Using both state of Minnesota and federal government funds, the county offers the very low income access to public assistance. There are different programs available to the working poor, unemployed, and low income, and they range from section 8 housing vouchers to TANF cash assistance or food.
While the Washington County Human Services can help facilitate applications to these public benefits, the goal is to help the resident gain stability and employment, if that is what they are lacking. Therefore, there are resources available from partners or other government sponsored job training centers, and clients will need to also undergo case management from social workers and the like. The Bridges to Benefits tool in Minnesota can also provide more information. Some of the main assistance available in Washington County is noted below.
Cash assistance is available from TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Note this is known as Minnesota Family Investment Program in the state. While terms and conditions may change, this will generally help a very low income family for up to 60 months. This was formally called welfare, and is one of the nation’s main benefits for those faced with poverty.
The funds can be used for a number of needs. It can provide cash benefits or grants for paying bills, shelter (such as rent and utilities), health care (medications and dental exams) or TANF can help with food expenses. In addition, there are support services such as case management, transportation for work related reasons and child care costs covered.
The state of Minnesota offers complete Medicaid coverage to pregnant women, children, disabled, or blind individuals in the county. This is paid for by both state government and federal dollars, and it is a form of low cost health and dental insurance.
Qualified patients of this MinnesotaCare benefit can receive help in paying medical or dental bills, or in some cases there may even be free health care provided. Some specific examples of what may be addressed include Early Periodic Screening, Check Ups, Diagnosis, Medications and a Treatment program. There will usually be some form of fees and co-pay required from patients enrolled in Medicaid.
From time to time, there may be housing assistance available from either the emergency food and shelter or solutions grant programs. There are federally funded by HUD and the goal is to prevent homelessness nationwide and in Washington County and Stillwater. Any money available though will be rare. Another option is for the working poor to look into General Assistance, or GA.
When it is offered, public aid may be used to help tenants pay a portion of their rent, if it were to prevent an eviction. There may also be funds from Washington County Human Services for paying a part of a home mortgage or the security deposit on a new apartment. All of this is also offered along with counseling and services to address the cause of the potential homelessness.
For those that qualify for any type of grant, in most cases a cash payment will be made to the applicant’s landlord for their housing expenses. It is very limited, and any assistance paid by the government needs to help people stay in their current apartment or home.
Heating or cooling bill assistance from Economic Support is part of LIHEAP. Public funds can be paid out to low income households in Washington County that spend a large portion of their income on their utilities. However this program is only available during certain times of the year, and the money from the government will only be issued to clients that meet all income guidelines and other program terms. For example, Community Services will usually require the household to conserve energy from weatherization or some other similar service.
Childcare assistance is available as part of a publicly funded program. The government can pay out vouchers and/or cash payments to parents that meet low income guidelines, provided they are employed, in school, or training for a job. This is often run in partnership with providers or non-profits such as a community action agency.
The subsidy has conditions in place, including in general it will help low to moderate income families in paying for childcare for infants, toddlers, preschool-age children, or the disabled or children with special needs. The age limit will usually be 13, but this can be increased in a very few situations.
Work First is an employment resource, and it usually a requirement for anyone on public assistance, including TANF mentioned above. It is a form of Diversionary Employment in the region, and clients of the program will get help, guidance, and support in finding and also keeping a job. It also touches upon soft skills and training such as use of computers or resume creation.
Individuals that enroll into Workfirst can learn about local job fairs in Stillwater, get assistance with creating resumes, career counseling, and work with a counselor on preparing for interviews. This is one of the keys to self-sufficiency, as a life sustaining income is critical.
The main intake line in Washington County for Economic Support is 651-430-6459, and residents can call to learn more. There are also offices in Stillwater, Cottage Grove, Forest Lake as well as Woodbury.
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