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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Federal Judge halts Michigan slashing welfare cash benefits for 41K residents, for now

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U.S. District Judge Paul Borman accused the state of "sleight of hand," then halted plans for the time being, to end welfare cash payments benefits to nearly 41,000 Michigan residents.

Justice Borman determined after a hearing on October 4th, that the state failed to give proper notice to those it planned to cut off, and although the issue was brought to the federal court in a lawsuit filed by just three plaintiffs, the judge also granted class status to include everyone affected by the state's decision.

Lawyers on behalf of the Snyder Administration declined to discuss, with reporters from the Detroit Free Press after the hearing, how the state would respond. Gov. Snyder signed the bill, which was passed by Republican super-majorities in Michigan's House and Senate on, September 7th.

The order requires the state to send new notices to all those affected. This time the state must include a copy of a new policy that dictates the changes. Borman said it was unfair that the new policy wasn't made public until October 1st, long after those effected were required to file protests.

The recipients of federal funds distributed by the state received notice of the cuts on September 11th, saying they had 90 days to request a hearing to protest. But, the actual time to ask for a hearing, without suffering benefit cutoffs was just nine days. The payments for some were set to Wednesday, October 5th.

A lawyer who represented the three plaintiffs said the order will give the thousands affected by the cuts a better understanding of what to do and how to protest. Additionally, it gives those opposed to the cuts more time to suggest alternatives and to mount a continuing legal battle.
"The court recognized the important rights at issue here and was willing to take action to protect all these families and children," said Jackie Doig, with the Saginaw-based Center of Civil Justice to the Detroit Free Press.

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