Several provisions included in the House and Senate versions of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act would provide much-needed help for Minnesota families struggling to make ends meet. Except as otherwise noted, the estimates below are provided by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Unemployment Insurance — According to the National Employment Law Project, an estimated 331,387 unemployed Minnesotans would receive a $25 per week increase in their unemployment benefits from January through December 2009. Approximately 51,706 unemployed Minnesotans may qualify for Extended Unemployment Compensation from April through December 2009. Additionally, the bills include incentives for states to reform their UI programs to cover more low-wage and part-time workers.
Nutrition — Under the House-passed bill, approximately 306,000 Minnesotans receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps) would receive a 13.6% increase in their maximum benefits effective in April 2009 if the bill is enacted this month. An increase of $175 million in SNAP benefits would come to Minnesotans over fiscal years 2009 through 2013. The Senate bill provides a slightly smaller increase of $144 million in increased SNAP benefits to Minnesota families. Not only will increased SNAP benefits help struggling Minnesotans feed their families, but research by the USDA has found that $1 in food stamps generates $1.84 in total economic activity, a significant economic stimulus.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — SSI provides basic income support to 78,400 low-income elderly Minnesotans and people with disabilities. Under current law, the maximum monthly benefit for individuals receiving SSI is $674, about three-quarters of the federal poverty level. Under the House-passed bill, SSI recipients would receive a one-time payment equal to the average SSI benefit, or approximately $450 for individuals and $630 for married couples. This provision would provide an additional $45 million to Minnesotans in 2009.
Child Tax Credit (CTC) — The Child Tax Credit is a partially-refundable federal income tax credit of up to $1,000 per child (under age 17) to help offset the costs of raising a child. The House-passed bill temporarily expands the CTC to make the credit available to all working tax filers with children.
As I noted in a previous entry, the House passed the bill last week by a vote of 244 to 188. The Senate is now considering its version of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act and a vote is expected later this week. Amendments may be adopted that would change some of these provisions. House and Senate leaders hope to send a final bill to the President by Feb. 13. We will continue to closely monitor this legislation as it moves through the Senate.
— Steve Francisco