“Boom,” just like that: MNBenefits allows for convenient way to apply for various finance programs
Are you a senior in assisted living looking for housing support? Are you a single parent in need of financial support to help put food on the table? If so, does finding the time to fill out all the paperwork and/or waiting for approval dissuade you from seeking this help?
On November 2, a new website called MNBenefits launched across the state, including within Kittson County. Available both on a desktop computer, tablet, and mobile device, MNBenefits allows people to finish an application in 20 minutes or less for various finance programs.
Beth Seed, an eligibility worker for Kittson County Social Services, who determines people’s eligibility for financial programs, such as SNAP, cash assistance, and health care, discussed this website, including its features, the reasons she would suggest people to apply through it, and the response to it so far.
MNBenefits, available on mnbenefits.org, is essentially replacing another way to apply online: Apply MN. Seed considered the Apply MN option more cumbersome, requiring a username and password— info that can be hard to keep track of— and much time to fill out.
“It honestly took about an hour to go through the application online,” Seed said, “which people are busy (and) they don’t have time to spend an hour on a process like that.”
Through MNBenefits— a mobile-friendly website— one can fill out an application on average in 15 to 20 minutes, according to Seed.
“It’s much handier,” Seed said. “You can also upload necessary documents. It’s just so much sleeker than the previous versions.”
Specifically through this website, people can apply for SNAP, previously known as food stamps. They can also apply for cash assistance programs for both families and adults without children, including programs such as MN Supplemental Aid (MSA), MN Family Investment Program (MFIP), Diversionary Work Program (DWP), among others.
People can also apply for emergency assistance, aiding people with shelter payments, such as rent or utilities in case of evictions or disconnections. Seniors and adults with disabilities can apply for housing support, and families can apply for child care assistance. Within this program, people can’t apply for health care assistance, as it relates to long-term care and Medicare programs.
Seed did throw in a plug about something people can’t do on this application: long-term care services. She highlighted how a couple programs exist that allow for the state to pay individuals’ Medicare Part B premium. For more info, people should call Kittson County Social Services at 218-843-2689.
Besides allowing people to apply for these public assistance programs, Seed said this new website is handy through how easy it makes turning in the different pieces of verification or proof that people need to provide (identity, shelter costs) in order to apply for these programs.
“The other thing that we really love about this new application is individuals can really easily upload those documents. So, there was never really a handy way to do that previously,” Seed said. “This way, it’s just as simple as say you’re doing it on your phone. You want to snap a picture of your rent receipt, you just upload it to the app and, boom, it’s sent to us right away.”
The convenience of this website is important for the people applying for these programs, individuals with not much time to fill out an application.
“A lot of our clients are busy people with busy lives. They’re trying to make the most of every minute they have,” Seed said. “They don’t have time to be running around finding a way to copy a rent receipt or get it dropped off here or thrown in the mail.”
Kittson County Social Services hasn’t heard much within the county regarding a response to this website application yet, just due to not many people knowing it’s an option. Before the November 2 full rollout, this website application did roll out in about 15 or 16 counties in Minnesota as a test for about six months. The response from this, Seed said, was “hugely positive.”
“The response in general from these counties that have been using it for about six months, it’s 85 percent positive,” Seed said. “People love it, because it’s just so quick, easy, simple. The option to upload your documents, there again, (is) so much easier than needing to either drop them off here or fax them.”