How much of a difference would stadium money mean to the poor in Minnesota?

The decision by Minnesota officials to pay for a football stadium for one of the richest men in America certainly has sparked emotional debate over the years, especially in an era of declining economic conditions. It is, some say, a statement of Minnesota values. Others insist it’s a legitimate economic stimulant. Both points have their flaws.

Protesters outside Gov. Dayton’s home today sent messages with footballs to the governor that the money could have been better spent.

They said the $24 million the state put in a stadium reserve fund would have been better spent on the poor this year, MPR’s Tim Nelson reports on his blog.

“We’re about hard numbers,” Welfare Rights Committee organizer Linden Gawboy, of Minneapolis, told Nelson when asked about some anti-poverty measures in the stadium deal such as jobs for low-income people. “I’d like to see how many people that will help. I mean, it’s great, but everyone who is on assistance will not get those jobs. We have to look at the reality, that if there’s not enough jobs, people need help. People shouldn’t be forced into homelessness on a grant that puts you in extreme poverty.”

The protesters point out that a family of two can expect $437 a month in assistance.

Simple math says about 4,500 more families could get assistance with that money for one year.

Currently A family of three — a parent with two children — with no other income receives $532 in financial assistance and $473 in food assistance, according to state officials.

At nearly $1,000 a month, $24 million would add another 2,000 people for one year.

In Minnesota, 556,000 were getting food stamp assistance (SNAP) at last check. Splitting up the money that’s going to the stadium would increase their assistance by $43 a year. That’s $3.58 a month. Eighty-three cents a week.

According to the latest statistics available, 36,257 families in the state make up the total welfare-related caseload. Each could get a one-time payment of $661 with the stadium reserve money, or take an extra $50 or so a month for one year.

Or each of Minnesota’s unemployed individuals could get $3.66 a week.

There’s no question poverty is a significant problem in Minnesota, which is why the state has devoted significant money to the problem; more significant — much more significant than what’s being put in reserve for the stadium.

For context, Minnesota currently spends almost $11,000 a minute on human services. The stadium money equals about a day and a half of spending.

Truly, 83 cents a week is better than nothing when you’re going hungry. Four dollars is better than nothing when you don’t have a job. But making a bigger dent is going to take a lot more money than what today’s protesters have their eyes on.