News from DHS for February 2023

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News from DHS archive

In this issue:

Final emergency SNAP food benefits go out in March

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After almost three years, temporary emergency benefits that helped Minnesotans with low incomes buy food during the COVID-19 pandemic are ending.

Most clients will receive their final emergency payments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in March. Most SNAP recipients were eligible for the emergency allotments. They received either an additional $95 in benefits, or an additional benefit valued up to the maximum benefit for their household size, whichever was greater. 

Since March 2020, when Congress approved the Family First Coronavirus Act, $1.3 billion in emergency SNAP benefits have gone to more than 350,000 Minnesota households.

“That extra support during the pandemic was a welcome relief for people who count on SNAP,” said Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “We know that many Minnesotans still struggle to put food on the table. Without the additional federal benefits, that will become even more difficult.”

A recently approved federal spending bill calls for emergency SNAP benefits to expire in February. Since benefits are usually issued a month after eligibility is determined, most recipients will receive their final emergency assistance in March. SNAP benefits will return to regular amounts in April.

While the pandemic has waned, food security continues to be a problem for many Minnesotans, especially with the escalating cost of groceries. People struggling with food insecurity can find links to additional resources on the Department of Human Services’ website.

Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan’s budget include several proposals to help increase food security (PDF) for Minnesotans, improving food distribution and access for Tribal nations and families across the state. Both bodies of the Minnesota Legislature have approved an additional $5 million for the Minnesota Food Shelf Program, and that bill now goes to Governor Walz for action.

Over $5 million to help in fight against opioid addiction

As opioids continue to devastate people and families across Minnesota, a new set of state grants focuses on the communities bearing the greatest burdens of the crisis.

The department is awarding $5.7 million to 12 grantees (PDF) to expand the services available to support people suffering from opioid use disorder and make it easier to get help. Almost all the funding is going to organizations primarily serving Native communities, Black communities and communities of color disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic.

The new investments will address gaps in Minnesota’s continuum of care for Native people and people of color with opioid use disorder, and help inform future changes to better serve all Minnesotans. Organizations receiving grants serve the Twin Cities metropolitan area, greater Minnesota and Tribal Nations, while others provide services statewide.

More and more Minnesotans are losing their lives to opioid use disorder. The number of opioid-involved deaths in Minnesota reached 924 in 2021, up from 343 in 2018. American Indians and Black Minnesotans are experiencing the opioid epidemic more severely. 

“Minnesota cannot and will not accept this continued pain and heartbreak for families and communities,” said Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “With this funding, our partners can save lives now and in the years to come through a range of programs that are person-centered, trauma-informed and culturally responsive.”

More details are in a department news release.

In social media: P-EBT for children

P-EBT Update

Minnesota will issue P-EBT benefits for the 2022-23 school year.
🍎 Children approved for free or reduced-price school meals may be eligible for P-EBT benefits for days they missed due to a COVID-19 impact.
🍎 Students who transferred to online school or homeschooling because of COVID-19 may qualify for P-EBT benefits; contact your local school to learn how to apply.
🍎 For more information on eligibility criteria and distribution dates, visit

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Aging and Disability Services leader appointed

Natasha Merz

Natasha Merz has been named assistant commissioner of the department's Aging and Disability Services area effective March 1.

“I am so proud of the work we do every day to continuously improve Minnesota’s long-term care service and support system. Staff tackle complex policy issues while prioritizing the needs of people and families that use services,” Merz said.

Merz has served as interim assistant commissioner since August of 2022.

In her previous work, Merz was a regional resource specialist, manager and then director in the Disabilities Services Division. She also spent 10 years in the Office of the Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, as regional ombudsman then as deputy ombudsman.

Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said: “Natasha’s ombuds background always comes to the fore when she asks, ‘What setting would give this person their best possible life?’ “

Legislative fact sheets now online

Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan’s One Minnesota Budget invests in things that matter most to Minnesotans: our children and families, economic future, health and safety, and a state government that works for all Minnesotans. The proposals for human services support children and working families; increase housing resources; invest in health care and behavioral health; address critical workforce shortages so that people with disabilities and older Minnesotans can live independently; and improve agency effectiveness. 

Here is an overview of those proposals: Minnesota Department of Human Services budget overview fact sheet (PDF).

Detailed fact sheets on child care, child welfare, supporting working families, long-term care services and workforce, housing justice, behavioral health care, health care, agency effectiveness and service delivery and bonding proposals are on the department's public website.

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In the news

Emergency SNAP benefits end, Minnesota food shelves brace for growing need: Extra SNAP benefits that started with the onset of the pandemic helped stabilized family incomes. A Star Tribune article looks at what the end of this temporary benefit means for Minnesotans and food organizations that provide ongoing support.

At least 100,000 low-income Minnesotans on Medicaid could lose coverage as federal COVID rules wind down: No one is totally sure how many Minnesotans will lose their health insurance over the next year due to the “unwinding” of COVID-era federal rules meant to keep low-income people on Medicaid. But even low-end estimates from state officials puts the number at 100,000 people. Learn more about what's to come with restarting of health care renewals in a MinnPost article.