Application Procedure for Public Assistance Programs

Appeal Rights and Procedures

Minnesota Family Investment Program Statewide (MFIP)

General Assistance (GA)

Emergency Assistance (EA)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Social Security Benefits

Earned Income Tax Credit

Food Assistance

Health Insurance Coverage

Benefits for Children Involved with Juvenile Court CHIPS Cases


Grandparents who find themselves with the extraordinary responsibility of raising grandchildren may discover they are financially unprepared to do so. While they may have prepared adequately for their own retirement, they may not have enough money to support children. Grandparents may also find that the children have special needs.

Various public assistance programs are available to help grandparents. Some are cash benefit programs and others are programs which provide health care and/or social services. This section contains descriptions of the various programs available, how to apply for them, and, if denied, how to appeal.

Many of the programs are designed to assist a child living with a parent. Grandparents should be persistent in the application process to ensure that the children get the benefits to which they are entitled. They should be aware that each of the programs has different eligibility criteria and benefits. Grandparents do not need to have an order of custody to obtain benefits for their grandchildren. It is important that grandparents not allow themselves to "go without" when these programs are available to assist them and their grandchildren.

CAUTION: The information contained in this section is correct as of January 1, 2008. Proposals in Congress and the Minnesota legislature could alter the current programs. Please check with your local human services office or Legal Aid office to ensure that the information is correct.

Application Procedure for Public Assistance Programs

1. How and where to apply.

An individual may apply for the Minnesota public assistance programs discussed here by calling, writing, or visiting their county social services office or county department of economic assistance (county agency). A complete listing of county agencies may be found by:

  • calling the Minnesota Department of Human Services at (651) 297-3933, or visiting their Website at:; or
  • calling the Senior LinkAge Line at 1-800-333-2433; or
  • calling United Way (2-1-1) or 1-800-543-7709; or
  • visiting the MKCA website at

The county agency must give an application for assistance to anyone who requests one, and must also explain the application and the process.

The intake worker will give the caregiver a Combined Application Form (CAF). This form allows the caregiver to apply for more than one assistance program with one application. The caregiver should immediately fill out and file Part I of the form which is one page long. The date Part I is signed and submitted is the "date of application." If an applicant waits to file Part I of the form, he or she may get a smaller amount of benefits or have to wait to get benefits. Applicants should be sure to sign and date the CAF, Part I, and they should sure to say whether or not an emergency need exists.

2. What if the county intake worker refuses to take an application?

The county cannot refuse to take an application. An individual has a right to apply for public assistance, even if the receptionist or financial worker at the county agency says that he or she does not appear to be eligible. If the county worker does not allow a caregiver to fill out an application, the caregiver may want to ask to speak with the worker's supervisor. If they still refuse to take the application, the caregiver should contact his or her local legal services office at once.

3. How long does the application process take?

After Part I is submitted, the applicant will be scheduled to meet with a financial worker from the county agency. He or she will need to fill out and bring Part II of the CAF to that meeting along with requested documentation such as proof of income, assets, birth dates, etc. (If a caregiver is applying for a child-only grant, he or she does not have to provide information regarding the caregiver's income and assets, only those of the child). The type of proof you need to bring depends upon the program for which the caregiver is applying. Failure to bring this information to the meeting may mean a delay in getting benefits. The county will not process the application until it is complete.
Applications for the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) must be processed within 30 days. A decision on an application for Medical Assistance (MA) must be made within 45 days (ten days if the applicant is a pregnant woman and 60 days if he or she is applying because of a disability). A decision on a General Assistance (GA) application must be made within 30 days (60 days if the individual is applying because of a disability). A decision on a Food Stamp application must be made within 30 days. Applications for Emergency Assistance should be processed on an expedited basis.

Appeal Rights and Procedures

1. Can a person appeal the county's decision regarding benefits?

A person has the right to appeal any denial of assistance, the failure of an agency to act in a timely way, and any change in his or her assistance, whether it be a reduction, suspension, termination, or use of vendor payments.

The following appeal process must be used for each of the public assistance programs described below except for SSI.15
The county agency must give written notice of the action the county has taken. This written notice is called a Notice of Action. The Notice of Action will tell the applicant/recipient:

  • The reasons for the action;
  • The law supporting the action;
  • That he or she has a right to file an appeal;
  • That he or she has 30 days from the date of the Notice of Action to file a written appeal;
  • How to file the appeal;
  • That he or she may be represented by another person;
  • That he or she has a right to look at his or her file before the hearing;
  • That he or she has a right to question any testimony or evidence given at the hearing;
  • That he or she has a right to present evidence and testimony at the hearing;
  • That he or she may continue to get assistance while the appeal is pending, but may have to repay the county if the appeal is not successful; and
  • That he or she has a right to reapply for eligibility or additional eligibility.

If an applicant or recipient does not receive a Notice of Action, or if any employee of the agency tells the applicant or recipient that he or she cannot file an appeal, the applicant or recipient should contact a legal services office immediately.

2. How does a person file an appeal?

Generally, an individual has 30 days from the date of the Notice of Action to file a written appeal. (For some programs, the appeal time is 30 days from the date of receipt of the Notice of Action.) An appeal should be filed right away in order to protect the individual's right to appeal. In addition, an individual has up to 90 days to appeal if there is good cause for missing the 30-day deadline. In the food stamp program, an individual has 90 days from the date of the notice. In order to continue to receive benefits during the appeal, an individual must appeal within ten days or before the effective date of the action.

The appeal can be sent to the county agency or directly to the Department of Human Services, Appeals Division, 444 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155. When the appeal request is made, the person appealing should request a hearing and explain why his or her case has been treated unfairly or inappropriately. A copy of the appeal letter should be made and kept for future reference.

3. What happens after the appeal is filed?

The Department of Human Services will send the appellant (the person who appeals) a notice of the time and date for the hearing. If the appellant cannot attend the hearing, he or she should call the Human Services Judge immediately to get the hearing rescheduled. The hearing Human Services Judge's telephone number will be on the notice.

The county agency will send the appellant an Appeal Summary which explains the county's decision and the laws upon which the decision is based. The appellant should make sure to read this before the hearing so that he or she goes to the hearing adequately prepared.

4. What happens at the appeal hearing?

The hearing is held in a regular office at the county agency and is more informal than a court trial. Sometimes the hearing is done over the telephone. However, if the appellant wants a hearing in person, he or she should call the Human Services Judge upon receipt of the notice, and request a hearing in person.
The appeals Human Services Judge, the county worker who made the decision, a lawyer or advocate for the county, and the appellant and his or her lawyer or advocate will be at the hearing. The appellant may also bring friends or witnesses.

First, the Human Services Judge will ask people questions and then the county will present its evidence. The appellant will have the opportunity to present evidence. Everything that is said at the hearing is recorded. Once both sides have had a chance to present their cases, the Human Services Judge will either make a decision then or will mail the decision to both sides.

If the appellant disagrees with the Human Services Judge's decision, he or she may file an appeal with in the local district court. The appellant should contact an attorney to file the appeal.

Minnesota Family Investment Program Statewide (MFIP)

1. What is MFIP?

MFIP is a monthly cash and food assistance program for low-income families with children. It covers children up to 19 years of age if the child is a full-time student. Low income children and adult women who are pregnant may also receive MFIP.

2. Can a grandparent or other relative receive MFIP for the child?

A low-income caregiver may be eligible for an MFIP grant for herself and the child if the caregiver is a relative or has legal custody. Relative is defined as grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, first cousin once removed, nephew, niece, great, great-great or great-great-great relatives, or a spouse of any person named in the above group even after the marriage ends by death or divorce. To be eligible for MFIP, the relative caregiver must have income and resources below certain prescribed levels.

Even if the relative has income or assets that make them ineligible for MFIP on their own account, they may be able to get a "child only" grant for a child in their care, unless the child's income and resources exceed the eligibility standards. The child is eligible for the child only grant regardless of the relative's income.

If the relative does not have an order of custody, he or she must provide proof of the relationship. Birth certificates or Recognition of Parentage forms can be helpful to verify relationship. If a paternal relative is denied MFIP because the county agency determines he or she is not an eligible caregiver, the caregiver may want to either obtain an order of custody in family court or contact the county attorney for assistance in establishing paternity. He or she should also apply for GA.

3. Are There Financial Eligibility Requirements?

Yes. To be eligible for MFIP, an applicant must meet income and asset limitations. Many rules concerning whose income and resources to count and what type of income to count govern a determination of eligibility and the amount of the grant. This section outlines some of the basic information. When a caregiver applies for MFIP, the county will figure the grant and give the caregiver a notice that explains how the grant was calculated.
a. Whose income and assets count?
In determining financial eligibility for MFIP, the county will look at the assets and income received on behalf of the child and each household member included on the grant. If the caregiver is applying for a child-only grant, only the child's income and assets will be counted. If the caregiver wants to be included on the grant, her income and assets will be counted as well.

b. What kind of assets count?

A new applicant must have no more than $2,000 in cash, stocks, bank accounts, and other non-excluded assets. An ongoing recipient must have no more than $5,000 in cash, stocks, bonds, bank accounts or other non-excluded assets, etc.

The homestead, clothing, and normal household goods (i.e. furniture, appliances, jewelry, bicycles, and clothes) are not counted. If you have questions about what may be counted as an asset, contact your local legal services office.

A caregiver who is on the MFIP grant can own one car which has a loan value less than or equal to $7,500. The value of special equipment for a handicapped member of the assistance unit is excluded.

c. What kind of income counts?

All income received on behalf of a child or by household members who are on the MFIP grant must be included except for income explicitly excluded by law. For instance, tax refunds and most educational loans and grants are not counted as part of the family's income. "In-kind" income, the value of the food, clothing, and shelter that you are providing your grandchild, is not included as income to the grandchild. The earned income of children who are in school at least half-time is not counted.

d. What is the initial income test?

In order to be eligible for MFIP, the assistance unit's countable income minus allowable disregards must be below the MFIP transitional standard for that family size. The transitional standard is the total of the cash grant and the food portion of the grant. (See chart below.)

Monthly Standard as of October 2007
Number of Eligible Person (s) Full Transitional Standard Cash Portion Food Portion
1 $ 405 $ 250 $ 155
2 $ 722 $ 437 $ 285
3 $ 945 $ 532 $ 413
4 $ 1,141 $ 621 $ 520
5 $ 1,303 $ 697 $ 606
6 $ 1,493 $773 $ 720
7 $ 1,628 $ 850 $ 778
8 $ 1,797 $ 916 $ 881
9 $ 1,965 $ 980 $ 985
10 $ 2,127 $ 1,035 $ 1,092
Each additional person $ 161 $ 53 $ 108

* The cash and food portions of the grant may change, depending on state and federal law. The food portion and the whole chart generally changes in October. For updated information contact either DHS or your county.16 The Full Transitional Standard is the total of the cash and food portions.

5. What about food assistance?

Relative caregivers who have opted not to be included in the assistance unit may still be eligible for food support benefits.

6. Are there other eligibility requirements to consider?

There are additional requirements. Failure of parents to meet these requirements will affect their eligibility for MFIP, which may mean they will turn to relatives to provide care for their children. These provisions include the following:

a. Sixty-month lifetime limit

Federal and state law limits MFIP eligibility to parents and caregivers who have received less than 60 months of MFIP cash assistance in their lifetime. Minnesota began counting toward the 60 month lifetime limit on July 1, 1997. This limit is tracked per caregiver and does not need to be consecutive. The following are some exceptions where months are not counted towards the limit:

  • Months caregivers are 60 years of age or older;
  • Months parents under 18 years of age comply with approved living arrangement requirements and with education requirements;
  • Months 18 and 19-year-old parents comply with Employment Services;
  • Months relative caregivers are not receiving assistance. (Child benefits only);
  • Months victims of domestic violence comply with an approved alternative employment plan (formerly called the "safety plan;") and
  • Months persons live in Indian country with 50 percent or more adults not employed.

Some families can qualify for a hardship extension and receive benefits beyond 60 months.

b. Restrictions for some caregivers

  • If a caregiver was convicted of a drug felony on or after 7/1/97, the county must pay the recipient's shelter and utility costs directly to the providers of those services, and the caregiver is subject to random drug testing.
  • Parole violators are ineligible for benefits until the violation is cured.
  • Fleeing felons are ineligible for benefits until the issue is resolved.

7. What about minor parents?

Parents under 18 years of age, unless exempt, must attend school and must live with an adult relative, or in an adult-supervised, supported living arrangement. In addition, MFIP must be paid in the form of a protective payment on behalf of the minor caregiver and the minor child.

8. What are the responsibilities of relative caregivers?

a. Child Support. Caregivers must provide information on each non-custodial parent's whereabouts because the natural or adoptive parents are still financially responsible for the children.
b. Work Requirements. All caregivers receiving MFIP for themselves are required to develop an employment plan with a job counselor. However, the employment plans must reflect the needs of the caregivers. Caregivers should talk to their job counselors about appropriate activities to be included in the plan. Caregivers who do not receive assistance for themselves do not have to engage in work activities. There are no work exemptions for caregivers who receive an extension of benefits beyond the 60-month limit.

9. Are relative caregivers and children eligible for any other assistance?
Generally, caregivers and children who receive MFIP are eligible for health care benefits. Families on MFIP are eligible for the food portion. Caregivers who do not receive MFIP themselves may be eligible for the food support programs.

General Assistance (GA)

1. What is GA?

GA provides monthly cash grants to individuals and childless couples who are low-income, unable to work, and not eligible for any other government program (such as MFIP). The maximum benefit is $203 per month for a single person and $260 per month for a married couple. A minor not living with a parent, step-parent, or legal custodian is entitled to $250 per month.

Minor GA recipients are eligible for Medical Assistance (MA), and adult recipients, depending on the circumstances, may receive health care under the MA, MinnesotaCare, or GAMC (General Assistance Medical Care) programs. GA is funded by the state government, and GA recipients must take steps to become eligible for other programs such as the SSI or MFIP programs.

2. When would a caregiver or minor child get GA instead of MFIP?

There is no MFIP eligibility if a caregiver does not have legal custody of a child or cannot establish a relative relationship with the child (i.e., paternity has not been established). In such cases, the caretaker may be eligible for GA and the child could get a GA for minors grant. People under the age of 18 years who are not living with a parent, step-parent or legal guardian may get GA if they meet one of the following conditions:

  • They are legally emancipated. A minor who has been married, or is on active duty in the uniformed services of the United States, or has been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction or is otherwise considered emancipated under Minnesota law is considered to be legally emancipated;
  • They are at least 16 years of age and the director of the county agency or the director's representative approves GA as part of a social service case plan; or
  • They live with an adult with the consent of a legal custodian and the county agency.

The child must be referred to social services to develop a social services case plan. As GA for the adult and for minors is a safety net, caregivers should advocate for a case plan and GA eligibility, and appeal any adverse decision immediately.

Emergency Assistance (EA)

1. In General

Families may face financial difficulties when they unexpectedly take on the care of a relative's child. Money may be spent on the child instead of rent, mortgage, or utilities. Each county has its own program and spending limit to help with crisis situations which threaten a family's health and safety and which, if not resolved, will cause severe problems for the family.

Each county may provide assistance to resolve the emergency. For instance, it can be used to pay past-due rent, past-due mortgage or contract-for-deed payments, utility bills, moving expenses or home repair bills. If the request is for assistance to prevent foreclosure or eviction, EA payments in combination with other available resources must be sufficient to resolve the emergency, not just delay it. Counties are setting limits as to how much they will spend.

2. When can a caregiver use Emergency Assistance?

Caregivers of children under 21 (18 in some counties) years of age are eligible for Emergency Assistance if an emergency exists that causes or threatens to cause destitution to the caregiver's family, or jeopardizes the health and safety of the children. There must be one U.S. citizen in the household and there is a 30-day residency requirement. Caregivers may be eligible for EA even if they are not eligible to receive MFIP, but must have a household income below 200% of poverty.

To be eligible, at least one member of the household must have lived in Minnesota for 30 days.

3. When can a caregiver use Emergency General Assistance (EGA)
A caregiver may be eligible for EGA, whether or not he or she is a General Assistance applicant or recipient, as long as:

  • There is an emergency relating to shelter, utilities, food, clothing, or other items the loss or lack of which is determined by the county agency to pose a direct, immediate threat to the physical health or safety of the caregiver;
  • The emergency is temporary and does not exceed 30 days;
  • The caregiver does not have enough income or assets to resolve the emergency and the money will resolve the immediate crisis;
  • The caregiver is not a current recipient of MFIP or EA benefits; and
  • At least one member of the household has lived in Minnesota for at least 30 days.
  • May use EGA only one time in a 12-month period.

4. What are Emergency Food Support Benefits?

If a caregiver's household is in immediate need of food and has little or no income or resources in the month the caregiver applies for food stamps (or any other benefit), the household may be entitled to expedited food support benefits. This means that the county agency is required to provide food support benefits to the caregiver's household within one day of the date of application.

5. What About Appeal Rights?

The county agency must act quickly on a written application for Emergency Assistance. Depending upon the urgency of the emergency need, this can mean responding the same day a caregiver applies for help. When a caregiver applies for Emergency Assistance and is denied, he or she is entitled to an "expedited appeal." This means that a hearing must be scheduled within a few days to review the decision of the local county agency. When appealing a the denial of EA or EGA, the caregiver must be sure to request an "expedited appeal" from the financial worker. A full description of the appeal procedure can be found in Appeal Rights and Procedures chapter.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

1. What is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal cash benefit program for low-income persons 65 years and older and for blind and disabled persons of any age, including children. SSI recipients receive cash benefits and are automatically eligible for Medical Assistance.

2. Are children eligible for SSI?

Children with health problems, including drug-exposed infants, may qualify for SSI benefits. A child is considered disabled if his/her physical or mental impairment is as severe as a condition that would prevent an adult from working. This condition must be expected to last at least 12 months or result in the child's death.

As a standard for childhood disability, Social Security has developed categories of physical and mental health problems which have age-specific descriptions of symptoms. These categories are called "listings." If the child's condition is found in the listings, Social Security will find the child disabled. If the child's condition is not in the listings, Social Security must decide whether the child's condition is medically or functionally as serious as a listed impairment. If it is, Social Security will find the child disabled.

3. What are SSI income and asset standards?

Once disability has been established, Social Security will determine whether the child's income and resources are under the SSI limits.

To qualify for SSI, an individual (including a child) must have countable income which does not exceed the current federal benefit rate. In 2008, that amount is $637 per month. If a child receives support payments from a parent, one-third of the payment is not counted as income. If a person under the age of twenty two who regularly attends school, is workinig, $1,570 of the monthly earned income is not counted. If the child is not in school and working, the first $65 of earned income and one half of the remainder received in a calendar month is not counted.

There are also asset limits. Individuals may have:

  • No more than $2,000 cash;
  • One automobile with a value of $4,500, or of any value if it meets the SSI standard of necessity;
  • A home of any value;
  • Burial space (plots, caskets, headstones, etc.) for self and members of immediate family;
  • Burial funds set aside for burial expenses up to $1,500;

4. Does a caregiver's income count?

If a child is living with his/her parents, SSI has formulas to determine how much of the parent's income is considered available to the child. If a child is living with someone other than a parent, only the child's income and assets are counted in determining eligibility. No income or assets of a grandparent are deemed available to a grandchild.

However, a grandchild living with a grandparent may not receive the full SSI benefit. In most cases, the child receives only two-thirds of the full cash grant. Social Security reduces the benefit by one third because it considers that amount to be the in-kind support and maintenance a child receives from a caregiver. This is called the "one third" reduction rule. This rule does not apply if the child actually contributes a pro-rata share of income to the household expenses; then the child will receive the higher benefit. To determine this share, Social Security divides the total household expenses by the number of people in the household. For example, if there are three people in the household and the total household expenses are $900, then the pro-rata share is $300. Since the grandchild's SSI benefits will be at least $552, that child will be able to contribute $300 to the household expenses.

5. How does a caregiver apply for SSI?

To apply for SSI, contact your local Social Security Office. A complete listing of Minnesota Social Security Offices may be found by:

  • calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (by TDD 1-800-325-0778) or by visiting their Website at; or
  • calling the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433; or
  • calling United Way (2-1-1) or 1-800-543-7709; or
  • visiting the MKCA website at

6. What if SSI is denied?

The Social Security Administration will send a written decision stating whether or not the child is eligible for SSI. A reconsideration of the decision may be requested. A written request for reconsideration must be filed at the local Social Security office within 60 days of the denial. Social Security will then review the decision and send a letter outlining their decision.

To appeal the decision upon reconsideration, a request for hearing form must be filed at the local Social Security office within 60 days from the date of the decision. A hearing will be held before an Administrative Law Judge where the caregiver can explain why he or she believes the child is disabled. The caregiver can bring as witnesses persons who know the child.

Social Security Benefits

If the grandchild's parent worked, paid social security taxes and earned credits, surviving children may receive Social Security Survivor Benefits if they are unmarried and under 18 years of age, (19 years of age if currently attending elementary or secondary school full-time, and 21 years of age if attending college). A child, who is adopted after the death of both of his or her parent, will continue to receive Social Security Survivor Benefits after the adoption. Further, if a caregiver adopts a child, that child will be eligible for social security on the caregiver's record, in the event the caregiver dies or receives social security benefits.

In order to apply for many of these benefits, the children will need social security numbers. Caregivers can apply for a social security card for children in their care. In order to apply, you must bring a certified copy of the child's birth certificate and one or more documents showing the child's identity. If you are the person to sign the form, you must bring a form of identification. You can also obtain the social security card by mail. To request an application or obtain social security benefits, contact your local Social Security Office. (See immediately above.)

The information needed to apply for the Social Security Survivor Benefits:

  • Proof of the parent's death-either from a funeral home or death certificate
  • The child's and the deceased parent's social security numbers
  • The child's birth certificate
  • The deceased parent's W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year
  • The name of the bank and the account number so the benefits can be deposited directly into the account.

The benefit amount is based on the earnings of the deceased parent. The more the parent paid into Social Security, the greater the Survivor Benefits will be. Children receive seventy five percent of the deceased parent's benefit amount.17

Earned Income Tax Credit

1. In General

Low-income wage earners are eligible for a number of credits and deductions which could reduce their income tax liability and could even mean they receive a refund check. This section of the manual highlights the Earned Income Tax Credit. For information about other credits and deductions, consult an attorney or a tax preparer.

2. What is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?

The EITC is a tax credit for people who work and meet income limits. The maximum credit for tax year 2007 is $4,716.18 This credit reduces the amount of tax you owe and may give you a refund. Grandparent caretakers may be eligible for this tax credit.

3. What is Earned Income?

The EITC is based on earned income, which includes all wages, salaries, tips, and other employee compensation, and the amount of the taxpayer's net earnings from self-employment.

Earned income does not include:

  • Interest and dividends
  • Welfare benefits
  • Veteran's benefits
  • Pensions or annuities
  • Alimony
  • Social Security benefits
  • Worker's compensation
  • Unemployment compensation

4. What are the Income limits?

For tax year 2007, you must have worked during the year and your earned income must be less than:

a. $37,783, (or $39 783 if married filing a joint return) if you have two or more qualifying children ;

b. $33,241 ($35,241 if married filing a joint return) if you have one qualifying child;

c. $12,590 ($14,590 if married filing a joint return) if you have no qualifying children and are between 25 and 65 years).

5. Amount of Credit

For 2007, the maximum earned income credit is:

  • $2,853 for a family with one qualifying child
  • $4,716 for a family with two or more qualifying children
  • $428 for a family with no qualifying children

6. Who is a qualifying child?

A qualifying child may be: your son, daughter, adopted child, grandchild, eligible foster child,19 stepchild, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or any descendants of such relatives, whom you cared for as if your own child, or an eligible foster child;
Who is: under age 19 on December 31, 2007; a full time student under age 24 on December 31, 2007; or permanently and totally disabled at any time during 2007, regardless of age; and the child must have lived with you in the United States for more than half of the year.

7. Are there other requirements?

An individual must:

  • Have a valid social security number for you, your spouse, and any qualifying children;
  • Have a filing status other than married filing separately;
  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien for all of 2007;
  • Not have earned income from a foreign country;
  • Have earned income; and
  • Have investment income that is less than $2,900 in 2007

8. How do I get the EITC?

To receive the EITC, the caretaker must file an income tax return.

9. What is the Working Family Tax Credit (WFTC)?

The WFTC is a credit you may claim on your Minnesota Income Tax return. The rules are similar to the rules for the EITC. Caretakers who qualify for the EITC will also qualify for the WFTC if the income was earned in Minnesota.

Food Assistance

1. Food Support Program (formerly known as Food Stamps)

a. In General

The Food Support program provides benefits in the form of debit cards, which recipients may use to purchase food. Food support benefits are issued to "households" who meet certain asset and income limits. More than one household can live under one roof. A household may consist of just one person. A caregiver does not need an order of custody to obtain food stamps for a child.

In general, a grandchild under 18 years of age living with his or her grandparent(s) will be considered as part of the grandparents' household, because the child is dependent. However, there is one exception. If a grandparent is 60 years of age or older and is unable to purchase food and prepare meals because of his or her disability, then the grandparent and his or her spouse will be considered a separate household from the grandchild if the income of the other household members does not exceed 165 percent of poverty.

b. Who is eligible for food assistance?

The amount of food support benefits a household receives depends upon the size and net income of the household. To be eligible for food support, a household's gross income must be below 130 percent of poverty and net income must be below 100 percent of poverty. Households containing a person 60 years of age or older or a disabled person receiving SSI, SSDI, or Veterans Administration disability benefits may have gross income exceeding 130 percent of the poverty level, but income after subtracting the deductions must still be less than 100 percent of the poverty level. An asset limit also applies.

For households receiving MFIP, food support benefits will be issued as the "food portion" of the total MFIP grant. Applicants not receiving MFIP may still be eligible for food support if they meet income and asset limits.

Caregivers should apply for food support at the county office.

c. Are expedited food support benefits available?

If a caregiver's household is in immediate need of food and has little or no income or resources in the month for which he or she is applying for food support, the caregiver's household may be entitled to expedited food support benefits. This means that the county agency is required to provide food support benefits to the household within one day of the date of application if they qualify.

A denial of expedited food support benefits should be appealed immediately.

2. What is the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program?

The WIC Program is a supplemental food and nutrition program that may help grandparents purchase food for infants and children up to 5 years of age. To be eligible for the program, an applicant must have a nutritional need as determined by a qualified health professional and family income of less than 185 percent of the Federal poverty level. Grandchildren are automatically eligible for WIC if they receive food stamps, Medical Assistance, or MFIP, or if they are members of families that have an MFIP recipient, an infant, or a pregnant woman receiving Medical Assistance.

If eligible, under the WIC program, the children will receive:

  • Nutrition education services;
  • Referrals for health care and other services; and
  • Specific nutritious food such as iron-fortified infant formula, milk, cheese, juice, cereal, eggs, peanut butter, and dried peas, beans, or lentils.

To obtain the number to the program in your area, contact the WIC Information Line, toll free at 1-800-WIC-4030. You can apply for WIC when you apply for other benefits at the County. You may also request an emergency application if your grandchild is a "special nutritional risk."

Health Insurance Coverage

1. In General

A very significant issue for caregivers is health insurance coverage for themselves and for the children in their care. As a general rule, a child not living with his or her parent is eligible for health insurance through the Medical Assistance program. This is true regardless of the caregiver's income. If, for some reason the child is not eligible for Medical Assistance, some employer-provided health insurance may be available for the child, but rarely will an employer cover a child in these circumstances and only if the caregiver has obtained court-ordered custody. If a child is not eligible for Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare may be available for the child.

Health insurance options for caregivers are the same as those available for any adult. A caregiver may have private insurance, or, if eligible, obtain coverage through the Medicare, Medical Assistance, General Assistance Medical Care, or MinnesotaCare programs. Medical Assistance also has programs available to help Medicare recipients pay for prescription drugs and co-pays and deductibles. These programs are all explained below. This manual has income eligibility figures current for 2002. Many of the figures are based on a percentage of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG), which change each year. Updated figures can be found on the Department of Human Service's Website at, or by calling the Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433.

2. Medical Assistance

a. What is Medical Assistance?
Medical Assistance (MA) is Minnesota's Medicaid program. It is funded by the state and federal governments which pays for medical care for low-income individuals and families. MA pays for almost all health care services including:

  • Physicians' services;
  • Ambulance and emergency room;
  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital care;
  • Early periodic screening, diagnosis, treatment (Child & Teen Checkups);
  • Family planning;
  • Home health services for people 21 years and older;
  • Lab, X-ray;
  • Nurse midwife;
  • Nursing facilities;
  • Family and certified pediatric nurse practitioner;
  • Rural health clinics;
  • Preventive health services;
  • Prescription drugs, including birth control;
  • Dental services;
  • Chiropractic services;
  • Physical, occupational, speech and respiratory therapy;
  • WIC;
  • Eye exams, glasses, hearing aids;
  • Transportation services;
  • Mental health treatment;
  • Alcohol and drug treatment;
  • Hospice care;
  • Home health care for those under 21 years;
  • Private-duty nursing;
  • Personal care services;
  • Group homes for people who are mentally retarded;
  • Prosthetics; and
  • Podiatry.

b. Who is eligible for MA?

In order to be eligible for MA, an individual must be a US citizen or "qualified" non-citizen, meet the income and asset guidelines, and be a resident of Minnesota. Any caregiver or child who receives SSI or MSA (Minnesota Supplemental Aid) is eligible for MA. Most children in foster care, children receiving MFIP child-only benefits, and children receiving GA for Minors are also eligible for MA.

The following people are entitled to receive MA as long as they meet the income and asset tests: pregnant women; parents and caretakers of children under 21 years of age; individuals who are aged, blind, or disabled, children under the age of 21 years; an infant whose mother was eligible for and receiving MA at the time of birth and who remains in the mother's household; and disabled children.

c. What are the asset limitations?

There is no asset limit for children under age 21 and pregnant women. The limits are $15,000 for a family of one and $30,000 for a family of two or more. The asset limit for people who are blind, disabled or age 65 and older is $3,000 for a single person, $6,000 for a household of 2, plus $200 for each dependent.

d. What are the income guidelines?

Income guidelines vary depending on various factors. Most are based on the FPG and change every July. Most children receiving MFIP child-only grants or in foster care will be eligible for MA. Similarly, individuals receiving MSA and SSI will have meet the income guidelines for MA.

e. Can a person with excess income still be eligible for MA?

A person whose income is too high to qualify for Medical Assistance may still get help for medical bills by applying any income over the Medical Assistance limit to pay medical bills. This is called a "spenddown. A spenddown is much like an insurance deductible. After excess income is spent on medical care, Medical Assistance will pay the rest. You can have your spenddown figured every month or every six months.

3. Help for Co-pays, Deductibles and Prescription Drugs for Medicare Beneficiaries.

If an individual is on Medicare and is low-income, MA has programs to help pay for deductibles, co-payments and Part A and B premiums. These programs, the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program, the Service Limited Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program, and the QI-1 Program, all have different income eligibility criteria. The Minnesota Prescription Drug program helps Medicare beneficiaries with prescription drug costs.

All programs have the same asset guidelines. Countable assets must be no more than $10,000 for an individual and $18,000 for a couple. In figuring out countable assets, the QMB program uses the same rules as the MA program. Program benefits and income guidelines are as follows:

a. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB)

The QMB program pays for co-payments, deductibles, and the Part A and B premiums. To be eligible for the QMB program an individual must be enrolled in or eligible to enroll in Medicare Part A. The QMB program can help individuals not enrolled to enroll. Gross income can be no more than 100 percent of the FPG. The figures change in July of each year. Beginning July, 2007, income could be no greater than $871 for an individual and $1,161 for a couple.

b. Service Limited Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB)

The SLMB program will pay only the Part B premium. To be eligible for the SLMB program an individual must be enrolled in Medicare Part A. In addition, gross income can be no more than 120 percent of the FPG. The figures change in July of each year. Beginning July, 2007, gross income can be no greater than $1,041 for an individual and $1,389 for a couple.

c. Qualifying Individuals (QI)

QI-group 1 pays the Part B premium. Eligibility for QI requires enrollment in Medicare Part A. Gross income can be no more than 135 percent FPG. The figures change in July of each year. Beginning July, 2007, gross income can be no greater than $1,169 for any individual per month and $1,561 for a couple per month.

d. Medicare Prescription Drug Subsidy for Part D

Participants with gross income at 150% FPG or below, on a sliding basis, are eligible for reduced or no monthly payments, deductibles and co-payments depending on income and assets. Beginning July 2007, to receive full subsidy, gross income must be no more than 135 percent FPG: no greater than $1,149 for an individual and $1,541 for a couple. To receive seventy-five percent subsidy, gross income must be no more than 140 percent FPG: no greater than $1,191 for an individual and $1,597 for a couple. To receive fifty percent subsidy, gross income must be no more than 145 percent FPG: $1,234 for an individual and $1,654 for a couple. To receive twenty percent subsidy, gross income must be no greater than 150 percent FPG: $1,276 for an individual and $1,711 for a couple.

4. MinnesotaCare

MinnesotaCare is a subsidized health care program for Minnesotans who do not have access to health insurance and who meet income, asset, and program guidelines. MinnesotaCare is funded by enrollee premiums, the State of Minnesota, a tax on heath care providers and some federal matching dollars. MinnesotaCare was created in 1992 by the Minnesota Legislature and is administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services Relative caretakers with household incomes below 275 percent of the federal poverty guideline ($3,137 for a family of two in 2007) and asset of less than $10,000 for a household of one and $20,000 for a household of two are eligible for Minnesota care. Enrollees pay a monthly premium for their health coverage. The premium is based on income and family size. Enrollees get all their services from a health plan, which they choose when they enroll in the program. Coverage includes medical care (clinic and hospital), dental care, mental health and chemical dependency services, and prescription drugs. 20

5. General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC)

Parents and caretakers of children who are not eligible for the Medical Assistance program may be eligible for GAMC if their income is no more than 75 percent of FPG. In 2007, FPG is $10,210 annually for a family of one, $13,690 for a family of two, $17, 170 for a family of three, and $20,650 for a family of four . Further, caretakers must have assets not greater than $1,000 per household excluding specified assets. GAMC covers most of the same services as the MA program, except it does not cover nursing home care or home health care. An individual who has more income than the eligibility level may still receive GAMC by spending excess income on medical expenses. This works the same way as the spenddown in the Medical Assistance program. (See above.) 21

Benefits for Children involved with Juvenile Court CHIPS Cases

1. Foster Care Payments

a. What is a foster care payment?

A foster care payment is money that the social service agency pays monthly to a licensed foster care provider for the care of a child placed by the juvenile court or by a voluntary placement agreement between the county and the parent. The payment includes a basic rate, called a maintenance payment, and may also include a supplement called a difficulty of care payment. Relatives may be foster care providers.

b. When is a child eligible for foster care?

A child who is living away from his or her parents and who was placed there, either by a voluntary agreement between the county and the parents, or by a juvenile court order, is eligible for foster care benefits, including maintenance payments. (See discussion of Relative Placement and Foster Care.)

c. How much are foster care payments?

The State sets the foster care maintenance payment rates and bases them on the child's age. It reviews rates each year and adjusts them for the cost of living. Children in foster care receive the same maintenance payments whether they are with a relative or a non-relative foster care provider. As of January 1, 2008, the maintenance rate for a child age 11 and younger is $19.94 per day; for a child 12-14 years of age, $23.08 per day; and for a child 15-18 years of age, $23.76 per day.
A foster child with special needs may also be eligible for a difficulty-of-care supplement. The county evaluates each foster child to determine the difficulty-of-care rate. Foster parents may appeal the amount of the difficulty-of-care payment if they disagree with the county's assessment of the child's needs.

d. What is the difference between foster care maintenance payments and MFIP?

Some important differences between foster care and MFIP are:

  • Foster care payments are substantially higher than MFIP benefits;
  • In order to receive foster care benefits for a child, a caregiver must be licensed as a foster parent by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. A caregiver need not be licensed to qualify for MFIP, but must be an eligible caregiver as defined by law. (See Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP))
  • A caregiver is not eligible for foster care benefits if he or she has an order of custody of the child. Some relative caregivers can get MFIP for a child whether or not there is an order of custody. If a caregiver is not related to the child, an order of custody is necessary to get MFIP benefits.

e. How do I become a licensed foster care provider?

The process is explained in the Relative Placement and Foster Care section.

2. Adoption Assistance (MINN. STAT. § 259.67)

In some circumstances, a person who adopts a child may be eligible to receive adoption assistance.
A prospective adoptive parent should be sure to talk to the county or tribal social worker before going to court for the adoption because, with limited exceptions, the law prohibits DHS from granting a request for adoption assistance after an adoption order has been granted.

3. Relative Custody Assistance (MINN. STAT. § 257.85)

a. What is Relative Custody Assistance?

The Relative Custody Assistance (RCA) program provides financial assistance for eligible children who are being placed in the permanent legal and physical custody of a relative following a CHIPS proceeding. "Relative" includes "a person related to the child by blood, marriage, or adoption, or an individual who is an important friend with whom the child has resided or had significant contact. For an Indian child, relative includes members of the extended family as defined by the law or custom of the Indian child's tribe or, in the absence of law or custom, nieces, nephews, or first or second cousins, as provided in the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, United States Code, title 25, section 1903." (MINN. STAT. § 257.85, Subd. 3(d))

b. Who is an eligible child?

To consider RCA for a child, the agency must certify: 1) the juvenile court has determined that the child cannot be returned to the home of the parent; 2) the juvenile court has issued or will issue an order transferring permanent legal and physical custody of the child to the relative; and 3) the child is either a member of a sibling group being placed together or has a physical, mental, emotional or behavioral disability that requires financial support. MINN. STAT.§ 257.85, Subd. 6.

c. How does a relative secure RCA for a child?

An RCA agreement must be signed by the local agency and the relative custodian within thirty days (30) of a court order transferring permanent legal and physical custody, unless there is a delay that is not the fault of the relative custodian. There must be a separate agreement for each child for whom a relative custodian will be receiving RCA. The agreement is effective as of the date of the order transferring custody.

d. What is the payment amount?

To calculate the monthly RCA payment for a child, the agency first determines the amount that a child of the same age and the same special needs would receive through the adoption assistance program. Then the agency must offset that amount by the child's income, including the portion of MFIP grant relating to the child. The resulting figure is the maximum RCA payment. The actual amount of the RCA payment will be adjusted for those relatives whose gross family income, including the income of children for whom they accepted custody, exceeds 200 percent of the FPG.

e. What are the responsibilities of the relative custodian who receives the RCA payment?

Each year the relative custodian must submit an affidavit documenting 1) that the child remains in the physical custody of the relative custodian; 2) that there is a continuing need for RCA payments due to the child's physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral needs; and 3) the current gross income of the family. The payment may be modified based on the information provided. RCA payments are subject to the availability of state funds and may be reduced or suspended by order of the commissioner if insufficient funds are available.