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Minnesota Agencies

Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Social Security Department

Active dates:1939 -1953

The Department of Social Security consisted of three distinct and nearly autonomous divisions: Division of Social Welfare, Division of Public Institutions, and Division of Employment and Security.

The function of the Social Welfare Division was to administer and supervise all forms of public assistance in the state, including general relief, relief to the homeless, veterans, the elderly and dependent children, and aid to the blind and otherwise handicapped persons; administer all child welfare activities; administer programs to aid the mentally ill, except those in state institutions; and act as guardian to the estate and person of all wards of the state of Minnesota. The director of social welfare was designated the "state agency" to administer the Social Security program in the state, as required by the federal Social Security Act Amendments of 1939. The director of social welfare also supervised the State Board of Parole.

The function of the Public Institutions Division was to administer and manage state institutions including prisons, reform schools, and the various state hospitals.

The function of the Division of Employment and Security was to administer the state's unemployment compensation program.


The Social Security Department was established in 1939 with three divisions which operated under the supervision of the Social Security Board. The Social Welfare Division and Public Institutions Division assumed some duties of the State Board of Control (others were assigned to the Adjutant General and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty), the Social Welfare Division assumed duties from the Executive Council, and the Employment and Security Division assumed the administration of the unemployment compensation program from the Industrial Commission.

The board, which was made up of the directors of the three divisions, had rule-making and regulatory authority, and was responsible for coordinating the activities common to all divisions. The director of the social welfare division acted as chairman, and the director of public institutions or his designated agent acted as secretary of the board.

Divisions within the department: Employment and Security Division, 1939-1953; Public Institutions Division, 1939-1953; Social Welfare Division, 1939-1953; State Board of Parole (under the director of social welfare), 1939-1945.

In 1953 the three divisions of the Department of Social Security were split into two functionally aligned agencies. The Employment and Security division became the Department of Employment Security (Laws of Minnesota 1953, chapter 603), while the Social Welfare and Public Institutions divisions were combined to form the Department of Public Welfare (Laws of Minnesota 1953, chapter 593).


Each division was supervised and controlled by a director, who was appointed by the Governor. The first term of each director was set to expire on February 1, 1943, after which the term of office for those appointed would be four years.


Terminology disclaimer:
The terminology used to describe people with disabilities has changed over time. The Minnesota Department of Human Services supports the use of "People First" language. Although outmoded and offensive terms may be found within a few older agency records, neither the Department of Human Services, nor the Legislative Reference Library, endorses these terms.

News clippings and documents. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1938-1954.
Record last updated: 02/07/2023

All information on this group from the Library’s collection of agency notebooks has been digitized. These materials are incorporated into the “documents/articles” section of the record. Please contact a librarian with any questions. The Minnesota Agencies database is a work in progress.

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