“It is not right to use racist, bumper-sticker hate to inflict human misery for political gain.”-Angel Buechner, Welfare Rights Committee
If you look at a dollar bill, you’ll see the words “legal for all debts public and private.” That means in the United States, no one can demand you pay them in some other way for something you want to buy from them. Imagine what your life would be like if the government said you could only have $20 of your income per month in those dollar bills. If you wanted to ride the bus, go to a laundromat, use a parking meter, or send your kid to the store to buy milk, you’d have to spend some of that $20. How long would it be until you were out of cash? Would you last a month?
That’s exactly what a Republican-backed proposal in Minnesota would do to poor people on welfare. The proposed law, House File 171, would require the state of Minnesota to issue “Electronic Benefit Cards” to those on general assistance welfare. These cards could be used any place that has a special terminal to use the card. The cards could not be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco or a tattoo. But in an attempt to strictly enforce these restrictions, the 26 authors of the bill, who all happen to be Republicans, would restrict the amount of cash a person could withdraw from an ATM or get back from a merchant to $20 a month. The original proposal would not have allowed people to have any cash at all.
“How do you expect people to take care of business like paying bills such as lights, gas, water, trash and phone?” Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee asked the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Reform Committee. Buechner told committee members the bill “appears to make it illegal for MFIP (Minnesota Family Investment Program) families to have any type of money at all in their pockets.”
Currently, families on MFIP — and disabled single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid — can have their grants in cash or put into a checking account.
Buechner calls the bill’s changing of residency requirements from 30 to 90 days “unconstitutional” and the restriction against allowing the debit card to be used across state lines “unacceptable.”
“We’ll leave you with this,” Buechner told the committee. “It is not right to punish a whole group because of the supposed actions of a few. You in this room could have a pretty rough time if that was the case. It is not right to stigmatize and dehumanize women living the hard life of trying to raise children while living 60% below the poverty level. It is not right to use racist, bumper-sticker hate to inflict human misery for political gain.”
Authors of the bill are Representative Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), Representative Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud), Representative Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), Representative Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder), Representative Bruce Vogel (R-Willmar), Representative David Hancock (R-Bemidji), Representative Roger Crawford (R-Mora), Representative Pam Myhra (R- Burnsville),; Representative Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), Representative Carolyn McElfatrick (R-Deer Creek), Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake), Representative Steve Drazkowski (R- Mazeppa), Representative Bob Gunther (R-Fairmount), Representative Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe), Representative Mike LeMieur (R-Little Falls), Representative Kathy Lohmer (R- Lake Elmo), Representative Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), Representative Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), Representative Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), Representative Torrey Westrom (R- Elbow Lake), Representative Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), Representative Ron Shimanski (R-Silver Lake), Representative Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville), Representative Bob Barrett (R-Shafer), Representative Doug Wardlow (R-Eagan), Representative Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth)