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Public Benefits

Tips for applying for government benefits in Minnesota

The majority of these programs have income and asset limits; you can find more information about the specific income and asset limits that apply to each program by clicking on the links provided or by accessing the web site for any of the social service agencies administering programs.

 There are other types of assistance available as well.  Both federal and state government agencies provide benefits screening tools that can give you an idea of other benefits and services for which you may be eligible.  While these tools can’t tell you that you are in fact eligible, they indicate the types of programs that are available and tell you how to apply or whom to contact. 

 The social service agencies administering these programs design their application processes so they are accessible to all potential users.  In addition to the detailed information provided on their web sites, help lines and personal assistance are available for completing applications.  However, if you meet certain income limitations, you may be able to obtain the assistance of an advocate from your local Minnesota Legal Aid office.  The intake staff at Legal Aid will be able to determine whether you meet their income limitation, and whether they will be able to assist you.  If you exceed their limit, they can still direct you to an appropriate source of further assistance.  To find contact information for your local Minnesota Legal Aid organization, click on the Minnesota Legal Aid link above.  In addition, clinics and other medical care providers may be able to help locate services.

Tips About Applying for Benefits

  • Apply as soon as you believe you might need assistance.  Call Legal Aid or start contacting the agencies. Request an application and get it completed.  It takes time, sometimes a significant amount of time, for the agencies to process your application.  More importantly, government agencies impose strict time lines on applications.
  • The clock starts running as soon as you complete the application.  Some types of assistance reach back a short period of time and others don’t.  If you wait too long you may miss out on some forms of aid.
  • If you do not feel up to completing the application and have someone that you trust with your financial information, you can request a form that allows you to authorize a representative to do it for you.  Call the number of the agency and ask them to mail you the authorization form.
  • Visit the web sites of each agency/program that you intend to apply to.  Download and/or print any application forms or checklists that they provide.  Complete them to the best of your ability and gather any documentation that they require.
  • If you don’t have access to a printer, call the agency and have them mail the forms and other documents to you.  The agency will generally have a toll free or local number that you can call.
  • You may apply in person by going to your local social service office.
  • No one will be able to tell you if you are eligible for these programs until they have reviewed or completed application and your interview.   If someone tells you that you are not eligible without having evaluated your application, apply anyway. Complete the application and turn it in to the appropriate authority.
  • Keep copies of application materials and any supporting documents that you send to an agency.
  • Keep a contact log; note the names of the people you speak to and when, the topic of conversation and key points of the discussion.
  • Failing to keep appointments may result in delays in processing your application.  If missing appointments cause delays in processing your application it may result in a denial of benefits.
  • Make sure you understand what you are being told.  Ask questions. If you still don't understand, ask for them to explain it again until you do.
  • Most government agencies offer interpreter services; some offer forms in languages other than English.
  • The agency is required to notify you in writing if you are denied benefits.  Make sure you understand why. Call and discuss it with your caseworker.  It is possible to be denied benefits because of a mis-communication or mistakenly forgetting to send in a document, so you always want to confirm the reason.
  • If you are denied benefits, ask your caseworker about the appeals process and request the required forms. There will be a short period of time (30 days for most programs) in which you may request an appeal.
  • Download the publication Managing Your Health Care (pdf document), from the Minnesota Attorney General’s

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