Working Families & Economic Stability

To help every child thrive—and secure the future prosperity of our state— we must support the needs of working families and bring all families to economic stability. The majority of Minnesota children ages 0-12 have all parents in the workforce and one-third of Minnesota children live in low-income families that struggle to meet basic needs. We must ensure parents and caregivers have the resources to support and nurture their children, including jobs with livable wages; fair workplace policies; affordable, high-quality child care; and access to safety net programs for meeting basic needs. CDF-MN champions programs and policies that support working families and help them climb the ladder to economic security.

Minnesota Family Investment Program

The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) is the state’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or welfare-to-work program.

Children in families accessing MFIP live in or near deep poverty (defined as 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or about $12,000 per year for a family of four) and are some of the state’s most vulnerable to effects of economic instability. The program has few policies and minimal data collection to assess the well-being of children on the program. However, nearly 71 percent of people in households accessing MFIP are children and most MFIP households have a child under age 6. For a family of three MFIP provides a maximum cash grant of $532 and food assistance of $473 per month. The cash grant hasn’t been raised since 1986 and doesn’t allow families to meet the barest of budgets. Fair Market Rent in Hennepin County is $920, nearly twice the cash grant, and only 28 percent of MFIP families live in subsidized housing. Children in households accessing MFIP are at risk of or are already experiencing the harmful effects of living in deep poverty that can last a lifetime.

Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota is working to improve outcomes for children and families accessing MFIP by advocating for:

  • increasing the grant, 
  • improving access to high-quality early childhood education, 
  • stimulating parents’ earning potential, and 
  • tracking outcomes for children on MFIP.
Tax Credits

Higher tax credits have been linked to increased prenatal care, reduced maternal stress and better overall infant health.

Increased credits also have demonstrated improvement later in a child’s life through improved school performance, increased college enrollment, and increased earnings in adulthood. Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota advocated for the creation of and continues to advocate for improvements to the Working Family Credit (the state version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit) and protecting the Renter’s Credit. CDF-MN continually works to improve the Minnesota Child and Dependent Care Credit and supports a refundable state Child Tax Credit. In 2017, lawmakers passed an increased and expanded Child and Dependent Care Credit and modified Working Family Credit as part of their $650 million tax cut package. The new law expands eligibility for the Working Family Credit by lowering the age to qualify from 25 to 21 for adults without dependents and removes barriers to claiming the credit for Native Americans living and earning an income on reservations. The income eligibility threshold and the size of the maximum credit remains the same.

CDF-MN supports tax policy that improves economic stability for low- and moderate-income families and provides revenue for programs that allow children to thrive and produce a high return on investment for our state. We support a progressive tax code that ensures opportunities for Minnesota’s children, and we focus on state tax credits that recognize the additional costs of raising children, encourage work, and move families closer to economic stability.

Work Support Programs

Work support programs help Minnesota's working families with children.

Work support programs like SNAP, School Meal, WIC, Medicaid, Child Care Assistance, and Energy Assistance were created by federal and state lawmakers to help families fill the gap between low wages and a basic needs budget because they recognized that minimum wage jobs do not provide adequate resources to meet even the most bare bones of budgets. Work support programs were designed to encourage workforce participation. Research shows that children in households that are economically stable experience improvements in educational, behavioral and health outcomes. Historically, Minnesota has exceeded the minimum federal standards set for these programs in an effort to improve economic stability and childhood outcomes. However, these programs come under scrutiny in nearly every legislative session. Also, the programs are administered separately and often don’t work together to provide a smooth pathway to self-sufficiency.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota supports strengthening programs by:

  • simplifying and aligning eligibility criteria across programs to make it easier for eligible families to enroll; 
  • enacting the options allowed under federal requirements to expand eligibility and benefits levels; and 
  • supporting outreach and application assistance to improve program awareness and enrollment.

Much of a child’s learning and development happens at home.

But if the home isn’t a stable, safe or healthy environment, the negative effects on children go with them to child care centers, school and into adulthood. Nearly one-third of children live in households that spend 30 percent of more of household income on housing, leaving little room to meet other basic needs. Research shows that children in low-income families that have limited access to affordable housing are more likely to live in crowded housing or become homeless, and are more likely to be food insecure and to postpone seeking health care. Children who live in more affordable areas have better health and academic outcomes and fewer behavioral problems in adolescence. Affordable housing provides more room in the family budget and provides stability and an environment for a child to better learn and grow. Unfortunately, programs that make housing affordable are underfunded and in turn often unavailable to the majority of lower income families.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota supports programs and policies to ensure every family has access to affordable housing opportunities.


On any given night in Minnesota, more than 3,500 children are homeless, and half are aged five and younger, according to the 2012 Wilder Homeless Study, “Homeless Children and Their Families.”

Poverty, lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, mental illness and other factors can push families into homelessness, and the compounding effects can be traumatic for children, especially very young children whose rapidly-developing brains are vulnerable to the toxic effect of turbulence in their lives. Homeless children are more likely than their stably-housed peers to experience health problems, emotional and behavioral challenges, and poor academic outcomes, and are more likely to be homeless as adults. A recent study showed that 54 percent of homeless preschoolers had a major developmental delay and delays in more than one area — yet a 2013 report from the Minnesota Department of Education revealed that young homeless children aren’t accessing critical Part C Early Intervention Services to identify and address delays. In 2013 and 2015, the state legislature missed an opportunity to support young homeless children by passing legislation that would have ensured all young homeless children could access Part C Early Intervention Services.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota supports programs and policies that prevent and address homelessness and provide supportive services to families with children experiencing homelessness.

Learn more about Part C Early Intervention Services.

Child Care

Families and children deserve access to affordable, safe, consistent, and high-quality child care that meets their needs.

Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota supports strengthening the Child Care Assistance Program. Learn more about child care for working families.

Data & Publications