Feb 18, 2013
While Right-to-Work demonstrations were in the news, the Michigan Legislature sneaked through a huge attack that went under the radar. Quietly signed into law by Governor Snyder on January 9th, Public Act 607 of 2012 allows the Michigan Dept. of Human Services (DHS) to drop thousands of families off cash assistance on March 1, 2013.
The new law targets families with children who have no resources and little way to survive. In the middle of winter, families with children will be thrown to the wolves by the State of Michigan.
Michigan previously operated under “Welfare Reform” rules that were passed during the administration of Republican Governor John Engler. The old rules provided better protections than federal rules did.
When Democratic President Bill Clinton signed Federal Welfare “Reform” legislation into law in 1996, guaranteed support that kept families at least at 50 percent of the poverty level was eliminated. Help became only temporary, with a 60-month time limit.
Michigan, however, had allowed help beyond 60 months, for special circumstances. This help was only available to victims of domestic violence, to households caring for disabled family members, to people over age 55 who are less employable, and to incapacitated people applying for SSI – Social Security income for the disabled poor. The new legislation throws people in these dire situations out into the cold by holding everyone to that 60-month limit.
When Michigan previously cut off 13,000 families in October 2011, a lawsuit was filed. A judge ordered reinstatement of all who wanted to re-apply. Roughly 8,000 families were able to be reinstated. This time, the law has been changed to make cutting families off “legal.”
DHS Director Maura Corrigan has stated publicly: “We cannot afford to provide lifetime cash assistance to recipients who are able to work. Enforcing lifetime limits for cash assistance ensures that available funds are targeted toward those recipients who need a helping hand while they find employment.”
What lies! Michigan politicians could “afford” to give almost two billion dollars in tax breaks to corporations recently. Compare that to the 2013 DHS Budget which apparently estimates the cost of these cuts at just under 500,000 dollars. So Michigan is taking from those who have next to nothing in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy.
Nationwide statistics indicate that only about 2 percent of poor families with children ever hit the 60-month time limit. This 2 percent are usually so severely disabled – mentally or physically – or so disadvantaged – that they cannot hold a job.
For Maura Corrigan to say these are “recipients who are able to work” is like that old Queen of France saying to the starving poor of her day “let them eat cake!”
Societies are judged by how decently they treat their poorest, their sickest, and their most vulnerable. For Michigan to eliminate such a pittance of help to children living in such distressed situations is too monstrous for words!