COOK COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Emergency AssistanceApr 19, 2021 10:25AM ● By Editor
By Allison Plummer, Financial Assistance Supervisor, Cook County Public Health & Human Services from Cook County MN - April 19, 2021
The last year has been rough for so many. The length and uncertainties with the COVID-19 pandemic have created financial instability for many Minnesotans, leading to food insecurity and lack of financial resources to pay for items of basic need like rent, mortgages, and utilities. However, there are economic assistance programs that can help individuals and families during these times. And one of these programs that is administered locally is Emergency Assistance.
Emergency Assistance is an economic assistance program that can help with shelter expenses, such as past due rent, a damage deposit, or emergency shelter to prevent homelessness and help with utilities when there is a threat of disconnection. Basically, if someone is at threat of losing an item of basic need – housing, utilities – it may be available to assist with those payments. It can also help residents secure permanent housing by helping pay a security deposit and first month’s rent or even support a move that is cost effective, even to another county.
Cook County’s Emergency Assistance program is state funded and administered locally by the income maintenance division of Public Health and Human Services (PHHS). There are different funding streams dependent on who is applying for assistance. For single adults or married couples, without minor dependents in the household, funding for Emergency General Assistance is directly allocated by the State. Historically, Cook County is allocated approximately $1,000 per year to assist individuals and married couples in emergency situations. For families with minor dependents in the home, funding is allocated through the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) Consolidated Fund. The MFIP Consolidated Fund provides counties with state funds to help cover expenses for administering family cash programs, Diversionary Work Program (DWP) and MFIP. From this allocation, Cook County has historically budgeted $5,000 per year to assist families with emergency situations.
To apply for Emergency Assistance, applicants may request and complete a paper application from the PHHS office or apply online at ApplyMN (https://applymn.dhs.mn.gov). During the COVID-19 public health emergency, waivers are in place that allow people to apply for assistance over the phone. Once an application is submitted, an interview with a PHHS financial eligibility worker is completed. This interview will allow staff to collect information to determine if the applicant meets eligibility requirements to receive help with their emergency.
With our current emergency assistance policies and like other economic assistance programs, there are specific requirements that must be met to be eligible to receive funding. These include having a verifiable eligible emergency (i.e., eviction notice, disconnect notice), being without the financial resources to resolve the emergency, current monthly income is less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guideline, the applicant has anticipated income going forward and the applicant has directed their recent income toward paying for their items of basic need (i.e., paying their rent, utilities, food, medical bills). Currently, applicants are eligible to receive Emergency Assistance funding once every 18 months.
Cook County PHHS is currently reviewing and updating the Emergency Assistance policies and eligibility requirements to create more access to this program and the associated funds in hopes of assisting more members of our community. For those that may not meet the eligibility requirements for Cook County’s Emergency Assistance, there are other local resources available that we can help in connecting applicants with. Other local resources include Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) and the Salvation Army. Minnesota will also soon launch the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance which can help Minnesotans who have fallen behind on their rent or utilities. Residents of Grand Portage can apply now by requesting an application from Grand Portage tribal programs staff.
Please contact Cook County PHHS at 218-387-3620 with any questions you may have about Emergency Assistance. You may also email the Financial Eligibility staff at [email protected].
Learn more about Emergency Assistance, historical trends, and proposed policy updates at the April 20 PHHS board meeting. Information and resources are also available by calling 218-387-3620 or online at www.cookcountyphhs.org or follow us 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 during the ongoing public health emergency can be found under the economic assistance banner on the Cook County COVID-19 Hub site at www.cookcountycovid19.org.
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