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White Earth takes over human services

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The White Earth Nation and the Minnesota Department of Human Services continue to work as partners in transferring the responsibility of human service programing from the three counties within the reservation to the White Earth Nation.

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In 2011, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law directing the commissioner of Human Services, in consultation with the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, to transfer legal responsibility to the tribe for providing human services to tribal members and their families who live on or off the reservation in Mahnomen County.

After the successful transfer of legal responsibility for providing human services for those tribal members, the state and the White Earth Band of Ojibwe set about developing a plan to transfer legal responsibility for providing human services for tribal members and their families who reside on or off the reservation in Clearwater and Becker counties.

Last year, the White Earth Nation began working with the state to transfer responsibility for human service programs from the counties to the tribe.

These social services include Medical Assistance, the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Minnesota Family Investment Program, General Assistance, Minnesota Supplemental Aid, Diversionary Work Program, Group Residential Housing, and Child Care Assistance.

This is an exciting time for the White Earth Human Services Division as this transfer gives the opportunity for White Earth to provide services geared to tribal families that have been customarily provided by the local counties.

Tribal members and their families will see the same level of service they received previously, but with many other well-established White Earth Nation services as well.

White Earth Human Services has recently created the White Earth Nation Financial Services Department – Niiwijiigonann (We Assist Each Other).  This department provides eligibility determination for MA, SNAP, MFIP, GA, MSA, DWP and GRH for White Earth families.

Over the past year, Niiwijiigonann has been able to provide services to more than 800 members living in Becker, Clearwater and Mahnomen counties who have seen their human service programs transferred from counties to the tribe.

In 2014, Niiwijiigonann will continue to expand services to enrolled members and their families within the defined service area.  That means any family with a White Earth member or descendant is eligible for services through the tribe.

As the transfer project progresses, White Earth officials anticipate providing services to more than 3,000 cases by the end of the year.

This will create some unique challenges as the programming and staff continues to grow.

In an effort to alleviate any confusion and better educate those who are eligible, the White Earth Human Services Division will provide updated information on its website at www.whiteearth.com and will publish articles in the Anishinaabeg Today.

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