Starting next week, welfare benefits will be linked to school attendance in Michigan

Sep 26, 2012

New policy from Michigan’s Department of Human Services would strip welfare benefits from families with truant students.

Starting Monday, families will have to provide proof of student attendance in order to qualify for benefits.

Jennifer Chambers of The Detroit News reports families would become ineligible for benefits if they have a child between the ages 6-15 who is not attending school full time.

The new policy affects all new cash-assistance applicants, who will be required to prove school enrollment and attendance when they apply for aid. In addition, welfare recipients with children ages 6 and older will have to prove school attendance during annual redetermination reviews.

The policy change was prompted by Gov. Rick Snyder, who called earlier this year for a crackdown on truancy and the cycle of crime it creates. It takes effect two days before Michigan's fall Count Day, when attendance is used to determine 90 percent of a school district's per-pupil funding from the state.

In an MLive story, Department of Human Services Dave Akerly said the goal of the change is to get kids back in school and to "take a bite out of generational poverty."

Critics of the change argue the policy overlooks the many difficulties facing families on assistance.

Spokeswoman for the Michigan League of Human Services Judy Putnam said kids who are regularly absent from school can have many things working against them. From MLive:

“Until you walk a mile in those persons’ shoes, it’s difficult to understand why those children are absent,” she said.

“Families in need often lack reliable transportation, they don’t have a support system when children are sick and they don’t have reliable work schedules. They need this assistance.”

You can see details of the new policy here.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom