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COOK COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Economic Assistance and Health Care Programs

Nov 13, 2020 08:28AM ● By Editor
By Allison Plummer, Financial Assistance Supervisor, Cook County Public Health & Human Services from Cook County MN - November 13, 2020

What is Economic Assistance?

Economic assistance refers to any government-run program that assists individuals and families who have challenges meeting basic needs such as food and shelter. Programs can provide eligible residents with a monthly benefit to purchase food, can be paid directly towards shelter expenses like rent or utilities or provide recipients with money to help them purchase other items of basic need. 

Economic assistance is designed to support persons or families who are experiencing financial difficulties. They are not intended to provide for all household needs. For example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides a monthly food benefit to supplement the family's normal food purchases but does not pay for all needed food items. 

Economic assistance programs are an important tool in supporting our community’s health and wellbeing and have provided crucial benefits to individuals and families during this peacetime emergency.

What Health Care Programs are offered by Cook County PHHS?

Cook County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) also determines eligibility and enrolls residents  in other health care programs. that assist those with little or no income. This may include seniors and those unable to work because of serious illness or disability. Other programs help people who work but do not have access to affordable health insurance.

How are programs funded and administered?

Economic assistance and health care programs are funded through federal, state and local dollars. In Cook County, PHHS staff administer economic assistance and health care programs on behalf of the state and federal governments. Counties must follow strict eligibility guidelines in administering programs. Many economic assistance programs require recipients to work or search for work to maintain eligibility with the goal of helping them become economically self-sufficient.

There are three main types of assistance programs: food and nutrition support, cash support, and health care programs. Listed below are the most common programs administered by PHHS. The list is not all-inclusive and other programs exist that are not covered here.

Food Support

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program that helps Minnesotans with lower incomes buy the food they need for nutritious and well-balanced means. Benefits are available through EBT cards that can be used like money.

Cash Support

The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) and Diversionary Work Program (DWP) are Minnesota’s income assistance programs to help families with low incomes move to financial stability through work. Families and pregnant women who qualify for these programs receive employment support services and job counseling, help with food, child care and other basic needs.

The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) helps families with low incomes pay for child care so that parents can work or complete education leading to employment. CCAP benefits are paid directly to the child care provider, not the family.

General Assistance (GA) and Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) are Minnesota’s income assistance programs for adults without children, seniors, and people with disabilities. GA is a monthly cash payment for adults who are unable to work. MSA is a small extra monthly cash benefit for adults who are eligible for federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Health Care Programs

Medical Assistance (MA) is a jointly funded, federal-state program that pays for health care services provided to individuals and families who have lower incomes. It is also called Medicaid.

Medicare Savings Programs (MSP) help people who have low income pay the cost of their Medicare coverage.

Cook County PHHS employs four financial eligibility workers, one case aide, and one supervisor in the area of economic assistance and health care programs. Staff work with members of the community to determine initial and ongoing eligibility for all programs and are available during business hours to provide program information and answer questions

How many people in Cook County are enrolled in Economic Assistance and Health Care Programs?

As of October 30, 2020, the number of Cook County residents receiving support through PHHS includes:

  • Food and nutrition support through the SNAP program– 118 households  consisting of 174 people
  • Cash, housing and employment supports through MFIP and DWP – 15 households consisting of 43 people
  • Child Care Assistance (CCAP) – 6 families
  • Safety net income to help adults meet basic needs through GA and MSA – 30 people
  • Health care enrollment and assistance through MA, MSP – 606 cases households consisting of 1,032 people

In addition to the assistance programs that provide an ongoing monthly benefit to those that qualify, PHHS financial eligibility staff also administer two programs that provide a one-time benefit: Emergency Assistance and County Funded Burial. Emergency Assistance is available for individuals or families in jeopardy of losing utilities or housing. County Funded Burials can assist with the immediate burial or cremation of a deceased County residents who lack the resources to pay the cost of their internment. Applications for these programs can be made to Cook County PHHS. 

Applicants may apply for food and cash assistance using a paper application in the PHHS office or via mail or online at ApplyMN ( A same-day interview and issuance of benefits may be available to those who qualify for expedited service based on their available income, assets and housing expenses. Interviews are required for SNAP and cash programs, but these may be conducted over the phone.

Applicants may apply for health care using a paper application or online at MNsure (

Please contact Cook County PHHS at 218-387-3620 with any questions you may have about these programs. You may also email questions to [email protected].

Learn more about economic assistance and heath care programs administered by Cook County PHHS and caseload trends at the November 17 PHHS Board Meeting. Information and resources are also available by calling 218-387-3620, online at,  or on Facebook @CookCountyPHHS. Currently, access to the PHHS office located in the Cook County Courthouse is restricted. Information on how to connect with PHHS staff and programs is available on the Cook County COVID-19 Hub site at

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service


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