High percentage of people went off welfare

November 30, 2016 GMT

NEW ULM - Brown County Commissioners learned Tuesday that the percentage of people in Brown County who ceased receiving low-income benefits because they gained employment was higher here in recent months than is typical of the region.

“It had its challenges, but it’s been a very successful year, helping people move from welfare to work,” said Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) Employment Supervisor Nancy Haag.

From January through March, 82.4 percent of Brown County MFIP (Minnesota Family Investment Program, for low-income families with children) participants left the program due to employment. The nine-county regional average was 41 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Management Indicators Report.

From April through June, 50 percent of Brown County participants left the program due to employment, compared to a 35 percent regional average.

“We have benefitted from a really good job market with good wages in Brown County,” said Brown County Employment Counselor Jill Berglund.

On the flip side, housing is among the biggest challenges for low-income families.

“People have a terrible time finding affordable housing. It’s a terrible struggle,” said Brown County Family Services Income Maintenance Supervisor Theresa Schroeder. “Some people live with family until they get on their feet.”

Commissioner Jim Berg said most people don’t want to be on welfare, they want to work for themselves.

Commissioners approved a Minnesota Valley Action Council contract to provide employment services under a $163,702 state grant for calendar year 2017.

Commissioners also:

Learned that 58 youth participated in a variety of camps this summer, from Support Services/Transit Coordinator Bob Apitz.

“We got lots of comments like the counselors were awesome,” Apitz said. “Kids said they made many new friends and overwhelmingly had fun.”

Approved a Brown County Heartland Express out-of-county volunteer transportation fee increase to follow the federal mileage rate. Effective date will be the first of the month after the notice is received. Since the last approved increase five years ago, the out-of-county fee rate has remained at $.45 a mile.

By a 3-2 vote with commissioners Scott Windschitl, Dennis Potter and Richard Seeboth disapproving, purchasing Family Services office furniture for $5,678.

“It’s important we chose county businesses first. Our taxpayers pay our way here,” Commissioner Potter said.

“Give local businesses a chance first,” Commissioner Windschitl said.

A consultant said 30-year-old furniture adapted for computer usage was not ergonomically correct in several ways and should be replaced.

Approved an MRCI Extended Employment Contract Addendum with a two percent increase for 2017.

Federal and state government is calling for disabled individuals to be integrated into community work sites instead of sheltered workshops.

Brown County Family Services Supervisor Barb Dietz said the plan is to get people paid by employers, not providers, so they get minimum wage.

“We have 56 disabled people paid by employers,” Dietz said.

The extended employment program can continue for those working in the community, even if they are not paid minimum wage.

The in-house (workshop) program has six people in New Ulm and will be terminated by the end of 2017.

Brown County Family Services will work with MRCI to find options for those people.

Authorized the auditor-treasurer to publish a notice that the 2015 financial statement has been completed and the full report is available online or upon request.

Approved repairing County Ditch (CD) 58 tile to include boring a new 12-inch crossing under County Road 22 at a cost of about $13,000. A failed crossing would be abandoned, as suggested by a landowner, Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens said.

“The tile line has three 90-degree bends now. We’ll put in a Y to aid water flow,” Stevens said.

Heard from Brown County Veterans Service Officer Greg Peterson that he and his assistant are very busy, sometimes helping vets from area counties. He was asked to keep track of the number of vets he sees from outside Brown County.

Peterson said he encourages all vets to carry health insurance, although many of them don’t.

Learned from Sheriff Rich Hoffmann that jail staff met and talked about a weekend suicide in the jail.

Hoffmann said everything in the jail is in order, and that staff did everything right last weekend.