Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP)

  1. What is MFIP?
  2. Who can get help from MFIP?
  3. How does MFIP work?
  4. What does MFIP look at in determining eligibility?
  5. What are the income limits for MFIP?
  6. What are earned and unearned income?
  7. How are gross and net income calculated?
  8. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to get on MFIP?
  9. I am an immigrant. If I get MFIP will I be a public charge?
  10. Are there asset limits for MFIP?
  11. What are assets?
  12. Will a lien be placed on my home if I get MFIP?
  13. To get MFIP, does it matter how long I have lived in Minnesota?
  14. What is the Diversionary Work Program (DWP)?
  15. What are the work requirements for MFIP?
  16. What if I don’t meet the work requirements while I am on MFIP?
  17. How much does someone on MFIP receive in cash and for food?
  18. What’s an EBT card?
  19. Where and on what can I use my EBT card?
  20. Do I have to pay for childcare when I am on MFIP?
  21. Am I eligible for health care programs while on MFIP?
  22. How long can I receive MFIP?
  23. What is the MFIP Housing Assistance Grant?
  24. When I exit MFIP, can I still get help paying for food, medical and child care costs?
  25. Does my MFIP cash grant count towards income eligibility for other public work support programs?
  26. Where can I get an application for MFIP?
  27. What is the application like?
What is MFIP?

The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) is a cash assistance program for very low-income children and families. It is Minnesota’s version of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program. In December 2020, 75,302 Minnesotans turned to MFIP for assistance, 48,124 of whom were children. The average monthly cash grant for MFIP households with caregivers enrolled in the program was $417.   

MFIP is administered by Minnesota Department of Human Services but eligibility and case management is done by county human service departments. To find your county or Tribal contact for MFIP, go to Bridge to Benefits program directory.

 

 

Who can get help from MFIP?

Families with minor children (under age 18) living in their household or pregnant women are eligible for MFIP. Children under 19 may also be counted as a minor child if they have not received a high school diploma or GED and are a FULL-TIME STUDENT in a SECONDARY SCHOOL or equivalent level of vocational or technical training, designed to fit students for gainful employment. Other factors considered in determining program eligibility include household size, earned and unearned income, assets and immigration status. In some cases, called child-only cases, children can receive MFIP on their own whether they live with their parent or not.

 

How does MFIP work?

MFIP provides cash and food assistance to families who are very low income while they are working or looking for work. Families receive a monthly benefit in cash and a monthly benefit to help pay for food based on their household size and income. Parent(s) must meet the work requirements upon enrollment in the MFIP program. See question 10 to find out more about MFIP work requirements.

 

Parents or caregivers and children receiving MFIP may also be eligible for Medical Assistance (MA), a free health care program. To receive MA, you must apply separately through the MnSure website or by completing and mailing in the health care program paper application. Families on MFIP may also be eligible to receive free childcare if eligibility requirements are met. Families can apply for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) on the same application, called the Combined Application Form (CAF), that they use for applying to the MFIP program. They can also use the CCAP-only application. When eligible for MFIP, families are usually eligible for other public work support programs such as the School Meal Program, Energy Assistance, Early Learning Scholarships, etc. You can complete the Bridge to Benefits screening tool on this website to discover all the programs for which your family may qualify and find information on how to apply.

 

 

What does MFIP look at in determining eligibility?

MFIP looks at your gross income (earned and unearned), citizenship/immigration status, assets, household size, ages of children and length of residency in determining your eligibility. Other questions below in this section will address these areas in more detail.

 

What are the income limits for MFIP?

MFIP uses gross income (counting both earned and unearned sources of household income) to determine initial eligibility. Net income (the amount after subtracting allowable income disregards) is then used to determine the MFIP grant amounts. An MFIP grant consists of both a cash portion and a food portion. As net income increases, the cash portion will decrease until it hits $0 and then the food portion will decrease until it hits $0. To enter the program, you must meet both the gross income standard and the net income standard that allows for a benefit amount. By completing the Bridge to Benefits screening tool on this website, you can find out if you are likely eligible for the MFIP program and what your potential benefit might be.

 

What are earned and unearned income?

Earned income is income you and other household members earn from work (includes wages and tips).

Unearned income is income from sources other than work such as: unemployment, pensions, annuities, dividends or other taxable interest, alimony received, rent or royalties, social security, SSI, SSDI, RSDI, child support, worker’s compensation, disability payments, veteran’s benefits, tribal payments and/or retirement income.

Income from children under age 6 or older children if enrolled in school full time is not counted in household income calculations.

 

How are gross and net income calculated?

Gross income is calculated by adding all earned and unearned income together before any taxes or deductions are taken.

Net income is calculated after subtracting allowable deductions and income disregards. For MFIP, these may include some child support disregards, earned income disregards and a new spouse income disregard as well as some standard deductions.

 

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to get on MFIP?

You and the household members for which you’re applying must be a U.S. citizen or have an acceptable immigration status. Non-citizens must provide proof of immigration status. Non-citizens who are qualified non-citizens or residing lawfully in Minnesota are eligible for either state or federally-funded MFIP if they meet all other eligibility factors. Non-immigrants (except for citizens of Micronesia, Palau, or the Marshall Islands) and people who are undocumented are ineligible.  

 

I am an immigrant. If I get MFIP will I be a public charge?

It depends on many factors. Refugees, asylees, victims of torture and some other immigrant groups are not subject to public charge testing. If you have questions about how receiving MFIP could make you a public charge, you should seek legal assistance.

 

Are there asset limits for MFIP?

Yes. When applying for MFIP and while on the program you can have up to $10,000 in assets.

What are assets?

Assets include money in a bank account or other things of value that you or your family own. You do not have to count the home you live in or vehicles that you drive to work as an asset (one vehicle per person over the age of 16 is not counted as an asset). Personal items such as clothes, furniture, jewelry and appliances are not counted. You do not have to count tax refunds that you have received in the past 12 months. Some examples of assets that are counted are cash, money in a checking or savings account at a bank, debit cards such as Reliacards and Direct Express (not EBT cards). Retirement accounts are counted if they can be accessed without a financial penalty. Recreational vehicles like 4-wheelers, property that you own but do not live on, and stocks and bonds that can be accessed without a financial penalty are counted. To determine your eligibility for MFIP, your county will ask about the value of your assets to determine if you’re over the asset limit.

 

Will a lien be placed on my home if I get MFIP?

Yes, a lien can be placed on your home if you enroll in MFIP or DWP. Contact your county human services office for more information. A lien will not be put on your home if you enroll in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Energy Assistance, Basic-Sliding fee Child Care Assistance, School Meal Program, WIC, Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare.

 

 

To get MFIP, does it matter how long I have lived in Minnesota?

To be eligible for MFIP you must live in Minnesota for 30 days and intend to stay here. Exceptions to this 30-day requirement can be made for people experiencing unusual hardship because they are without shelter or resources for food, migrant workers, members of the armed services and people who returned to Minnesota after recently leaving to attend higher education in another state.

 

What is the Diversionary Work Program (DWP)?

DWP is a four-month program that helps parents/caregivers find employment before going on MFIP. Families determined eligible for MFIP will first be assessed for enrollment in DWP. The goal of DWP is to get parents/caregivers employed instead of receiving cash assistance. The first step for a parent/caregiver enrolled in DWP is to create an Employment Plan.  Parents/Caregivers on MFIP must create and follow an Employment Plan in conjunction with a job counselor, otherwise benefits can be terminated. While on DWP, all cash assistance will first be paid directly to vendors (landlords, utility company, etc.) for your housing and utility costs. 

 

 

What are the work requirements for MFIP?

Parents/Caregivers on MFIP must create and follow an Employment Plan in conjunction with a job counselor, otherwise benefits can be terminated. An Employment Plan outlines the steps a caregiver will take toward unsubsidized employment. All MFIP caregivers must create and comply with the Employment Plan unless they have a child under 12 months old. If there is a child under 12 months of age in the household and the caregiver has remaining months on the 5-year MFIP lifetime limit (see question 22), the caregiver can apply to the county for an Employment Plan exemption.

 

What if I don’t meet the work requirements while I am on MFIP?

If you don’t meet the work requirements for MFIP you risk getting sanctioned, which means your cash grant will be reduced and/or paid directly to vendors to cover your shelter costs. If you receive 7 sanctions your case will be closed for one full month before you would be able to reapply. The first time you don’t meet the work requirements in your employment plan your grant will be reduced by 10 percent. If you return to compliance your grant will be reinstated to the full amount the following month. For the second through sixth time you are not in compliance, your total grant will be reduced by 30 percent and the cash portion of your grant will be paid directly to the vendors for your shelter costs (typically to landlords and/or utility companies). If you return to full compliance after two to six sanctions your grant will be reinstated to the full amount; however, your cash portion will continue to be paid directly toward your shelter costs for six months after the month you return to compliance. For families with two parents receiving MFIP, both parents must be fully compliant before removing sanctions. You can also be sanctioned in these ways for not complying with child support.

 

 

 

How much does someone on MFIP receive in cash and for food?

The amount of the grant varies by family size and income. The table below shows the maximum cash and food portion of the grants as of 2021. The Bridge to Benefit screening tool can estimate MFIP eligibility plus the amount of the cash and food grants. However, these are only estimates. The Bridge to Benefits screening tool does not ask all the questions needed to determine accurate eligibility and benefits.

 

Family Size

Full Standard

Cash Portion

Food Portion

1

$543

$350

$193

2

$892

$537

$355

3

$1,142

$632

$510

4

$1,371

$721

$650

5

$1,581

$797

$784

6

$1,825

$873

$952

7

$1,986

$950

$1,036

8

$2,195

$1,016

$1,179

9

$2,402

$1,080

$1,322

10

$2,603

$1,135

$1,468

Each add’l person add:

$200

$53

$147

 

 

What’s an EBT card?

MFIP benefits are distributed on a plastic card that looks like a credit or debit card. It is called your EBT card. Every month, the card will be filled up with the amount of the cash grant and food grant for which you’re determined eligible.

 

Where and on what can I use my EBT card?

You can only use your EBT card at participating vendors. The food portion of the grant can only be used to purchase food or seeds to plant food at stores or farmer markets that accept EBT cards. The cash portion of the grant can be used to buy food, non-food items and to get cash from an ATM. It is illegal to use the cash on the card to purchase tobacco or alcoholic beverages. If you do, you will be removed from the program. When you get to the check-out line or ATM, you swipe your card and then enter a code number that you have picked (called a PIN or Personal Identification Number).  The PIN helps keep your benefits safe if you lose your card. The cost of the food or cash that you spend will be subtracted from the amount of money on your card. You can also have your cash benefits directly deposited into your bank account each month so you can withdraw the money at your bank or write checks. Contact your county human services office to sign up for direct deposit. For more information about using your EBT card refer to the How to Use your EBT Card brochure.

 

Do I have to pay for childcare when I am on MFIP?

You will be eligible for free or reduced priced childcare assistance while receiving MFIP as long as you are compliant with your Employment Plan. There is no wait list to receive childcare assistance while on MFIP. The amount of hours and activities you are authorized for should be outlined in your Employment Plan. Childcare can be authorized for the following activities outside of your Employment Plan:

  • Job search up to 240 hours per calendar year.
  • Employment of at least 20 hours per week or 10 hours per week for full-time students.
  • Financial and employment services orientations and assessments.
  • Appeals and hearings for cash assistance.

 

 

Am I eligible for health care programs while on MFIP?

Yes. Families receiving MFIP who meet the income, asset and other requirements can enroll in Medical Assistance (MA), which is a free health care program. Adult caregivers with household incomes higher than the MA requirements for adults and some immigrant children who are not eligible for Medical Assistance may be able to apply for MinnesotaCare.

 

 

How long can I receive MFIP?

Parents/Caregivers can receive assistance for 60-months in their lifetime. The months do not have to be consecutive, and they are only counted while the parent/caregiver is receiving the cash portion of their MFIP grant (which includes the MFIP housing allotment, see the question below). While the parent/caregiver is receiving only the food portion of their MFIP grant, those months are not counted toward the 60-month lifetime limit. There are no time limits for child-only cases. For a complete list of what is exempt or counted toward the 60-month time limit, click here.

 

 

What is the MFIP Housing Assistance Grant?

If you are not currently enrolled in a public housing or subsidized housing program that helps you pay for housing costs, you could be eligible for the MFIP Housing Assistance Grant of $110/month. You will be asked about your housing situation when you apply and will receive the additional housing allotment if eligible. Even as your income increases, you will receive the same amount in the housing assistance grant until you exit the MFIP program . The months during which you receive the MFIP housing assistance grant will count toward your 60-month lifetime limit for MFIP. 

When I exit MFIP, can I still get help paying for food, medical and child care costs?

Yes, when you exit MFIP you may still be eligible for assistance paying for food, health care, energy bills and child care. For one year after receiving MFIP you may be eligible for Transition Year Child Care despite increased earnings. You may also remain enrolled in health care and SNAP depending on your income. To find out what you may be eligible for when exiting MFIP, use the Bridge to Benefits screening tool or contact your county human services office.

 

Does my MFIP cash grant count towards income eligibility for other public work support programs?

Some of the other public work support programs may count the cash portion of your MIFP grant as income in determining your eligibility for that program. However, your MFIP food portion and your MFIP housing allotment should not be counted as income.

 

Where can I get an application for MFIP?

The application is called the Combined Application Form (CAF). You can get one at your county social services office. You can also get an application on Bridge to Benefits by clicking here. Or you can apply online using MNBenefits or ApplyMN.

What is the application like?

 

The CAF paper application is about 15 pages long, plus instructions. It is available in English, Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Khmer (Cambodian), Lao, Vietnamese, Arabic, Oromo, Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian) and Russian. The CAF online application takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete. On both the paper and the online CAF application, you will be asked about everyone who lives with you, how much money they make, and what they own (assets). The CAF also allows you to apply for the Child Care Assistance program. If using the CAF paper application, bring or mail the completed application and copies of required verifications to your county office to apply. You can use the Program Directory on this website to find the mailing address for your county social service office. Or you can submit your application online using MN Benefits.

Keep in mind, if you are eligible for MFIP you are likely eligible for Medical Assistance (MA), a free health care program, for you and your children. However, you cannot apply for MA on the Combined Application Form (CAF). You must apply separately using the Health Care Programs paper application or by visiting the MnSure website.