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Thursday, July 14, 2011

More pain for Michigan's poorest citizens and children, as Senate pass 48-month strict time limit to welfare benefits

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Michigan GOP lead Senate
approve a strict 48-Month
limit to women and children
welfare benefits. Gov. Snyder
is expected to sign after state
GOP House approval.
More than 12,600 welfare aid mothers and their children will lose monthly checks on October 1st as the Michigan Senate on July 13rd, passed a bill to impose a strict 48-month benefits limit. 

Governor Rick Snyder (R) has expressed his support for such a welfare benefit restriction and, is expected to sign the measure quickly, upon reaching his desk. Passed mostly by party lines, the Senate approved the measure by a 24-12 vote.

As the payments are being cut-off for single mothers and their young children, Democratic state Senate Representatives are left wondering if the super-majority lead state Republican Senate chamber have thought about the end result for these recipients. 
“Do we know what we’re doing and do we know the people who will be impacted?” asked Senator Morris Hood (D-Detroit) on Ann Arbor.com, “What’s going to happen to these folks? Has anyone thought of that?”
The bill tightens a 2006 benefits cap that allowed extensions, if a recipient was in job training or unable to work. Current benefit payees, who are already past 48 month timeline, will be cut from the Family Independent Agency program on October 1st.

Under the Republican lead version of this newest measure, recipients could not request allowances for an extension past the time limit nor, could FIA case workers approve of any. The Senate only exception request left in the measure was allowing recipients with a disabled spouse or child to apply for an exemption from the time limit.
“They’re in situations not of their own doing and they require care,” said Sen. Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan).
Emmons also noted the main point the legislation is to give case workers little to no flexibility in authorizing benefits beyond 48 months, in any other case.
“Some would say they were very lenient in how they gave extensions,” said Emmons, chairwoman of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee. “No one ever expected it to be a lifetime entitlement. Hopefully we protected the most vulnerable. That was the goal.”
The measure is now on its way to the Republican controlled state House, where approval is expected.

The Department of Human Services-Family Independence Program current caseload is about 82,000. After October, the benefit recipients’ rolls would drop to 70,000 and save the state $77 million, Republicans express. Advocates for single women with children, said the strict time limits would place vulnerable children at risk because economic conditions or personal barriers prevented their parents from becoming self-supportive.

In May, Governor Snyder with assistance of Republican the lead state House and Senate became one of the first states in the nation to approve a reduction in state based unemployment benefits, decreasing the week’s payable from 26 to 20 weeks. Michigan’s June 2011 jobless rate increased .1% from May, in double-digits levels to 10.3%.

Republicans rejected a Democratic amendment that would have provided for extensions for recipients living in counties where the unemployment rate exceeds 25% of the statewide average.

The soon-to-be enacted 48 month limit in welfare benefits adds to the pain of Michigan poorest citizens and children, under leadership of the states’ Republican super-majority in the House, Senate and governor office with Rick Snyder.

Governor Snyder’s in May 2011 signed additional draconian cuts to Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. The credit dropped from a maximum $250.00 per family, to only $25.00 per child with a maximum of $50.00, regardless of the number of children Michigan’s poorest citizens have. 

“We are really throwing new barriers in the way of families trying to work their way to independence,’’ said Michigan League for Human Services analyst Karen Holcomb-Merrill to Ann Arbor.com. “We should be encouraging these families, not finding new ways to make it harder to reach economic independence,’’ she said.

Other provisions in the bill, households would no longer receive benefit credit for a 19-year-old, full-time high school student living in the home. In addition, FIA case workers would have to reassess all FIA recipients eligibility for any benefits every 12 months, instead of every 24 months.

Caseworkers at local DHS offices are starting informally; to notify recipients set to be impacted by the soon-to-be signed 48-month time limit, to prepare for the change.

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