Mississippi welfare payments increasing 3 months early

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi is increasing the nation’s lowest welfare payments three months earlier than expected, the state Department of Human Services said Friday.

Starting Saturday, the benefit will increase by $90 a month per family.

Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation, and this is the first time since 1999 that the state will expand payments through the Temporary Assistance for Needy program. The federal government is paying for the increase, but state legislators had to approve it.

Until now, payments in Mississippi have been $146 for a family of two, $170 for a family of three and $194 for a family of four.

The department also said retroactive payments are being made to give people the extra $90 for April. The increase originally was expected to take effect in July.

“I felt it was critical to get this increase to the people who need it as quickly as possible,” Human Services director Bob Anderson said in a news release Friday.

Anderson recommended the increase of $90 a month per family, and state senators said that would cost about $2.8 million a year.

During a debate in February, Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane described the $90-a-month increase as a “modest but reasonable amount that Mississippi could afford.”

He said about 3,000 families currently qualify for the assistance, and he described them as “the poorest of the poor in our state.”

Senate Bill 2759 authorized the higher payments, and it became law as soon as Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed it March 24.

Even with the increase, the Mississippi welfare payments will still be only a fraction of the federal poverty level, according to the liberal-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Nearly 20% of Mississippi’s 3 million residents live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. In 2019, the median household income in the U.S. was about $68,700; it was about $45,000 in Mississippi.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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