welfare

Health
10:00 am
Wed November 7, 2012

One woman's fight to end the cycle of poverty

A family photo of Keisha Johnson and her three children
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.

Read more
Politics & Government
8:15 am
Wed October 3, 2012

The week in Michigan Politics

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.

Read more
Politics & Government
7:32 am
Mon October 1, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

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.

Education
7:08 am
Mon October 1, 2012

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

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.

Politics & Government
9:23 am
Wed September 19, 2012

Commentary: Depending on government

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.

Read more
Law
4:52 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Flint judge sets deadline for state welfare review

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

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
Politics
4:07 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

More revenue than expected for Michigan's next fiscal year

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.

Politics
3:28 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Report breaks down impact of earned income tax credit by legislative district

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. 

Read more
Politics
3:19 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Michigan lawmakers discussing drug testing for welfare recipients

John Andrews of MASACA testifies before the State House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors
(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.

Read more
Economy
1:26 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Michigan tells 13,000 low-income families they still could qualify for benefits

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.

CORRECTION
4:47 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

A correction: Decline in number of people receiving cash assistance

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. 

Read more
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
8:00 am
Thu February 2, 2012

Life for Michigan families after welfare reform

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.)

Economy
4:41 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Audit shows high eligibility error rates at state Dept. of Human Services

user mensatic morgueFile

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.

Read more
Politics
10:11 am
Mon December 26, 2011

"Likely" drug-using welfare applicants could be drug-tested

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.

Read more
Politics
2:06 pm
Mon November 28, 2011

Long waits for hearings on welfare challenges

A Michigan Department of Human Services office in Detroit was the scene of protests, confusion, and anger this morning.  This was the day people losing welfare cash assistance had a chance to challenge that decision, but the hearings were delayed.

People losing cash-assistance were told to be at the Department of Humans Services office at 8 o’clock this morning and to be prepared to spend the day waiting for their teleconferenced hearing to be conducted.  Three hours later, the hearings had not started.

Read more
Politics
10:33 am
Thu November 24, 2011

Michigan families will find out soon if they're cut from cash assistance

About a thousand Michigan families will find out on Monday or Tuesday whether they will be cut off of cash assistance welfare benefits for hitting a four-year cap.

The state Department of Human Services is holding two days of “rocket docket” hearings.

People challenging their cutoff are expected to show up first thing in the morning, and wait their turn to make their case to a magistrate and a caseworker.

They will be told before they leave whether they still qualify.

Gilda Jacobs directs the Michigan League for Human Services, which opposes the policy. 

“I guess it’s kind of letting people know right away to try to reduce their anxiety, but it’s going to be creating a lot more panic and anxiety if folks find out they’re going to reach that hard cap,” said Jacobs.

The director of the Department of Human Services says the “rocket docket” is meant to end drawn-out appeals.

 Unions are planning to stage protests at some DHS offices.

Politics
7:25 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

U.S. Census: Michigan among states receiving most food assistance

Liz West Flickr

Michigan ranks third highest in the nation for the percent of households that receive food stamps. That’s according to U.S. Census data. Oregon and Tennessee top the list.

The data show nearly 17 percent of Michigan households have at least one person who receives food assistance from the federal government.

Karen Holcomb-Merrill, with the Michigan League for Human Services, said about two million people receive aid to buy food.

“That’s a really huge number when you consider that the population of the state is under 10 million,” said Holdcomb-Merrill.

But she said that number has gone down since the beginning of the year.

“One of the reasons for that is that the Department of Human Services changed their rules and their polices with regards to college students receiving food assistance,” said Holcomb-Merrill. “And as a result of that, about 30,000 college students were dropped from food assistance earlier this year.”

Holcomb-Merrill said some college food pantries are now struggling to meet the need of low-income college students.

She expects the number will go down with new eligibility rules for food aid. The rules disqualify people with too many assets from getting assistance.

Holcomb-Merrill says several states have scrapped similar rules because they prevent many people who need help from getting it.

Politics
12:23 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Michigan rethinking car limit for food stamp clients

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says a state agency is reassessing whether cars and trucks should be counted as assets for people receiving food stamps.

The state Department of Human Services last month began telling applicants with assets of more than $5,000 in bank accounts, second homes or vehicles with market values of more than $15,000 they'd no longer be eligible for assistance.

The Michigan League for Human Services says many people applying for food stamps are recently unemployed and requesting help for the first time.

Applicants say they need their cars to get to school or job interviews so they can get back on their feet financially.

Snyder told reporters Tuesday that criticism of the vehicle limit is a "valid issue" and that DHS officials are reviewing the policy.

Pages