welfare benefits

Politics & Government
4:49 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Weekly Political Roundup: Drug testing welfare recipients, Republican conference

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s Thursday. The day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, columnist for MLIVE.com

This week, a bill that would require welfare recipients to do some kind of community service in order to get cash assistance or a welfare check passed in the Senate.  And another bill related to drug testing and welfare benefits cleared the state House Commerce Committee.

Then, the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference kicks off this weekend with nationally recognized guests including three potential presidential candidates set to speak there. They are Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
8:21 am
Thu April 25, 2013

In this morning's news: decriminalizing marijuana, truancy and welfare, skunkworks project

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Bill to decriminalize marijuana introduced in state Legislature

State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor.

"Irwin says state and local governments spend about 326-million dollars per year enforcing current marijuana laws. Republican Representative Mike Shirkey is a co-sponsor of the bill, and Irwin says it has bi-partisan support," according to Michigan Radio's Joseph Lichterman.

Legislation to tie welfare benefits to school attendance approved by House

A bill that would take away the welfare benefits from parents whose children miss too much school is on its way to the floor of the state House. The bill would take an existing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services policy and make it state law. Republican Representative Al Pscholka law says it is an effective way to keep kids in school, but opponents argue the bill doesn't provide enough safeguards to ensure low-income families are treated fairly.

State superintendent Mike Flanagan to take over secret education work group

"Governor Rick Snyder has asked the state’s education chief to take over a controversial project that’s looking for ways to reduce school costs. The new project will be narrower in scope than one handled by a controversial group that met in secret and included members of the governor’s administration. Snyder says he wants the new group to consider ways to use technology to reduce school costs," Rick Pluta reports.

Politics & Government
7:49 am
Thu April 18, 2013

In this morning's news: welfare drug tests, student achievement lags, ending lifetime coverage

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, April 18, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

Drug tests for welfare recipients

A bill which would require drug tests for welfare recipients has moved forward in the Michigan legislature.

"A state House panel yesterday 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," Jake Neher reports.

Student performance in Michigan falls behind

"A new report from The Education Trust – Midwest says Michigan improved some aspects of student performance, but most other states improved even more between 2003 to 2011. The report says one reason Michigan fell behind is that the state’s strategy for improvement relied primarily on the expansion of charter and virtual schools," Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer reports.

Ending unlimited coverage for auto accidents

Governor Rick Snyder and GOP lawmakers are unveiling a proposal today to end unlimited lifetime coverage for medical expenses tied to auto accidents.

"The insurance lobby and other critics say Michigan's unique requirement for unlimited medical coverage is too expensive. Hospitals and others say it should stay intact," according to the Associated Press.

Politics & Government
8:19 pm
Mon April 15, 2013

Hundreds of Michigan lottery winners lose their welfare benefits

(file photo)
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.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:34 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

New program requires three-week assessment for cash assistance applicants

Michael Raphael Flickr

Applicants for cash assistance in Michigan will have to go through a new 21-day assessment.

The state Department of Human Services Wednesday said the program is meant to bolster applicants’ job prospects.

The PATH program will replace a less intensive job training program.

DHS spokesman Dave Akerly said many people can’t find or keep a job because they have trouble finding child care and transportation.

Read more
Economy
4:32 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Stateside: Welfare benefit reform takes effect, thousands in Michigan are impacted

Michigan's welfare reform impacted nearly 15,000 families
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.

Read more
Politics & Government
2:13 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

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

A new Michigan policy links welfare benefits to student attendance.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

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.

Read more
Investigative
9:53 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Bridge: Some welfare recipients get reprieve; others struggle with welfare restructuring

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

Read more
Law
5:14 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Court says state agency can impose welfare time limits

The Michigan Court of Appeals says the state Department of Human Services can cut off cash assistance welfare benefits to people who hit the federal time limit – even if they have time remaining on their state benefits.

The ruling was a mixed bag, but mostly bad news for the people fighting a state policy regarding time limits for cash assistance. The rules for cash assistance are complicated. There’s federal as well as state money that goes into the payments.

The Court of Appeals said the Michigan Department of Human Services can decide whether it wants to operate under the state’s time limits on cash assistance or the federal limits. That means the agency may order an end to the payments after a family has reached the federal 60-month cap on benefits, even if that family would still qualify under the state’s separate time limits. But the court also said the department never went through the state’s process for making a new rule, which it has to do to end the state’s portion of the benefit.

Either side could appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Read more
Law
2:01 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Appeals Court says Mich. 5-year welfare limit OK

The Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals says state officials can take away welfare benefits under a five-year federal limit even if recipients still qualify for cash assistance under state law.

The ruling released today overturns a Genesee Circuit Court decision that state Human Services Director Maura Corrigan lacked authority to enforce the five-year limit.

Michigan has its own four-year limit, but it doesn't count months where someone with a disability can't work or where family members are caring for a disabled spouse or child and can't hold an outside job.

The Appeals Court also says Corrigan violated the Administrative Procedures Act where state funds were involved.

The Department of Human Services is reviewing the opinion. A message seeking comment was left for the Center for Civil Justice, which brought the suit.

Politics
10:15 am
Wed March 28, 2012

Court says some welfare recipients in Michigan wrongly cut off

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A judge says some Michigan welfare recipients protected from losing benefits under state law can't be cut off because they exceed federal limits.

Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut ruled Tuesday that state Department of Human Services director Maura Corrigan "exceeded her authority" by ending benefits for most welfare recipients once they reached the five-year federal limit.

Michigan lawmakers in 2007 adopted a four-year limit that had several exceptions, then approved stricter enforcement last year.

The four-year limit doesn't include months where a parent is needed at home to care for a disabled child or other family member, but those months count under the federal limit.

Neithercut says the state can't deny benefits to those who haven't reached the four-year state cap.

The department says it's reviewing the decision.

Investigative
7:00 am
Tue December 13, 2011

Kicked off cash assistance by bureaucrats

Last month, more than 11,000 families were kicked off Michigan’s Family Independence Program, a cash assistance welfare program.

Lester Graham with Michigan Watch is working with the online magazine Bridge in a year-long collaboration, following families who’ve lost the state assistance. 

The legislature has been blamed for the loss of benefits to those 11,000 families, but its vote to restrict families to 48 months of benefits in a lifetime only immediately affected about 100 families.

It was an administrative decision by the Department of Human Services which resulted in kicking all those other families off of cash assistance. 

The new law allows no more than 48 months of benefits in a lifetime and it started counting months in 2007.  On its own, the agency, started counting months in 1996 and decided anyone who’d received help for more than 60 months since then would be cut off. 

That’s how those 11,000 families suddenly lost cash assistance.

Read more
Commentary
11:34 am
Wed November 30, 2011

Is a four year cap of welfare benefits costing more than it saves?

Earlier this year, the legislature passed a new law that cuts people off cash welfare benefits forever after four years.

That’s not necessarily four years in a row. That means you are limited to 48 months of benefits, lifetime, even if you have three little kids, say, and have no other means of support.

There are a few temporary and special hardship special exemptions, but the bottom line is that about 40,000 people, three-quarters of whom are children, have been cut off.

Read more
Investigative
9:26 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Losing Benefits? We're looking for people losing government benefits. Know anybody?

Michigan Radio's Michigan Watch is working with the online magazine Bridge on a new project.

We'd like to hear from people who will be affected by the change to Michigan's cash assistance program, and learning more about these stories.

Are you, or do you know somebody, losing benefits because of the new four-year lifetime limit?

Politics
2:03 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Michigan Radio and Bridge Magazine to follow families banned from welfare

Over the course of the next year Michigan Watch, the investigative/accountability unit of Michigan Radio, and Bridge Magazine, the online magazine put together by the Center for Michigan, will be collaborating on coverage of Michigan families who were dropped from cash assistance welfare.

Politics
11:14 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Poverty in Michigan

A lot of people are worried about what’s been going on in the stock market. I guess I should be, too.  To the extent I have any retirement savings, they are tied up in stock-heavy mutual funds.

But what bothers me much more is what’s going on with poverty in this state. A week from today, we are ending cash welfare assistance to something close to twelve thousand families.

That means close to thirty thousand children will suddenly be utterly dependent on the kindness of strangers. And their numbers will grow, every month.

Read more
Politics
11:38 am
Wed September 7, 2011

Reaction to stronger limits on Michigan welfare benefits

Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that places tighter limits on cash assistance benefits to the poor.

It puts a four-year lifetime cap on cash assistance payments from the state. The four years don't have to be consecutive, they can be tallied up over time, and the clock on the four-year cap started on October 1, 2007.

It's estimated that 12,600 cases will be taken off the cash assistance as of October 1, 2011.

Peter Luke of MLive points out that in 2006, then-governor Jennifer Granholm also signed legislation limiting cash benefits to four years, "but DHS caseworkers had leeway to authorize exemptions."

This measure is more strict, and Governor Snyder said his administration is "returning cash assistance to its original intent as a transitional program to help families while they work toward self-sufficiency."

From MLive:

DHS Director Maura Corrigan said the agency is partnering with non-profit groups to provide recipients with a “soft landing” during the transition... The measure is estimated save the 2012 state budget about $65 million.

The new law also allows families on the rolls to earn more money on the job while still receiving benefits. In the past, families that earned more than $814 a month could no longer qualify for cash assistance. The new limit on earned income is $1,164.

"Michigan continues to face financial challenges, and the fiscal reality is that we cannot afford to provide lifetime cash assistance to recipients who are able to work," Corrigan said.

In a statement, the head of the Michigan League for Human Services, Gilda Jacobs, says these cash benefits support children in need:

The Department of Human Services has estimated that 29,700 children will be cut from cash assistance in October. Though the department says it will assist the families for a few months, it’s questionable whether new jobs will be available for adults in these families by the end of the year.

It will be a hard, hard winter for many of these families.

Read more
Politics
6:24 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Snyder to sign welfare cap this week

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign a new 48-month cap on cash assistance welfare benefits into law this week. The new limits are expected to immediately reduce the cash assistance caseloads by 15 percent. The measure got final approval from the state legislature last month.

About 12,600 people have been on cash assistance for 48 months or more, and payments to those families will end when the state’s new fiscal year begins October 1st.

“It was always meant to be a bridge and it’s become a lot longer than that in Michigan  -- in some cases, many individuals or families have been on it for five, six, seven, eight, 10 plus years,” says Sara Wurfel, Governor Snyder’s press secretary.

The new limits are expected to save the state $65 million dollars in the new budget year.

Michigan’s four-year cap on cash assistance will make the state’s welfare limits among the strictest in the Midwest. Advocates for the poor say private agencies may not be able make up the difference for people who still need help. They say many of the people who take payments for extended periods are the chronically unemployed who are struggling through the poor economy.

Read more