but the state rate masks a lot of variation across the state. More than 20% of African-Americans and nearly 30% of Native Americans in Minnesota were in poverty. Six of the 23 regions examined had poverty rates higher than 10% and over 10% of Minnesotans age 65-plus were in poverty. The supplemental poverty measure is considered a superior method of estimating economic deprivation compared to the official poverty measure produced by the Census Bureau because it accounts for more public assistance benefits (like SNAP and the earned income tax credit) and adjusts for geographic differences in housing costs.
Our Community Action Agencies offer a variety of services to help move people out of poverty. These services and programs are localized specifically to meet the needs of communities and to meet people where they are along the continuum – from crisis nutrition needs, helping with rent, childcare, building credit toward their first home purchase, older adult services and more. While we know federal benefits programs can help low income families cover some of their basic needs and mitigate the effects of poverty, for many Minnesotans, federal programs like SNAP and tax credits are not enough. This new report makes clear that Minnesota cannot eradicate poverty with only the current policies and programs.
MinnCAP advocates at the state and federal level for policies that help build community resilience, address the causes of poverty, and enhance financial stability. We are advocating for flexible grant funds that allow local agencies to meet the varied needs of their communities. To mitigate this and ensure that more people are able to escape poverty, MinnCAP is proposing three statewide policy initiatives driven by the results of this Poverty Report to be implemented immediately.
The report calls on lawmakers and policy makers to:
- Increase the eligibility threshold for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level to assure that more food-insecure families are served.
- Invest immediately to address the affordable housing crisis throughout Minnesota by taking advantage of the historic budget surplus.
- Create a new Poverty Commission, through Gov. Tim Walz’ executive authority, to end poverty in Minnesota by the end of this decade, with a focus on the racial and ethnic poverty disparities highlighted in this report.
The daily realities of improved lives among Minnesotans experiencing poverty have been witnessed firsthand by local MinnCAP agencies serving communities across the state. While no one would argue that living just above the poverty line means the end of economic distress, it does improve the lives of those families across the board – better physical and mental health, greater housing stability, greater ability to maintain employment, and better wellbeing of children.
Now is the time to take the findings from the Poverty Report and put them into action. With recent news of Minnesota’s $9.2 billion budget surplus, we need to invest in the efforts that increase housing affordability and the programs that lift Minnesota families out of poverty.
We implore Minnesota lawmakers and policymakers to take action now to invest in our citizens struggling every day to live in dignity and respect.
More information and the full report is available at www.minncap.org/Minnesota-Poverty-Report.
Bill Grant, is the executive director of Minnesota Community Action Partnership. Dr. Angie Fertig is with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.