welfare

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Michigan League for Human Services is pressuring lawmakers in Michigan who voted last year cut tax credits for working poor families.

The earned income tax credit - or EITC - gives people who would qualify for welfare an incentive to go to work instead. There's a federal credit, and one offered at the state level too. But the state credit was reduced last year in a budget-cutting move.

The reduced tax credit allows families who qualify to claim 6-percent of the federal earned income credit on their 2012 state taxes. In the past, families could claim 20-percent.

Judy Putnam is with the Michigan League for Human Services; a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group. She says the tax credits boost the economy because poor families spend the money right away.

 "Whereas a business or an upper-income tax payer you know getting tax breaks they don’t automatically go and spend that money,” Putnam said.

The organization has published a report it hopes will convince Republicans to restore the earned income tax credit. The report outlines the legislative districts with the most residents affected by the change. 

Here's the breakdown by state senator's district; while another set here break the data down by state representatives. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

State lawmakers are taking testimony on legislation to require some state welfare recipients to undergo drug testing.

Michigan tried before to require drug testing of welfare recipients.    That law mandated random drug testing.    But the courts stopped that program a decade ago.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan officials are sending letters to 13,000 low-income families who have lost cash assistance because they hit a five-year federal limit telling them they may still qualify for benefits under state law.

The notices will explain how families can reapply for monthly checks.

Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut ruled last month that recipients can't be cut off once they reach the five-year federal limit if they haven't also reached the state limit.

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

The Michigan Supreme Court declined to immediately hear an appeal. The state Department of Human Services has asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to reverse Neithercut's decision.

We have a correction to a story we recently aired regarding the declining number of people receiving cash assistance through a particular welfare program in Michigan.

Michigan Radio recently reported on a sharp decline in the number of people receiving aid through the Family Independence Program.    

The program provides cash assistance to families with young children and pregnant women. The program is intended to help with living expenses, like rent and utilities. 

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.

The online magazine Bridge and Michigan Watch are collaborating on a year-long series of reports about the Michigan families who were removed from welfare. The Department of Human Services changed how it applied eligibility rules, resulting in thousands of Michigan families losing cash assistance from the state. Often that money was used for rent payments.

The latest stories come from Ron French of Bridge.

Welfare reform leaves families without a net, and off the radar

Three months after the launch of an aggressive welfare reform, Michigan has kicked more people off the dole than expected and saved the state millions of dollars. How the approximately 15,000 families cut off from cash assistance are surviving, though, isn’t as clear.  (Read entire article here.)

Daily life gets harder for three families

Her family is paying her rent; food stamps get her and her children most of the way through the month. But three months after being kicked off welfare, Matthews says she’s received cut-off notices for her electricity, gas and water. (Read the whole story here.)

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A new report from Michigan’s Auditor General shows problems with determining eligibility for some public assistance programs.

In 2008, Auditor General Thomas McTavish recommended D-H-S come up with system to reduce the number of errors it made and improve payment accuracy for three public assistance programs: the Family Independence Program (FIP), the Child Development and Care program (CDC), and the Medical Assistance (MA) program.

The state Department of Human Services is developing a policy to screen for drug use among applicants for cash assistance welfare benefits, and to drug-test those deemed likely to be substance abusers.

DHS officials say they want the new policy to be part of an overhaul of the state’s welfare-to-work program in the spring of next year.  The department submitted a report with its recommendations to the Legislature earlier this month.

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