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 2012 about 75,000 Minnesotans turned to MFIP for assistance, 47,000 of whom are children. The average monthly cash grant for MFIP households with caregivers enrolled in the program was $347.

MFIP is administered by Minnesota Department of Human Services but eligibility and case management is done by county human service departments.
Who can get help from MFIP?

Families with children under age 18 are eligible for MFIP. Eligibility is determined by several factors, including household size, earned and unearned income, and assets. 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. 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 check “Y” on the application where it asks if you would like to apply for Health Care Programs. Families on MFIP may also be eligible to receive free child care if requirements are met. Parent(s) must meet the work requirements upon enrollment in the program or else the cash grant will be reduced and eventually eliminated. See question 10 to find out more about MFIP work requirements.


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 ApplyMN.


What is the application like?

The 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. It will ask you about everyone who lives with you, how much money they make, and what they own (assets). If you are eligible for MFIP you may also be eligible for Medical Assistance (MA), a free health care program, for you and your children. If you’re interested in applying for MA, you must indicate that on the application by checking “Y” on the question that asks if you want to apply for Health Care Programs. Bring the complete application and copies of required verifications to your county office to apply. Or you can also apply online using ApplyMN. You can also use the Program Directory on this website to find organizations by county that will help you fill out the application.


Do I have to go in person to apply?

You do not have to submit the application in person; however, you will have to do an in-person interview with someone at your county office before receiving MFIP benefits.


What else do I have to do to apply?

During your interview, you will have to bring proof of your income (such as check stubs), your expenses and value of your assets (see question 15 for a list of assets that are counted) and identification for household members who are applying. When you turn in your application, you will learn what you need to bring to your interview.


How soon will I be able to get on the program?

You will be on the program and start receiving benefits when you have turned in a complete application, necessary verifications, completed your interview and are determined eligible. You will also have to complete an employment plan before receiving benefits. You may receive retroactive benefits based on the date the county received your application. For the first four months that you are approved for cash assistance you will be on the Diversionary Work Program (DWP). See the next question for more information on DWP.


What is the Diversionary Work Program (DWP)?
DWP is a four-month program that helps caregivers find employment before going on MFIP. The goal of DWP is to get parents employed instead of receiving cash assistance. The first step for a parent 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 reduced or terminated. While on DWP, all cash assistance will first be to 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 reduced or 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.


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.


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. The following non-citizens are eligible for cash assistance after living in the United States for more than five years:

  • Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR). If the LPR has a sponsor then the sponsor’s income will count toward eligibility.
  • Battered non-citizens.
  • People paroled more than one year.


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

Yes. 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 you’re applying for MFIP you can have up to $2,000 in assets. While on MFIP you can have up to $5,000 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. Personal items such as clothes, furniture, jewelry and appliances are notcounted. Retirement accounts are also not counted. You also do not have to count tax refunds that you have received in the past 12 months. Some examples of assets that arecounted are cash, money in a checking or savings account at a bank, recreational vehicles like 4-wheelers, property that you do not live on, and stocks and bonds.To determine your eligible for MFIP, your county will count up some 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.


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. The maximum cash portion of the grant has not increased since 1986. This site can estimate MFIP eligibility and the cash and food grants, click here to input a family scenario.
Family Size Full Standard Cash Portion Food Portion
1 $428 $250 $178
2 $764 $437 $327
3 $1,005 $532 $473
4 $1,225 $621 $604
5 $1,404 $697 $707
6 $1,613 $773 $840
7 $1,759 $850 $909
8 $1,946 $916 $1,030
9 $2,131 $980 $1,151
10 $2,310 $1,035 $1,275
Each add’l person add: $178 $53 $125


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 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 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 your 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 child care when I am on MFIP?
You will be eligible for free child care assistance while receiving MFIP as long as you are compliant with your employment plan. There is no wait list to receive child care assistance while on MFIP. The amount of hours and activities you are authorized for should be outlined in your employment plan. Child care 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, which is a free health care program. Families who have more income or assets than MA requirements can apply for MinnesotaCare.


How long can I receive MFIP?

Caregivers can receive assistance for 60-months in their lifetime. The months do not have to be consecutive, and they are only counted when the caregiver receives cash assistance either by opting out of the cash grant or because they are just eligible for the food portion. There are no time limits for child-only cases. For a complete list of who is exempt or counted for the 60-month time limit, click here.


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 and Health Care despite increased earnings. To find out what you may be eligible for, use the Bridge to Benefits screening tool or contact your county human services office.

Children's Defense Fund Minnesota

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St. Paul, MN 55103