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MN Welfare Protests Demand:: Stop the 5 year limit clock!

By Deb Konechne

Minneapolis, MN – On August 22, low income families across Minnesota held protests to mark the fourth anniversary of the signing of the federal welfare “reform” law. Member groups of the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition protested in four cities around the state, to call for an end to the five-year limit on public assistance.

Didi Francis, of the Twin Cities based Welfare Rights Committee, told demonstrators assembled outside the Minneapolis Federal Building, “On this day in 1996, politicians in Washington D.C. declared a war on the poor in this country.”

The Welfare Rights Committee protest drew over 100 people, including supporters from labor, the religious community, women's organizations, youth and student groups. Among the speakers was Martin Goff, one of the leaders of the recent strike in area hotels.

“This is the biggest attack on welfare in over 60 years! The five-year lifetime limit will throw our families into hunger, homelessness and desperation across this state and across this country!” declared WRC member Kim Hosmer. Pre-teen protesters drew chalk outlines of the children on the plaza in front of the Federal Building to show the devastating effect the five year-limit will have on children.


In Duluth, Low Income People Organizing for Power held a dynamic protest where over 50 people joined a rally and marched from the Federal Building to the welfare office. Nearly twenty local organizations endorsed the rally.

“In Minnesota, over 6000 families will hit the time limit in less than two years. This adds up to tens of thousands of children!” said Marvella Davis of Low Income People Organizing for Power.

Many people spoke out against the five year limit, including families receiving welfare, along with supporters from the NAACP, Anti-Racism Collaborative, labor organizations, religious communities and student organizations.

Moorhead and St. Cloud

In Moorhead and St. Cloud, low-income people held lively pickets in front of the welfare offices. Protesters handed out hundreds of educational fliers to people passing by and going into the welfare offices.

“With this five year limit there's going to be so much homelessness! The wages aren't high enough to sustain our families and people are going to be falling left and right! Families in St. Cloud are so angry about these welfare reforms. We need to get ourselves organized! If politicians don't stop this time clock, there's going to be trouble in St. Cloud!” said Kathy Krueger of Minnesotans United for Social Justice.

People Escaping Poverty Project organized the protest in Moorhead. “August 22, 1996 marks the day that the U.S. government turned its back on poor people,” declared Duke Schempp, Director of PEPP. Protesters signed a giant declaration against the five year limit and delivered it to Moorhead Representative Kevin Goodno's office.

“It's not just the recipients that need to take action and hit the streets, it's the people in positions of power that need to step out and take risks. Until those people in power step along side of us and take risks, many more people will be out on the street homeless,” said Organizer Apprentice, Lysa Rinquist of People Escaping Poverty Project.

The Campaign

The day of protests was part of the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition's statewide campaign to stop the time limits on welfare. “This five year limit is a vicious law that we have to fight! We call on elected officials to put a time limit on poverty, instead of on welfare! We need to all come together and work together to stop this time bomb that is ticking away!” stated Derrick Parker of Low Income People Organizing for Power.

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