Aid For Poor Included In New Laws

Thousands of poor Minnesota families begin getting more state aid Wednesday as the new state budget begins.

The $42 billion, two-year overall state budget provides more housing assistance, as well as lower child care costs.

“Too many children are living in poverty without proper housing and other basics,” Assistant Commissioner Jim Koppel of the Human Services Department said. “These investments will help families trying to stretch their monthly budgets to care for their children and provide them healthier, more successful lives.”

Nearly 20,000 families getting aid from the Minnesota Family Investment Program will receive an additional $110 a month to help with housing costs. The housing assistance getting a boost was begun by the 2013 Legislature and increased this May.

The grants will be available to people who do not live in public housing or receive other rental assistance.

Families will pay less for child care through a state program that lawmakers gave an additional $10 million. State officials say the extra money should reduce a child care waiting list that now counts 4,500 families. It should help more than 600 children.

“Stable housing and strong early childhood experiences are two of the best ways to ensure these children have a bright future,” Koppel said.

Most state law changes come Aug. 1, but since the state fiscal year is July 1 to June 30, Wednesday also features a good many changes that are included in the state budget.

Education, one of the most-discussed issues in the Legislature this year, will experience a number of changes other than more state money (most notably for early learners).

One new provision allows experienced and well-trained teachers from other states to have an easier time getting Minnesota teacher licenses.

School districts will be allowed to start classes before Labor Day this year, since the holiday comes late. However, there are reports from some districts that this is too late to change next school year’s schedule.

Other new laws include:

— Drivers participating in Uber and other transportation-sharing services using private vehicles are required to carry insurance.

— Nursing homes and senior citizen organizations will be allowed to conduct bingo more than twice a week, which now is the limit.

— Funding is available to combat recruitment of Minnesotans by terrorist organizations.

— The state political contribution rebate ends, which prompted political groups in recent weeks to push for contributions before the $50 refund expires.