welfare

If you’ve been supporting your family on welfare since the Great Recession started three years ago, here’s news for you. You’ve got one more year left. And then your benefits will be cut off, forever.

What if you get a job after that, work hard for another ten years, and then become the victim of another recession? Sorry, you are out of luck, once your savings and unemployment run out.

What if you have kids? Well, you can still get food stamps.

Yesterday, the state Senate passed a bill which, once the governor signs it, will mean that you can be on welfare for a maximum of four years in your entire life.

Doesn’t matter what might happen to you, the nation or the economy. Four years, and that’s it. Doesn’t matter if you are supporting children. Oh -- if you are pregnant or have a new baby you might be able to stay on the rolls for another 60 or 90 days, but then that’s it. They did make one exemption:  those caring for a disabled child or spouse. But that’s all.

The sponsor of this legislation, State Rep. Ken Horn, a Republican from Frankenmuth, says putting this cap on welfare will make Michigan stronger. What I don’t understand is how.

Now, if you aren’t an expert on the system, you may think we are ending welfare for a bunch of lazy adults who would prefer lying around and watching TV to working. Well, guess what.

They were on a program called general assistance, and Gov. John Engler ended it 20 years ago. Welfare as we once knew it has been gradually reduced since the 1980s. Mainly, the only people still receiving payments are needy families.

Now, about 12,000 of those families, which include 25,000 children, will lose benefits forever. That might not be bad, if ending welfare meant the heads of those households would now go out and get good-paying jobs. But they won’t.

Here's some additional material on the welfare limit bill passed by the Michigan Senate today from Rick Pluta.

UPDATE:

The Michigan Senate split along party lines to approve a four-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits.

 The House is expected to concur with the Senate version, and Governor Rick Snyder will almost certainly sign it because the budget relies on more than 60 million dollars in savings from the benefits cap.

It also means 12,600 families will lose benefits come October first.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Increasing rates of prescription drug deaths in Michigan

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise across the nation, and Michigan is no exception.

Detroit Free Press medical writer Patricia Anstett has a piece highlighting the problems in the state. From the article:

In Michigan, more residents now die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined, a federal registry shows. In 2009, the latest year data are available, 457 Michiganders died of overdoses from one or more prescription drugs, up from 409 deaths the year before.

"We're seeing an alarming trend that continues to increase," said Larry Scott, manager of the prevention section of Michigan's Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction.

One in four people seeking emergency care for prescription drug abuse were younger than 25.

Michigan legislature working on proposal to cap welfare benefits

Under a proposal being considered in the Michigan legislature, there would be a four-year life limit on welfare benefits in Michigan.

From the Saginaw News:

The state Senate this week is expected to consider its version of bill sponsored by state Rep. Kenneth B. Horn that could end some poor Michigan families’ welfare benefits as soon as October.

Horn, R-Frankenmuth, wrote the proposed legislation that creates a 48-month, retroactive limit on direct cash assistance. People who have been receiving assistance since 2007 would be the first affected.

House bills 4409 and 4410 are expected to go before the Michigan Senate on Wednesday. The bill's sponsor expects them to pass.

HUD secretary to make announcement this morning on reviving urban centers

Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is expected to unveil an economic plan in Detroit this morning.

From the Associated Press:

Donovan is scheduled to announce the initiative Monday morning in Detroit alongside Mayor Dave Bing and other government leaders at a loft development near downtown. He also is to speak at noon to the Detroit Economic Club at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.

The department says Donovan is to discuss a new Obama administration approach to strengthening cities that involves working with them. He also plans to outline challenges facing those cities as well steps the administration already is taking at the local and national levels.

Governor Rick Snyder says his budget will not call for cuts in payments to doctors, clinics, and nursing homes that take Medicaid patients.

Snyder administration officials say it is important to maintain those payments at their current levels to make sure providers continue to see patients.

The governor’s communications director, Geralyn Lasher, says that is a less costly alternative to people showing up at emergency rooms when they get sick:

"We want people having a medical home, having a physician’s office, having that physician really guiding as far as quitting smoking, leading a healthier life, we're going to see much lower healthcare costs down the road if people take those steps right now."

Lasher says there will be other changes in Medicaid.

There are almost two million people in Michigan in the health coverage program for low-income people.

Medicaid makes up about 20% of the state budget.

MDHS

There are close to 10-million people in Michigan.  And almost three-million are now receiving some kind of state assistance.  Half of them are children.

“A lot of them are my next-door neighbors.  It’s bad in Michigan right now.  And people are in a position where they’ve never been," says Becky Clark, who works with the Michigan Department of Human Services in Lenawee County.

Michigan House Republicans

Jase Bolger, Michigan’s new Speaker of the House, says he wants to see a four-year cap on certain welfare benefits in the state.

Bolger took the gavel for the first time on Wednesday, but the Republican speaker wasted no time outlining changes he wants to make in the state.

One of them would be limiting Bridge card recipients to a maximum of four years of lifetime benefits. The bridge card provides food - which is federally funded -  and some cash assistance.

Bolger says the state could save $45 million immediately with a cap on benefits:

We want to help people break the cycle of dependency... government should not create that cycle. And that's what happens. People get caught in that system, and it's not good for the human spirit. People want the opportunity to provide for themselves, and that's what we want to help them do.

Bolger says he wants the four-year benefit allowance to be enforced retroactively. He also wants to go after businesses that participate in welfare fraud.

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