welfare

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This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a bill aimed at protecting religious freedom, another that would cut off welfare payments to recipients who fail drug tests, and whether Michigan’s low gas prices will stick around.


Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

The state House has approved a bill that would revoke welfare payments from people who fail drug tests. The state would implement the one-year pilot program in three counties that have not yet been selected.

Well, here’s some news you’ve been waiting for.

Two bills may soon be on the governor’s desk requiring suspicion-based drug testing for welfare recipients.

The Michigan Senate has approved both, the House has passed one, and the odds are that they will smooth out any differences and send them on to the governor.

Signing them would be the sort of thing politicians do in an election year.

Indeed, it would make lots of people happy. Just think of all those lazy welfare chiselers, using our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to get high.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

In This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rina Miller and political analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss bills in Lansing to penalize poor people who use drugs, a delay in the decision over gay marriage, and the sentencing of Bernard Kilpatrick.

During the debate on Medicaid expansion, one of the program’s biggest foes said something worth consideration.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck of Canton is a Tea Party favorite who is about as firmly anti-government as anybody. Especially, that is, when it comes to the federal government.

Colbeck firmly opposes any tax increases for any reason, including fixing our roads. He not only wanted to stop extending Medicaid, he wanted to get the state out of that federal program altogether.

He proposed a state-financed version that would cost the state more and insure fewer people. Even most of his fellow Republicans voted against that.

But one of Colbeck’s objections is worth thinking about. Of Medicaid expansion, he said, “If this goes into effect, 30 percent of our population is going to be on Medicaid, and then 70 percent is going to be paying for 30 percent.“ 

Indeed, that is a version of the nightmare that has haunted conservatives for decades: That our nation is becoming a place where a shrinking group of hard-working, self-sufficient Americans are cruelly taxed to support a huge parasite class. 

Dustin Dwyer

 

In 1998, Amy Valderas was a single mom with three kids, all under the age of seven. She had no work experience, and lived with her sister. So she went to sign up for government assistance. But instead of welfare benefits, she got a job offer.

“I was very hesitant at first,” she says. “Because I was always with my kids, and I was worried about transportation, daycare, all kinds of stuff, you know.”

But she took the job anyway. Soon she was working 12-hour days on the factory floor, and coming in on weekends. She thought about quitting.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a new law (House Bill 4042) to ensure that dead people and incarcerated citizens are not eligible for Michigan’s Bridge Card food assistance program.

The Department of Human Services already has policies to ensure that those who are not eligible (example: dead people and those incarcerated) do not receive aid. But House Bill 4042 makes the policy a law.

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow suspicion-based drug testing as a condition of welfare in Michigan. People on cash assistance could lose their benefits if they test positive for an illegal substance.

As Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reported, it’s not clear how the bill would affect medical marijuana patients. 

To listen to the full story, click the audio above.

On today's show: The U.S. Senate seat is open in Michigan come 2014. It's just sitting there for the taking. So, just who will take over the job opening after Carl Levin's retirement?

We'll speak with Congressman Gary Peters - Democrat - who has announced that he wants the job - and, we'll speak with a Republican strategist about why Republicans have yet to jump in the race. Just what does it mean for the GOP's chances if a candidate takes too long to announce?

And, then, later in the hour: a conversation with the music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra: Maestro Leonard Slatkin. He's in New York as the DSO plays Carnegie Hall.

But first we go to Lansing where we've been following a bill that's working its way through the State Legislature.

The legislation would require people getting welfare benefits to pass a drug test in order to receive those benefits. The substance abuse screening would be required if there's "reasonable suspicion" that the person is using illegal drugs.

State Representative Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) sponsored the bill in the House. He says the government should not pay for people's drug habits.

Dustin Dwyer

 Today, on State of Opportunity, I report on a unique program that started more than a decade ago at Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids. The initial idea was to help lift people out of poverty with the promise of a stable job.

Executives noticed the company had high turnover rates for entry-level job positions, and many of the people in these entry-level jobs were cycling on and off of state assistance. The goal was to fix the turnover problem and end the cycle of dependence at the same time. 

user publik15 / Flickr

We've been following a bill that's now working its way through the State Legislature.

The House has already said "yes" and passed it. Now it's on to the Senate.

In short: the legislation would require people getting welfare to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits.

The substance abuse screening would be required if there's "reasonable suspicion" that the person is using illegal drugs.

Representative Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) sponsored the bill in the House saying the government should not pay for people's drug habits.

"People are tired of applicants getting welfare payments when they're using them for illegal drug use," said Farrington. "We want to make sure that they get on the right track, they receive their treatment going forward and they get on the right path to success."

Supporters of the bill say only people who test positive would have to pay for the cost of the drug test.

Critics say suspicion-based drug testing demonizes the poor and unfairly hurts children of addicts.

Melissa Smith is a senior policy analyst with the Michigan League for Human Services. She researched the effectiveness of these welfare drug testing programs and she joins us now from Lansing.

She analyzed how "suspicion-based drug testing" is working in other states and shares what she found with us.

What she found?

A lot of money is wasted on these programs and not a lot is accomplished.

Listen to the full-interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A pair of bills that would revoke welfare benefits from some Michigan families has cleared the state House. The legislation has support on both sides of the aisle.

One bill would let the state cut cash assistance payments to families with kids who persistently miss school.

The state Department of Human Services is already doing this – the bill would make the policy state law.

Many Republicans and Democrats say it’s a good way to promote school attendance in poor areas.

But Democratic Representative Jeff Irwin is worried some abusive parents might be keeping their kids out of school to avoid getting turned in to the authorities.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Grand River crests in Grand Rapids, thousands evacuated from flooding

The Grand River has crested in Grand Rapids. As Lindsey Smith reports,

"Grand Rapids remains under a state of emergency because of significant damage to a number of buildings in the downtown area [from the flooding]. It’s estimated around 1,000 residents in mid and west Michigan have been evacuated from their homes."

Bills that target welfare recipients being considered in the state House

"Low-income Michigan families would have to take drug tests and make sure their children don't miss too much school to qualify for some welfare benefits, under legislation in the state House," the Associated Press reports.

Flooding, Boston bombings and freezing temperatures didn't stop Lansing marathon

"Sub-freezing temperatures, tight security and a course rerouted to avoid a flooded section of the Lansing River Trail all failed to stop the Lansing Marathon. Lansing's temperature stood at 28 degrees at the race's 8 a.m. start yesterday as participants honored the victims of last Monday's Boston Marathon bombing," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This week in review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the possible plan to lower auto insurance rates in the state, a bill to require drug tests for welfare recipients, and the arrests made at the University of Michigan over immigration protests.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Some controversial legislation is moving forward in the State House.

Under a bill approved yesterday by a State House panel - the Families, Children and Seniors Committee - Michigan would begin suspicion-based drug-testing of people who receive welfare benefits.

The legislation would allow the state to take away the benefits from people who test positive for drugs.

Under the measure, the drug testing program would go through a one-year trial period before being made permanent.

Republican Representative Jeff Farrington introduced the legislation. He says the government should not pay for people’s drug habits.

“People are tired of applicants getting welfare payments when they’re used for illegal drug use," said Farrington. "We want to make sure that they get on the right track, they receive their treatment going forward, and they get on the right path to success.”

Supporters also say people would have to pay for the drug test only if they test positive.

Critics of the plan say it demonizes the poor and unfairly hurts children of addicts.

Former social worker and Democratic Representative Marcia Hover-Wright says the bill is flawed.

“I don’t think there’s enough understanding on the other side of people with addictions and what’s their course... I’ve worked a lot with people with substance abuse problems, and to have the whole family suffer because the adult has a substance abuse problem, I find really problematic," said Hover-Wright.

Under the most recent version of the bill, people who test positive for the first time could enroll in an addiction treatment program and still receive their benefits during that time.

Only people who test positive would have to pay for the cost of the tests. That means the program could cost the state more money for testing and screening than originally anticipated.

On the other hand, it potentially could save the state some money on welfare benefits.

Democrats unsuccessfully tried to add several amendments to the bill. Among other things, they would have exempted medical marijuana patients and seniors from the penalties.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) last year proposed state lawmakers should have to undergo testing and screening for substance abuse if welfare recipients are required to do so.

Her idea did not advance in the Legislature.

Jake Neher, reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network was at the hearings. He gave us an update on the newest version of this legislation and just how this would work for folks who collect welfare benefits from the state.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lawmakers in Lansing have moved forward a bill to start drug testing welfare recipients. A state House panel today  sent the legislation to the full chamber.

Under the bill, the state would have to have reasonable suspicion before requiring a test. Cash assistance benefits could be terminated for people who test positive.

Republican Representative Jeff Farrington introduced the legislation. He says the government should not pay for people’s drug habits.

cncphotos / flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss funding proposals to fix Michigan’s roads, the number of lottery winners on welfare, and how a human rights ordinance is moving forward in Royal Oak.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Federal cuts to affect schools

"The state of Michigan doesn't plan to lay off any of its 48,000 workers because of automatic federal spending cuts. [But] federal education funding will drop $54 million and affect special education programs, after-school programs and aid for schools with more students in poverty," the Associated Press reports.

14 percent of lottery winners are on welfare or live with someone on welfare

Michigan has found 3,500 lottery winners, representing around 14 percent of all winners, who either got welfare or lived with welfare recipients. As the Associated Press reports, "Human Services Director Maura Corrigan says some lottery winners are no longer getting public assistance because of the law signed a year ago. But she says 'loopholes' still let lottery winners collect some Medicaid benefits."
 

Lansing Marathon ramps up security

"The two thousand runners expected to take part in this Sunday’s Lansing Marathon can expect to see tight security along the 26.2 mile course. The added security is in response to Monday’s deadly bombing at the finish of the Boston Marathon," Steve Carmody reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state kicked more than 500 people off food assistance and other welfare programs over the past 12 months because they won the Lottery.

But, a member of Governor Rick Snyder’s cabinet wants thousands more people be kicked off public assistance because of their Lottery winnings.

A new report says 14% of Lottery winners in Michigan live in a household where someone is on public assistance. There’s a law that requires the state to check the name of everyone who wins more than a thousand dollars against the rolls for many programs.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Detroit Mayor Bing says appeal unlikely to halt an EM

"Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the City Council's appeal of Gov. Rick Snyder's determination that there's no plan to solve Detroit's financial emergency is unlikely to halt an emergency manager's appointment. Bing says he endorses the council's assertions that a viable restructuring plan is in place, and he released a progress report on the plan Tuesday," the Associated Press reports.

Governor Snyder signs bill to add more people to sex offender registry

"More people will be added to Michigan's public sex offender registry under a bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.  The bill signed Tuesday will require people convicted of a single Tier I offense for some crimes involving minors to be placed on the online registry. Offenses that qualify include possessing child pornography and surveillance of a minor," the Associated Press reports.

Bill would require welfare recipients to pass drug tests

"Michigan lawmakers are planning to consider a bill that would require welfare applicants and recipients to pass drug tests. [The] legislation being considered . . .  would establish a program of suspicion-based substance abuse screening and testing for Family Independence Program applicants and recipients who are at least 18 years old," the Associated Press reports.

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

Bridge Magazine's Ron French reports on legislation that could be "a nail in the coffin" for efforts to halt welfare rule changes in Michigan."

The effort to remove 15,000 families from cash assistance in Michigan was billed as a cost-cutting measure. A necessary step for a state "that can no longer afford" to pay the benefits.

user Penywise / morguefile

Nine months after a Michigan welfare reform was implemented, the number of Michigan families receiving state checks plummeted to the lowest level in more than 40 years.

More than 9,000 Michigan families were removed from cash assistance last fall, a number that has recently grown to 15,000.

Ron French, writer for Bridge Magazine, addressed the cuts.

“Last fall, the legislature reformed welfare in a way that put time limits on welfare recipients. The legislature wanted to enforce a limit of 48 months on welfare recipients. The legislature and governor wanted to move more people to the workforce," said French.

"But what happened is that the Department of Human Services took it a step further and really kicked off more people than would have been otherwise."

Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham noted the effect the cuts had on families’ ability to pay essential bills.

“Suddenly we saw 11,000 families kicked off of cash assistance, which meant they couldn’t pay their utilities or rent,” said Graham.

One woman's fight to end the cycle of poverty

Nov 7, 2012
Keisha Johnson

Economic mobility for Americans at the bottom of the income scale seems to be fading. Today more than 40 percent of children born into poverty stay in poverty as adults.

State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra profiles one woman trying hard to be on the right side of that statistic.

cncphotos / flickr

Every Wednesday Morning Edition host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio's political analyst talk about what's been happening when it comes to politics in the state.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Welfare benefits lost if children miss more than 10 days of school

"A new policy goes into effect Monday that takes away welfare benefits from families with children who miss more than 10 days of school without an excuse. The policy requires families that apply or re-apply for cash assistance to prove their children don’t have too many unexcused absences," Rick Pluta reports.

Liquor license bill passes state House

"The state house has approved a bill that would let Michigan businesses get a liquor license more quickly. The review process often takes months and in some cases, years. The proposed law would allow a conditional liquor license while a review is under way," Rina Miller reports.

Law would allow STD treatment of partners without exam

"A bill in the state House would let doctors prescribe medication to the partner of a patient who's been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease -- without examining the partner. The law would apply to chlamydia and gonorrhea. More than 50,000 cases of chlamydia and more than 13,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported in Michigan in 2011. Both are highly infectious and can cause serious damage to a woman's reproductive system," Rina Miller reports.

User: macattck / flickr

A new policy goes into effect Monday that takes away welfare benefits from families with children who miss more than 10 days of school without an excuse. Families that apply or re-apply for cash assistance will have to prove their kids don’t have too many unexcused absences.

David Akerly of the state Department of Human Services says that information is easily available from school districts. Akerly says the policy is not about saving money. It’s meant to be a strategic attack on one of the causes of poverty, “which is education, lack of it, not being in class, not finishing school," he said.

Karen Holcomb-Merrell of the Michigan League for Human Services said transportation, homelessness, and other stresses on a family can contribute to truancy.

“It’s not clear to us what they intend to do to help the families that are having trouble getting their kids to school," said Holcomb-Merrell.

David Akerly said it’s easier to connect families to help when their kids are in school.

*correction - An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the quote to David Akerly. It has been corrected in the copy above.

I’m not running for anything, now, or presumably ever. But I have a confession to make. I am not rich, but my household income is more than a hundred thousand dollars a year.

Nevertheless, I get a form of welfare from the government. And my guess is that you do too. If not, other members of your family do. My welfare is called the home mortgage tax deduction.

The government exempts me from paying thousands of dollars in taxes that I would have to pay if I lived in a rented apartment.

Flint, Mich.
Flint Michigan / Facebook.com

A judge in Flint has given the Michigan Department of Human Services until Aug. 10 to process 5,000 or more remaining applications for cash assistance from people whose benefits were ended because of a five-year federal limit.

Genesee County Circuit Judge Geoffrey Neithercut imposed the deadline today during a hearing on a complaint from the Center for Civil Justice.  The complaint accused the Michigan DHS of intentionally processing the assistance applications slowly while it waited for decisions from the Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court.

On June 27, the state Court of Appeals ruled that Michigan can end benefits under a five-year federal limit, even if recipients still might qualify for cash under state law.

Michigan has a four-year limit, but the state stops the clock when someone with a disability can't work or when people care for a disabled spouse or child.

The state says following the stricter federal cap could save $70 million a year.

In a press release sent out today, DHS Director Maura Corrigan said the judge's ruled window for processing applications is reasonable. She said,

We are and have been committed to complying with this court’s orders. The completion date of August 10th set forth by the court today is well within our internal timeline already in place.

MLive.com reports that the groups will return to court Aug. 20 if DHS fails to process all of the cases by the deadline.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio News

Michigan Watch is working with the online magazine Bridge in a year-long collaboration, following families who were cut from welfare cash assistance by a Department of Human Services decision late last year. 

Some Michigan welfare recipients get reprieve

By Ron French/Bridge Magazine

Michigan's budget will have about $300 million more this year than state economists predicted in January.

That money is the result of a combination of higher-than-expected tax payments and fewer people receiving Medicaid and other state services.

That came from today's revenue estimating conference in Lansing.

State budget director John Nixon says he thinks much of the extra money may go into the state's rainy day fund. Or it may be set aside in case the state loses legal fights over collecting income taxes on public pensions or having state workers pay more of their pension costs.

“What we’ll do is with the one-time money, we’ll look for one-time expenditures," said Nixon. Budget Stabilization Fund is obviously a piece, a good place to put one-time money, as well some of the other spending pressures we have in the budget.”

Officials also estimate the state will have about $100 million more to spend in the budget year that starts Oct. 1.

Nixon says he doesn't think that will mean radical shifts in the budget bills lawmakers hope to finish by month's end.

The budget news accompanies forecasts that Michigan’s economy will continue to grow at a slow pace – with many of the new jobs coming from higher-paying fields. Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped again in April, hitting 8.3 percent.

When people who have quit looking for work are counted, as well as ­part-time workers who’d like to be full-time, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 17.8  percent.

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