PHHS can also help you out financiallyThis article is the sixth in a series aimed at helping you get to know your Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) department.
By: Ann Busche, Budgeteer News
This article is the sixth in a series aimed at helping you get to know your Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) department. So, in that spirit, here’s some detail on the financial assistance division.
One of the important mission-critical services in this division is determining eligibility for financial-assistance programs. It should be noted that there are no St. Louis County financial-assistance programs; all assistance is either funded at the state or federal level. Our job within PHHS is to accept and process applications based on the eligibility criteria established by these other levels of government.
During these difficult economic times, when many industries see a decline in business, we are at our busiest. The programs we determine eligibility for are as follows: medical assistance, emergency funds (shelter/utilities), general assistance, Minnesota supplemental assistance, food support, group residential housing and Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). We also assist with long-term-care housing or assistance and serve as representative payee.
Financial assistance programs serve as the final safety net. For example, in order for a family to be eligible for financial help through MFIP, which is Minnesota’s program to help people move out of poverty through work, it cannot have assets totaling more than $2,000 (primary home and the first $15,000 of primary vehicle is excluded).
The average family size for MFIP is three, usually one adult and two children. With no income, this family would receive $884 a month, including food support. No one chooses to live on assistance; its purpose is to provide help in the short term until families can get back on their feet.
The goal is always employment. There is a limit of 60 months on MFIP, meaning that families can receive this assistance for a total of 60 months in their lifetime.
States are required to communicate with one another to ensure that this limit is not exceeded; for example, a family that lived in Superior and received 30 months of assistance and then moved to Duluth would be eligible for only the remaining 30 months. However, the average length of time on MFIP is 28 months, far less than the allowable 60 months.
The other major service area for this division is child support enforcement. Again, PHHS does this work on behalf of the state of Minnesota, in accordance with its philosophy that every child has the right to support from both parents.
Specifically, the division provides the following services:
• Establishing parentage and helping to locate the noncustodial parent.
• Establishing court orders for basic support, medical support and child-care support.
• Enforcing court orders for support.
• Reviewing and modifying court orders for support.
• Working with other states to enforce support when one parent does not live in Minnesota.
• Collecting and processing payments.
In 2009, PHHS assisted 11,500 families in getting the support they need; we processed approximately 145,000 payments totaling more than $26 million.
The federal authorities routinely evaluate how well counties — and, in turn, the state — does in processing child support cases in eight different categories. The state of Minnesota met or exceeded the federal standards in all but one of the categories, and the St. Louis County cases that were included in the review all achieved a 100 percent mark in all categories.
All of this means that the child support program in St. Louis County is serving its citizens well and is working hard at helping parents meet their responsibilities in providing support for their children.
Public Health and Human Services director Ann Busche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-2096.