That’s all some people in the Housing Support program have left over each month for other expenses.
To change this, HF732 would reduce the amount of countable income considered to determine eligibility and benefits for the program that serves seniors and adults with disabilities who have low incomes.
Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul), the bill sponsor, said more than half of the recipients are people of color or Indigenous people, and more than half receive a form of Supplemental Security Income.
Adjustments would affect certain recipients of Supplemental Security Income, veterans benefits or Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance.
The House Human Services Policy Committee approved the bill, as amended, Wednesday and referred it to the House Health Finance and Policy Committee.
“In 2020 to 2021, this program moved 7,500 people out of homelessness across the state,“ Her said.
The program pays for room and board, though many recipients must pay a portion of the Housing Support rate.
“Especially for people receiving SSI, this can add up to as much as 90% of their monthly income, leaving them just $121 to pay for everything not covered by the program like a phone, transportation, clothing and any emergency expenses that might arise,” said Lorna Schmidt, director of public policy and advocacy at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Under provisions of the bill, income limits would be modified so countable income includes less government assistance.
Countable income would decrease from 100% of the Supplemental Security Income benefit limit to 30% of the benefits received. For Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance and veterans’ benefit recipients in certain supportive housing settings, the only countable income would become 30% of their total income.
“The state terms these federal benefits ‘unearned income.’ This is not unearned income,” said Kristy Janigo, legislative chair for the American Legion Department of Minnesota. “This income in the form of VA benefits and pensions is very much earned.”
Tyra Thomas, a founding member of Street Voices of Change, talked about how while in the program, she struggled to meet with her son who later committed suicide.
She said the amount of income taken for housing keeps people homeless, takes away an individual’s agency and severely limits any opportunity to save money.