Welfare reform: Back to the drawing board

What would you do if you could reform Michigan’s welfare system?

That may be a question state leaders are asking today, after Michigan’s massive welfare reform was thrown out in court.

Calling it an “end-run around the Legislature,” a Genesee County Circuit Court smacked down a Department of Human Services policy that knocked between 11,000 and 15,000 people off welfare cash assistance.

Nobody knows what will happen now. The Attorney General’s Office says it will appeal the ruling, but it’s anybody’s guess what the ultimate decision will be and when it will be made.

The Legislature could step in and rewrite its reform bill. The governor could offer suggestions to DHS. The department could modify its policy on its own.

Bridge Magazine thinks you should have a say, too.

What should the state do now? How does the state protect its most vulnerable citizens, many of whom are children, while also making the wisest use of limited dollars?

Tell us how you think the state should reform welfare. Who should get assistance? Who shouldn’t? For how long? Under what requirements?

Give us your solutions, and we’ll share your thoughts with DHS Director Maura Corrigan, Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders.

To help, here’s a little history on Michigan’s massive welfare reform:

The Legislature approved time limits for welfare checks funded by the state last year. The Legislature set a lifetime limit of 48 months of cash assistance, starting with assistance received after October 2007. That meant a family that had received cash assistance every month since October 2007 would be kicked off immediately when the reform took effect in October 2011; others would be removed as they reached their four-year limit.

The Legislature also exempted some of the state’s most vulnerable groups from being cut off, such as single-parent families in which the parent was disabled and unable to work, and families in which an able-bodied adult couldn’t work because they were needed at home to care for a severely disabled spouse or child.

DHS took reform several steps further. At the same time it began to enforce the state’s 48-month limit, DHS began to enforce a federal 60-month limit that had been ignored for years, counting assistance doled out back to 1996. Because the state law only counted assistance back to 2007 and DHS counted back to 1996, many families were in the odd position of having timed out of a 60-month cap, while not having reached the state’s 48-month limit.

In his ruling, Genesee Circuit Judge Geoffrey Neithercut said DHS Director Maura Corrigan “exceeded her authority” and the state can't deny benefits to those who haven't reached the four-year state cap.

DHS also decided not to exempt as many families. Disabled caretaker families, for example, were cut off from cash assistance.

Judge Geoffrey Neithercut called that an “end-run” around the Legislature’s intent.

A DHS spokesman said the department is studying the decision.

DHS hasn’t released figures on how many families were removed from welfare because of the time limits. The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Civil Justice in Flint, says only about 100 Michigan families were removed by the 48-month limit written by the Legislature; meanwhile, more than 10,000 families were removed not by the state reform, but by DHS decision to begin enforcing a federal law.

How many families? DHS hasn’t released figures. Bridge estimated the total could be as high as 15,000. The Michigan League for Human Services offers a breakdown by county, including the number of children removed from cash assistance and the funding decline.

If the Circuit Court ruling stands, that’s good news for about 65,000 people, including more than 40,000 children, and bad news for the state budget -- it could cost the state more than $70 million a year to renew cash assistance to those cut off by welfare reform.

Corrigan calls welfare reform a struggle of “the vulnerable against the gamers” -- people who she believes are undeservedly getting scarce state benefits.

Tell Bridge your solution

Was DHS’ decision a good one for the state? It’s too early to tell what will happen to the families cut off from cash assistance. The move has saved the state tens of millions of dollars.

What should the state do? Should the state practice tough love and kick families off the dole and hope they find jobs? Is there a compromise that protects needy children, but still saves money? Should families of the disabled be forced to choose between caring for their loved ones and getting a job?

Share your thoughts below, and we’ll make sure those ideas are shared with policy-makers in Lansing.

Senior Writer Ron French joined Bridge in 2011 after having won more than 40 national and state journalism awards since he joined the Detroit News in 1995. French has a long track record of uncovering emerging issues and changing the public policy debate through his work. In 2006, he foretold the coming crisis in the auto industry in a special report detailing how worker health-care costs threatened to bankrupt General Motors.

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Morris Taber
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 8:28am
Our State is abdicating one of its prime responsibilities if it engages in Saving money at the expense of persons and families unable to to take adequate care. It is unacceptable cruelty! Whatever, we do in welfare reform, we must act in an humanitarian way to take care of these people ---
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 1:03pm
With the Bush and Synder tax cuts firmly in place, welfare for the wealthy and corporations is defended vigorously by Republicans with nothing to show for it. Why shouldn't their victims get some recompense?
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 8:39am
The judge did not strike down the law, just the way the DHS enforced the law. The solution is for DHS to properly enforce the law. Welfare was not intended to be a lifestyle, but a helping hand through a tough time. The law does have exceptions for special cases, and I could see some cases added as exemptions. But ultimately, the law is a good one. There are jobs out there for those who want to work. Move if you have to, leave the state if that is what it takes.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 9:42am
Such a tidy, simple solution, Robert. But rather short on details. How on earth do you expect people who can barely pay for food and shelter to be able to find jobs out of state and "move if you have to?" Moving in and of itself is expensive. How will shelter be obtained in a new state? At best, there are security deposits and pre-payments of rent, but landlords run credit checks that often make it impossible for the poor to obtain shelter to begin with, even if they can scrape together sufficient funds. And, though it may be simple for you, physically transporting oneself and one's family across many miles, with or without any possessions, is expensive and difficult--particularly for the poor, who frequently do not have reliable transportation to begin with and certainly cannot afford $4 or $5 gasoline. Welfare decidedly should not be a lifestyle, but the old stereotype of the "welfare queen" went out the window decades ago. Pres. Clinton successfully reformed welfare to largely eliminate lifetime dependence, but in order for people to move from welfare to work, there must be WORK. How do you propose to train unemployed people with inadequate skills to be able to qualify for the limited jobs available today? How do you propose to create employment opportunities for people in their 50s and 60s who are not eligible for Social Security but who VERY frequently cannot get past the front door of potential employers, no matter how skilled they are? Those people must survive somehow. What are your answers for them?? Provide adequate training, childcare DURING training, and assistance with job placement and transportation, and you will see people clamoring to leave welfare. Convince prospective employers to stop discriminating against older workers, and there will be glee in the streets among those who struggle daily to regain the self-respect and the income that was lost when they were "downsized" or when a prior employer folded. Unfortunately, actually taking sensible steps to solve the problem is much less enjoyable for many people than simply condemning the poor and dismissing them out of hand as useless, drug-addicted slackers. Simplistic "solutions" and blanket statements are naive and unhelpful. Unless you are a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. Get real. Few welfare recipients ENJOY that status. Throwing out the baby with the bath in order to find that small minority is both cruel and shortsighted.
Jon Blakey
Fri, 04/06/2012 - 1:47pm
Well said, Cheryl.
Sat, 07/14/2012 - 10:55am
Cheryl..on the one hand I agree with your statement, I am a college student with no children at home while doing my associates degree I was able to get enough in loans to subsidize my income to pay for my bills, but now that I am doing my bachelors degree the expense of the college is 3 1/2 times more so I don't receive as much dispursement now which is making it more difficult for me to afford to everything. I moved to be closer to work and school, got the cheapest apt that was available, don't have cable and internet, and still things are extremely difficult and I have a difficult time trying to have enough money for food. I went to go get help and all I really wanted was just $100 at the most just for groceries but was denied because I am a college student and I dont have any kids in the home. I could count on 5 hands the amount of people that are receiving food stamps that are not working, not seriously looking for a job, and are taking full advantage of the help that they are getting. That's just the ones that I can think of at the top of my head. While the job market is not the greatest there are jobs, a person just needs to be pushed into looking. There really is no excuse for not working, even if its making pizzas. Social services will help w day care, every county offers cheap transportation, Michigan works offers training..so really there is no excuse!! Although they may still be getting assistance at least they are working and their tax dollars are contributing to their assistance. I could go on and on about this but I will stop w this. I believe in the cut but only to those that "feed off the assistance", but for those that have a "legit" reason then no its not fair. But the biggest problem is the unfair decisions that the social service workers are making. Two people with the same situation can walk into those offices and get two different workers and one will receive more than the other because one worker is more "bending" with the rules than the other. Ok that is my last point that I will make lol.
Fri, 03/30/2012 - 6:03pm
or go to school. There are pell grants...lots of accomodations if you can't afford college...learn a trade. I see MIWorks! lists of jobs weekly...they are out there. Get out of your comfort zone...move...be a responsible house mate with someone to cut down on rental costs in another town, til you get your feet on the ground. Even if it means leaving children with relatives for a while. THINK...Say to yourself, I need to get out of this hole...I need to better myself, my family.
Kathleen A. Dygas
Fri, 04/06/2012 - 7:39pm
I had my son 3 months premature through no fault of my own. I never expected to have a child who was disabled. I don't do drugs or drink or even smoke cigarettes. Those things have never interested me. I ruptured prematurely, and it caused me to have an infection in my uterus that almost killed my son and me. He spent 4 months in the NICU. He got pneumonia while he was in there, and was on a high-frequency ventilator for an extended period of time. He had retinopathy of prematurity, which is eye scarring, which he got from being on a high frequency ventilator. He got bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which is permanent lung scarring, from being on a high frequency ventilator. He got asthma as well. He was also later diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, which is on the autism spectrum, and he was also diagnosed with kidney stones. I also have a daughter that is a year older than my son. She has asthma too. Both of my kids have been sick for most of their lives. They both have antibiotic resistance from being on so many antibiotics for years. I am a single parent. My children's father is bi-polar and lives with his mother. He sees the children on Sundays. He does not pay child support because he receives SSI and does not have to. He only gets a little over $400 a month. I had no other financial means of support except FIP from Dept of Human Services and my son's SSI money. ( I lost my mom in 1989 and my dad in 1992.) I would have loved to find a job and keep it, but since my son and daughter have been sick frequently, and my son has been in so many therapies for his entire life, I have not been able to hold a job because employers require that employees be there, and my children have required me to be there for them constantly for their illnesses. I wish I could infuse into some peoples's brains all the struggles we have been through! What keeps me strong is God's grace. Jesus is my Lord and Savior and he has been with me and my family through all of these struggles. I will never quit on my children. Some people do not understand what the disabled or their caretakers go through. I am not looking for someone to pity me. I must tell you though, that I have worked many jobs in the past, and taking care of my son has been the hardest job I have ever had. I am not lazy, and my Lord and savior knows it. There are many other caregivers out there that were cut off of FIP benefits wrongfully. I pray for all of them. The new laws oppress the poor and the disabled. People need to take the blinders off and realize what others are going through because who these laws hurt the most are the children, and children are our future.
Kathleen A. Dygas
Fri, 04/06/2012 - 7:46pm
I do have 77 credits in college with a 3.4 gpa. I did take classes while I was receiving FIP over the years. I intend to go back and finish, but right now the priority is trying to keep the roof over me and my children's heads, on top of keeping them out of the hospital.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 8:59am
I think 48 months is more than generous; I agree with Robert that welfare was never intended to be a lifestyle, yet that's what it's become. I like the idea that adults receiving assistance should have to pass a drug test; that home visits should be conducted to determine that the needs of the children are being met and that there is no unclaimed cash income. I don't mean to sound heartless; I think the children and disabled adults should not go hungry or without the basic necessities. However, those who work shouldn't have to support those who can but choose not to; the self respect that comes from earning one's income would be empowering in many ways.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 9:22am
These Repug fools use a meat ax to cut where a scalpel is more appropriate. I do not deny that there is abuse of the system, but, you cannot impose an arbitrary time limit without considering individual cases. There are verifiable cases where people who are caregivers to disabled relatives who may lose their home because they cannot afford to pay bills and pay for care of the disabled relative. These Repug legislators are soulless privileged autocrats who have no comprehension of need, and they deserve to be voted out of office in Nov. Remember, only 42% of eligible voters went to the polls in 2010, that means that on average they were elected by only 22% of the voters.
J Schneider
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 9:31am
I agree with the comments above. We have a responsibility to take care of those truly in need, mindful that there will always be those out for a free ride. If businesses can conduct drug tests of their employees, and I support that decision, so can the State for assistance programs. We need to address issues with common sense which seems to be uncommon.
David Waymire
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 9:55am
How about taking an evidence-based, rational approach to the issue, rather that letting emotions, so called "common sense" (which is often wrong) and misguided "principles" determine policy. What are the 10 states with the the lowest poverty rates? How do they administer their programs? Are they basically punitive, as has become the practice of this administration? Or are they basically "helpful," trying to figure out how a small amount of state support now can lead to better outcomes (lower poverty rates) down the road. Research is available. We have a world class university, U of M, with a major operation studying poverty. Why are we not using it to develop policies that even a nerd could love? If beating poor people leads to better outcomes, fine. But it just makes those administering the beatings feel good, that's not very useful in the long run.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 10:05am
@David Waymire: Spot on!
A Michigander
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 10:23am
Robert, have you tried to get a job where you could provide enough pay for family. Probably not... There are fewer working Michigan taxpayers day by day -- a steady exodus of both people and capital, and the main concern in Lansing is how to squeeze the lemon (i.e. taxpayer), even more for the next round of corporate giveaways. And people leaving our state, how is that helping Michigan and our economy to improve? The fact that a disabled caretaker lost monetary benefits to be able to stay home to take care of a disabled family member is nothing but heartless. Reforming welfare should include making sure that the people who are on it should be on it--but let's get real--there is abuse in all government programs. As a former welfare recipient, it is a very meager and depressing lifestyle and I can attest to that fact. It is not a standard of living that any human would WANT to have because it is just enough to keep you from living on the streets, nothing more. The “if-they-got-a-job-and-stopped-being-lazy” argument is not a valid one - we need to remember that the vast majority of people on welfare have not had the same advantages as many of those condemning them for not working hard enough. And as the unemployment rate shows, it hasn’t exactly been a conscience decision for many of the recipients, but rather the only way to survive in this economic climate. There is the reality of contemporary poverty, where jobs are difficult to find and those available not necessarily paying top dollar. People are trapped in various housing situations that limit them from finding work. Public transit, in some areas, remains out of service. People do not have the best marketable skills, and often the jobs they could qualify for will go to those persons with the best marketable skills who are themselves desperate for work. Instead of trying to save money with this inhumane welfare reform, why not get rid of the Small Business Tax incentive that the governor Snyder enacted that so far has received a grade of “D” for bringing in new companies and jobs.
Ron French
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 10:54am
Great comments. Let's talk about some specific scenarios. Let's start with some assumptions and work from there. Let's assume that money is tight; Let's assume that Michigan has a high rate of cash assistance recipients, both because of a bad economy and because of policies that basically allowed families to stay on cash assistance indefinitely if they followed the rules. Let's also assume that the vast majority of families on welfare would rather be off welfare, because that would mean they're making more money. 1) does 48 months in a lifetime seem like a proper cap? 2) Do you think it's fair/appropriate to go back in time, before the cap was created, to count months, or should we only count months after the lifetime cap was created? 3) Do you think it's fair/appropriate for DHS to decide to begin enforcing a 60-month federal cap without a green light from the Legislature or the governor? 4) And should any of these groups be exempted from time limits: single parent families in which the parent is disabled; families in which an able-bodied parent stays home to care for a disabled spouse or child; families living in counties with unemployment above a certain level, say 10 percent above the federal unemployment rate? In thinking about this, keep in mind that the average family receiving cash assistance gets about $400 a month; About 700 disabled caretaker families have been removed by time limits. The majority of the more than 11,000 families removed from welfare by the time limits are considered eligible for work, and either do not have a job or are working a job that pays so little that they still qualify for welfare.
R Yednock
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 2:01pm
Ron: One thing that has, or rather is, being over-looked is the issue of asset tests for both cash welfare and food assistance. Sure, we don't want lottery winners to continue to collect assistance when they can clearly afford to cover their costs, but might the DHS be throwing out the baby with the bath water by implementing an asset test? Not only does this increase costs to the state (DHS has not said how much it is costing to test 930,000 cases for assets since Oct 1, 2011, and they have been asked) but it sends the message that savings is a bad thing. This is particularly troubling for those on cash welfare. After all, how is a person supposed to rise above poverty when they are being told not to save any money for emergencies. Asset limits may have had a place prior to lifetime limits, but now they are out-dated and ultimately costly to the state (between 2000-2008, less than one percent of all FIP cases were closed or denied due to assets, ergo, we are spending money to determine that people with earnings below the poverty line do not have savings). Blanket asset limits for FIP and FAP are just pound foolish... heck, they may very well be millions of pounds foolish.
Kathleen A. Dygas
Fri, 04/06/2012 - 8:28pm
I do not think the 48 month cap is the answer. I am a caregiver to a diabled child. I could not make my son heal faster to meet the guidelines. I have been diligent in his care since he was born. Being a caretaker can be hard on the body. Fortunately I am in good health, but what if my health went bad? I have already exhausted my lifetime limit takiing care of my disabled son. If I should ever become sick there would be no help for me or anyone else who is a caretaker and has exhausted their lifetime limit taking care of a loved one. In my opinion, taking care of someone who is disabled should be counted as work. I would love to find a job I could do at home so I could take care of my childrens' needs and earn a paycheck. I suggested to Governor Snyder that maybe he could find jobs caretakers could do from home so they could work, be off the roles, and still be there to take care of their loved ones. He did not reply. We outsource jobs to others, why not insource jobs to those who care for the disabled?
Sun, 04/15/2012 - 7:11pm
>>> Let’s assume that Michigan has a high rate of cash assistance recipients, both because of a bad economy and because of policies that basically allowed families to stay on cash assistance indefinitely if they followed the rules >>> Rather than making assumptions and then deciding on how to go from their, it is best to look at the facts and decide on changes from their. First off, the policies of Michigan welfare did not allow families to remain on assistance if they followed the rules. The Michigan welfare program forces people to follow unwise and foolish rules that directly forces them to remain on the system if they want to remain housed, fed and alive. By preventing recipients from saving money, recipients cannot design a successful exit strategy. Another assumption is that people are refusing jobs. Accusing people of refusing jobs that were never offered to them is; for lack of a better word: Insane. Rather than make a list of assumptions that are inaccurate to the facts of each individual case and will not resolve the problem, lets start by looking at the problems that need solving, the first of which is more jobs in the State of Michigan. Scott
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 12:09pm
I agree that there are people who need help. The welfare system in Michigan is broke. There are a lot of people who do use welfare as a way of life. I know people whos parents were on welfare and now the children are on welfare. you have to agree that there is a lot of fraud in the system, and abuse. There are jobs ,but some people believe they should'nt have to work for minimum wage. That is what our state has come to. Some people believe they are entitled to having the government take care of them.. WRONG! it's our responsibility to take care of our families, no one else. Don't get me wrong, there are families who need some help. But not all the people on welfare. I know 20 something year old women who are very capable of working, but they don't. It is easier to take free money from the state. Are some of the people on welfare lazy? Look around in your communities and you tell me.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 1:43pm
I am sound heartless but being on cash assistance if plenty of time to find a job. A disabled person should not have to find a job unless they want to have a job, which many of them work. There is a young man that is disabled that works at the food court at Detroit Metro Airport. I talk to him quite often as I am flying out, he is as proud as he can be because he has a job. Too many people make more money on cash assistance than they could make on a minimum wage job and feel so why should they work. In addition to cash assistance, they get their rent paid, get a bridge card, and have a better insurance program through the state than many of us that are working have. When someone is on cash assistance they should have to work to get paid; cut the grass for the elderly; pick up litter along the highway, help at senior meals; this list is endless. They do not need to sit at home to smoke, drink, make babies, and play video games.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 3:34pm
There appears to be multiple options and multiple ways to address this extremely complex issue, but I think immediate implementation of new rules is too harsh. The old "grandfather" rule (or modified version) should come into play since so many poor decisions were already made by previous powers. Everyone deserves a warning before needed funds simply disappear, regardless of enforcing a policy or not enforcing a policy. People should not be punished for administrative bad decisions to not enforce something previously even if they have been on welfare for an extended amount of time. However, I believe nothing should be "free", and many (but not all) who are disabled, are able to help in some way to our society. We need to think more creatively to engage these people. One 17 year-old I know recently qualified for disability because he meets the cognitive standards of being disabled, but he is a strong, good kid, and could give back to society in exchange for welfare benefits in some type of labor trade. We need to understand that every person in this society has a personal responsibility to this society for its long term stability, and understand that giving cannot be "free," and there is no entitlement clause that should allow some to work for their means while others do not. Those on welfare will feel better to not feel like they are getting a hand-out; they would be working for their benefits...and maybe learning a skill at the same time. The government could create a bank of jobs that may not be ideal or highly desirable, but at least jobs for those who need help and could serve as a starting point giving someone aspiration to learn a skill or work hard to change their situation. And, finally, I am in favor of mandatory drug testing/rehabilitation and mandatory food specifications for welfare food provisions for those who plea for help. If someone needs help, we should help....but, they should also be willing to help themselves by learning how to live responsibly and learn how to be a positive impact on our society. They should eat healthy foods, and not be able to purchase pop, processed foods, or other unhealthy food with our help fund dollars. Our welfare system should require diet and health education in exchange for this help, and only allow healthy food options for purchase with welfare funding. (Additionally, and an entirely different subject, reproduction education should be addressed so additional mouths need not be fed when ones already in the situation are not independently taken care of). Our welfare system clearly lacks education for those in the system. And, if they refuse, then the tough love approach needs to occur. We cannot help those who do not want to be helped. As heartless as that sounds, we must start drawing some lines in the sand and making some hard decisions. It is clear the legislators are not willing to make these decisions for fear of not getting re-elected. Who is going to? I believe it is We The People.
Sun, 04/15/2012 - 7:28pm
>>>> They should eat healthy foods, and not be able to purchase pop, processed foods, or other unhealthy food with our help fund dollars. >>>> Healthy foods? People on assistance programs are not given enough resources to afford healthy foods. They are forced to purchase the junk because that is the only way to make it last the whole month.
Donald Patterson
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 5:05pm
On the one hand, the state of Michigan can give no-strings-attached $1.7 billion tax cuts to big business which leading economists say do not create jobs. On the other hand, funds for the disadvantaged are reduced or eliminated. If the Bible is to be believed, these people will eventually be called to account for their heartless actions. The court's opinion should be left to stand to moderate the suffering our government has chosen to inflict on the poor.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 7:59pm
I've become pretty cynical in this regard, but there is no way our Republican majority Michigan Supreme Court is not going to back a law enacted by two houses of a Republican dominated legislature and signed by a Republican governor. The logical response by the state to the circuit court rejection is to expedite appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. With complete control of state government, there's just no reason for Republicans to do anything else.
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 10:25pm
The first question to be asked is what is the purpose/what is to be achieved? Is the law to help people get out of their situation or is it to sustain them in their current situation? Are there differ situations that the law is to focus on, if so what are they and how are their needs different and to be addressed? Once the purpose has been decided on then they need to identify the whole range of means to achieve that purpose and assess what is most effective or most efficient depending on the purpose. If it is to help people move out then look at what is most effective. If it is to sustain then look at what is most efficeint. The also need to include the purpose in the law so all will know and minimize the risk of program creep. They also need to include in the law some specific perfromance metric to determine it the purpose will be met by the means being used. This should include some 'milestone' to check against. They need to include in the law a stipulation that those program/activities that are not meeting performance expectation in pursuit of the purpose shall be terminated (including staffing) new methods shall be tried with the same performance expectations. I don't believe that there is a single answer or that one person has the best answer. I would encourage the teams of diverse knowledge and skills be brough togehter to work on developing the programs and activties. When I call for diversity is it based on knowledge/skills, drawing in people that have been involved in change and the ways of adapting to it. There are many in industry that have prospered in our changing world because they have been able to work outside their technical expertise and change with the world. The social 'experts' can benefit from people skilled in managing change and learning from others with different 'expertise'.
Fri, 03/30/2012 - 2:13am
I agree with the idea of term limits to assistance... welfare was never intended to be a livelyhood for those on it but a means to care for those that are in transition. To many abuse the system and never really look for further work or attempt to retrain or re-educate to be able to find better jobs for better pay. If the state would look at the why a person needs the help and then hold them to a solution upon signing up for welfare then you may create accountability in the recepiant and possibly better focus assistance to help them get of the state roles. Example.. mother of one applies for aid becuase she has lost her job and father is not in the picture and not paying any support for his child...She is granted aid for her and her one child only...if she has additional children she does not recieve additional aid (like at work, your boss does not give you a raise just because you had another child, niether should the state) this will help place responsibility on the individual to maintain the household and help prevent further hardships by adding more children. Now she needs the assistance because she lost her job, set her up with a job placement service... this will help her find work that she is qualified for and help the state track her search for work. Offer child care credits to help with daycare cost while she is working and if she needs training set up training class at area schools, community college or trade schools to re-educate her so she may get a better job. Now by doing this you again will be placing accountability on the mother and hopefully the assistance will enable her to find better work thus making it possible to leave the state roles and eventually contributing to the tax base. The old addage give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a life time. This will probably create shorter times of being on state programs and it will create a more productive tax payer and most likely cost the state less in the long run than just giving them money and then in 4 years cut them off and them have them come back and try to reapply and trying to get other aid.
R Yednock
Fri, 03/30/2012 - 9:20am
Dennis: You make excellent points. What is your take on the current asset limits for cash welfare? Right now, that mother in your example cannot be on welfare for more than 48 months and cannot save more than $3,000. Does that not seem counter-intuitive? I mean, if we want that woman and her child to break what may become a generational cycle of poverty, would it not stand to reason that we would want her and her child to learn sound fiscal principals like saving money? Unfortunately, lost in this whole debate (especially with the lottery winners continuing to collect food assistance) is the importance savings and assets play in helping people help themselves out of poverty.
D. Gorenc
Fri, 03/30/2012 - 9:19am
Two words: Working poor. There are both single- and dual-parent families who work hard at the only jobs they can get. We all know the high costs of everything from child care to gasoline, and utilities seem to rise yearly. They need help to survive with their families intact. As noted in several of the comments above, an "all or nothing" approach disregards the continuum of state aid recipients. Yes, there are lazy do-nothings on the lists, but at the other end of the spectrum are those who simply need stop-gap assistance and temporary help. It would take real thought and effort to determine how we brace our society's least advantaged. Just cutting everyone off is so much easier that crafting an assistance bill that will approach the issue in a fair an balanced way. Perhaps it is our legislators who are the lazy ones.
Sat, 03/31/2012 - 12:50am
D. Gorenc, As for keeping the families in tact, what makes you think they are coming into the program as an intact family? If they aren't intact they why do you feel/think the program could or should making them in tact? In this whole discussion I am yet to hear anyone talk about the responsibilities of those who are recieveing assistance or those who will benefit from in the future. For if they have no responsibilities to do something then why would you feel they will succeed? Do you believe that the State, the program, people administering should be able to make the recipients change so they won't return to the program? If so then I would suggest the whole approach used to develop the program needs to be revisited. We first need to decide what the program is to do, and as of yet I have hearf that describe in a way that can be measured so the effectiveness of the programs can be evaluated and determine whether to change and how or if they are successful and should be expanded. I don't think the recipients are 'lazy', I wonder if they know what there success could look like. If they don;t know what success looks like why should we believe they will achieve it? What should the program do provide the means for someone to help themselves, to sustain them in their basic needs, to turn them into an intact family? We need to know before we can expected and effective program develop.
sam melvin
Sun, 04/01/2012 - 5:49pm
Well the State of Michigan has 19 000 children in forstercare at a cost of $ 800 . a months ... the STATE of Michigan has Department of childenforcement , that brings IN money from the fEDREALGoverment for every $ the state collects in childsupprot the goverment matches IT.(I like to see the real story and the numbers on this) . There are women that cannot EARN enough money (because the minum wages hasnot been raised in 5 years(last time it took congress 10 years) plus pay for childcare etc..gas, car, I would like to know Where are ALl the fathers/men Why are they not in the pictuer or making payments>lets get the deadbeats NOW!
Sun, 04/15/2012 - 8:34pm
>>>> Should the state practice tough love and kick families off the dole and hope they find jobs? >>>> The idea of tough love was conceived for the purpose of allowing addicts to hit bottom. People who have been unemployed for an extended period of time do not need to hit bottom, they are already there. The truth is, tough love is not love, it is hate. It is hardheartedness. In 2004 I lost the last full time job I have had. The following three years was filled with employer rejections, few if any job offers, refusal of the Church I had given over 11,000 dollars, being terminated from a part time job due to declining health, the developing of a heart condition which culminated in 2007 with hospitalization and surgery to drain fluid from my heart. Through out that time, all of my best efforts to obtain work, or creatively develop employment through the use of skills I have were unsuccessful. Efforts I made to create a ministerial position to help the poor were rejected by the Christian community and strongly opposed. The primary reason for this opposition was the fact that I was not working and it was assumed that I was "just trying to keep from going out and getting work". What this really came down to is despite the 30 years of my life that I worked hard and gave money to churches and Pastors to "do God's will", those same Pastors are not willing to give me the same benefit of doing God's will and I nearly died as a result of their hypocrisy. Despite the fact that I could not work and no employer would have hired me after coming out of the hospital, I was denied Social Security Disability, and State cash assistance until I qualified and became a Michigan Rehabilitation Client. I used to think that we should end welfare and return that responsibility to religions. My personal experience however, tells me that the religious and especially those who claim to be Christians will not live up to the expectations that God has placed on them. For that reason I have changed my mind on ending welfare. Not only does God expect nations to; as Ezekiel put it: "Strengthen the hands of the poor and needy", Jesus tells us that He will personally send Nations into eternal damnation who do not do so. (Matt 25). The years I spent homeless and going hungry took me from being a man who was a hard working able bodied individual, to being a man that gets exhausted and winded just from bending over for a couple of minutes. This is the effects that tough love has on people who cannot find work through no fault of their own. For what ever reason, people have this delusional point of view that "a person who wants a job will have a job" or that" a person has to get a job". I call this delusional because no one gets hired for a job just because they want one. Nor does anyone "go out and get a job". Every person who has ever been hired in the history of mankind, in every case and instance the person being hired is given the job. No person has ever gotten the job. To state that a person gets a job is to imply that the employer who hires a person for a job has no say in the matter of who is and is not hired. It implies that the only actions that matter are that of the one who is seeking employment. This is furthest from the truth. The truth is that the unemployed individual seeking work has no say in the matter whatsoever. All that an unemployed person can do is learn skills by going to college (which by the way is not genuine training) and hope that because of their educational background, they will be offered a job they can earn a living at. Genuine training guarantees a job at the end of the process. Attending college and taking classes does not guarantee a job at the end of the process. What we need is the one thing that Republicans, the conservative agenda and the rich are not willing to provide: Training that guarantees a job at the end. Training that allows one to earn an above minimum wage income so that one can take those actions that result in long term economic stability. We need to bring back apprenticeship programs. As a Michigan Rehabilitation Services client I qualify under the law for State Disability Assistance. That being the fact of the law, why do I have to be re-certified by a Department of Human Resources specialist every year? Should not my Michigan Rehabilitation Specialist take care of everything that is related to my Michigan Rehabilitation Services account, including the State Disability Assistance I receive? Would it not be economically more efficient for me to have a single specialist, a Michigan Rehabilitation Specialist in this case? Not only would it alleviate some of the workload on DHS personal that must re-certify those who by law are qualified, my MRS specialist will know when I get back to work before my DHS specialist will. This again allows for more efficiency and cost savings. In the end, those who are struggling as I did and lose their health as I did, are victims of the conservative movement and those who do not want to help the poor and needy in America. Scott
Thu, 05/10/2012 - 9:57am
My suggestions are; 1. Streamline Welfare Programs Online 2. Create a "Volunteerism" Incentive in public assistance programs 3. Implement a SHARE (Shortening Hours and Retaining Employees) Tax Credit for employers I don't think that tough love is the answer, but neither is letting people live off social programs and causing generational poverty. Jobs should be the ultimate goal for those on public assistance, but just getting public assistance is a job in itself due to all of the bureaucracy that legislators made to prevent people from getting it. I think that all of the state's welfare programs should be streamlined online (since all of the caseworkers were let go and can't help computer illiterate folks) and made easier to obtain while pushing people towards getting jobs. Creating an incentive to do resume building charity/service work should be placed as an option to getting more in unemployment checks. So if they learn construction skills at Habitat for Humanity, Computer skills at United Way, or business skills with Junior Achievement they'll be better off in the workforce while they look for jobs. Germany also has a cool idea of giving employers a tax credit if they shorten people's hours, but pay them the same. That creates a productivity shortage and forces employers to hire more people. So if employers with 60 employees working 40 hours a week are all cut back to 35 hours a week while getting paid the same as they were at 40, this would lower productivity by 300 hours and the employer could hire 9 more people at the same wages/salaries at his original 60 employees’ rates. It wouldn’t cost the state anything extra since there would be added tax revenue from more people being employed and there would be less people collecting unemployment insurance.
Thu, 06/28/2012 - 3:22pm
Thany you for offering up a solution instead critcizing like moat people.
Thu, 06/28/2012 - 3:19pm
Im not at all surprised from the comments of people who don't know the struggle. I was cut off welfare almost 3years ago. Not from this lifetime limit but i recieved an application 2 months ago stating i was cut off wrongfully as well. I have not been able to find a job. By the grace of God me & my children have maintained a roof over our heads. In case you people are unaware, nobody wants to be on welfare. People nneed it.
Thu, 07/12/2012 - 6:05pm
drug testing for all applicants...you must test to earn cash at a job, why not to get free $!
Thu, 08/02/2012 - 3:12pm
Give cash assistance, food stamps, and other help to people actualy trying to improve, better themselves, so they dont need to BE on welfare. People going to school with a family have a hard time making it through as it is. Deny people who could be working and choose to sit on their bums, reaping the benifits paid by those who do work and contribute to society. Help people who need the help, not the people that just want to mooch lazily through life.
Gertrude Marshall
Mon, 08/13/2012 - 10:05pm
I don't know if im too late for this but I do have an idea as too what can be done to reform what we call welfare today. I think that any one that is of able body other thern then those that are seriously needed at home should be given a number of hours per week to work. It would depend on how much assistance they recieve. I myself do collect foodstamps and am a 45 year old grandma of 9. I do child care for a living but, i also still recieve food stamps. I am still able bodied and am willing to work some hours other then what i do to earn the food stamps I recieve. Where as I do not have a degree or deploma I still know how to do many things. Im willing to use what ever skills I have to earn what I get until i no longer need the assistance, and that day shall come. There are alot of people that are recieving welfare today and that is costing alot of money. There are some people that have degrees and deplomas and are not usesing them because there is no job for them. There are those that may only know how to cut grass but never the less everone knows how to do something to earn money. Why not utilize the people that recieve welfare and cut some of the thousands of dollars spent on commuting people from other citys/states. Each City utilize the people that receive a form of welfare to do different jobs in their city to earn the assistance they recieve. Not like a job job kinda thing but according to what and how much assistance they receive will determaine how many hours per week/month they will work. I see it as not a welfare program but THE BRIDGE. This will help society in the area of crime, how you say. Well let say the family has children that are of leagal working age, and are not involved in any extracurricular activities in the summer they too could also earn the family assistance. That would keep them off the streets and out of things they ought not to be in for some hours. 2) It would cause people self esteem to rise knowing that they are actually earning a living for their family and not takeing a hand out. 3) The obesity my God would be a thing of the past, well it would help alot to get us out the house off the couch away from the table and get some excersise while WORKING. 4) It would save money because you are useing the people taht are already being paid in a way to do the jobs that are normally paid for by State. I could go on and on but I think this is the gest of it. You would be amazed of the talents that the people posess that are on State Assistance.
Ellen Moliskey
Thu, 09/13/2012 - 4:17pm
I also agree with what Cheryl said on March 29, 2012 at 9:42 am, and I also add that if government mandated each and every person accepting a cash assistant check to see a physician for several blood work tests for drug and alcohol substance abuse, and for that physician to report any such abuse to DHS posthaste, and those folks wuld loose their assistance. also for food stamp card holders to not be allowed to purchase any pop with their cards as they return the cans and get the cash to buy beer with(oh, I seen a man in my community go out behind the store and empty the cans in the field and then go back in and buy the beer with the money he got from the deposits). You see I am disabled and on SDA, and I have been fighting for my SSDI benifits since 2008, but since I live in such a country rural area there are no good doctors around here without traveling a very long ways , the nearest doctor that would be a specialist is over 3 hours away, which I cannot do because i cannot afford the gas, and I cannot drive myself that far without severe pain, and being sick for 3 days afterward, so I would need a motel room to stay over and whos gonna pay for that? There are planty of folks like me that need SDA and if and when my SSI claim is denied a final time, (going on it's third appeal now) I will loose my cash assitance which is all I have to live on, I can no longer work, and have not been able to work since 2007. I have owned my own home since 1997, bought and paid for by me. I am a 51 yr old women and live alone. No one to take care of me. So then what do I do? Put my bed in the back of my truck and go live in a parking lot? Oh but then I couldn't get food stamps anymore cause i wouldn't have an address. I thank God that so far I have had SDA of $269.00 cash each month to pay my bills and that I have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in, enough food to eat. But if something is not done about those who can work but won't and are getting the cash assitance they don't deserve, what will happen to those of us that need it and depend on it for life?
Patrick Dooley
Sat, 10/20/2012 - 12:16pm
I am now forced to share my social security check with my 3 sons their wives and my 5 grandchildren. My wife is also disabled and now we have an extra 11 people living in my 2 bedroom home. My oldest son got a job making 9.50 per hour. This will not put him and his wife and 3 kids in a home. The Republicans do not care about the welfare of people. Why do they not have a program implemented to help my son get a house or apartment? he needs a car. I would never put my family to the street. My son has a skilled trade but can not get a good paying job only 9.50 per hour. Please stop voting in these uncaring republicans I can see people getting jobs but Help them with some assistance, money, food stamps,transportation,insurance to drive to work, a way to have their own home, All welfare reform has done is make a hardship on me and my wife. It has cheated my 18 year old son of getting more help from us with his housing and food at the college he is going to. I pray to God these uncaring Republicans will get to experience the same . BTW I am a Disabled Vietnam Era veteran I already served is it ok if I enjoy what little time I have left. It is not a recession in my home it is a "GREAT DEPRESSION"
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 6:12pm
Please for all of you who are under the assumption that the poor are lazy, drunken users please watch the documentary called " Waging a Living". If getting a min wage job could save most families, they would gladly take them but they do not pay enough for basic necessities. Please educate yourselves on working poor and stop feeding into the deception and lies the rich feed you.
Fri, 11/30/2012 - 3:14am
Corrigan is right and Corrigan is wrong. Enforcing Time Limits is law. Abruptly enforcing Time Limits is unjust. The DHS is responsible for helping clients toward self-sufficiency. Cash recipients lack proper support from their workers, so the agency has failed to comply with the rules of the program.
doc peachez
Sun, 12/16/2012 - 5:39pm
this state is cutting corners in the wrong corners. so let's build a bridge that is not going to generate income for the state. lets continue to shuffle money in the "general" budgets to line political pockets. lets meet on mackinaw island every year and spend 10's of thousands of dollars on a retreat for a meeting, let's continue driving the price of gas up and a simple gallon of milk so that it is impossible to purchase on $30K a year. let's take money from the wrong avenues and keep investing it in money pits that do the state or its people no good. i never thought i would become disabled. i had a small nest egg built up in case i lost my job, i was the responsible person. however, our great govenor granholm decided one year to take money from a dnr budget - hence the shuffling- and put it into a garbage inhaul budget so canada could dump its trash here. i got bit by a mosquito on a public lake in michigan that i grew up on, got west nile and almost died. i had no health insurance as a teacher and could not afford $225k in medical bills but the doctors saved my life. dhs took 9 months to approve medicaid when it is suppose to take 90 days. i never got the rehab for my brain or my nervous system so now i am stuck like this forever. who is responsible to help those who need it? i paid my taxes for 25 years and i donated to all those charities all those years. not one charity has ever helped in three years and dhs is a joke. quit hiring and putting illiterate people in public humanitarian positions to make the decision for our people and our state. the federal government gives this state plenty of grant money to take care of the people......people like me who cannot afford $550 in prescriptions, $550 in rent and over $4000 of medical expenses every month to live, on social security of 1200.00 a month. thats right folks. i am tired of hearing people say get off your ass and get a job and quit living off the system. there are cultures and races that breed children to be pregnant by 16 and live off welfare, i agree these people have no right to the system and there should be plans in place that in the event a 16 year old girl is raped or becomes pregnant that the plan should be to give her the tools she needs to become self sufficient. welfare for those people should be temporary, welfare for the needy and disabled should be handled differently. make the govenor have a mayor meeting through Skype or teleconferencing instead of fancy expensive retreats to the UP, lets fill the abandoned houses in the state and return toursim to where it should be, lets make the charities give the money and goods to the people it is suppose to and lets stop voting idiots into office
Thu, 09/19/2013 - 11:21pm
State takes away this assistance to the poor,u better expect them to pay out a ton more when cps removes the kids for inadequate housing,food,ect. Ppl who qualify for cash assistance are already forced to attend work first. The rest of us that dont attend work first are deemed disabled (receiving disability). The kids then receive money from the state. Like $100.00 a month per child. Y is it mandatory for the primary caretakers to b forced to attend all these classes ect....y is friend of the court doing absolutely nothing to enforce child support!!! That would help tremendously...... It is not as easy to receive benefits as most ppl seem to think! Unless,disabled, already working,or attending work first (daily) u do not qualify
Barb Doner
Thu, 10/03/2013 - 1:27pm
I think a part of reform should include the items that recipients are able to purchase. If they receive the money, I think it should be spent on healthy choice items, not pop (for pop can return) and junk food. There are already limits set such as toilet paper, soap and shampoo. I would think that these are items that would promote healthy living.
former Michigan...
Fri, 02/28/2014 - 10:53am
Michigans very old Poor Law Any person who shall bring or remove, or cause to be brought or removed, any poor or indigent person, from outside this state, into any county within it, with intent to make such county chargeable with the support of the poor person, shall forfeit and pay $50.00, to be recovered before the district or municipal court of the judicial district or municipality into which the poor person was brought, or in which the offender is located; and shall also be required to transport the poor person out of the state, or support him or her at his or her own expense.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:38am
The problem with this Cash assistance Cap is that it is doing more harm than good to the people. You are not just punishing the welfare abusers, Your punishing everyone. Limiting the time on welfare can be benificial to the economy but their going about it the wrong way. The welfare system offers more than cash... it also offers opportunity to help these people find jobs. Once these people are cut off of welfare, they are no longer eligible to participate in the job search program... Why? If the ideal is to help families reach self sufficiency, why are these families unable to participate in the job search program after they are kicked off cash assistance. Lets be real... some of the women on aid needs help with childcare. Finding a job without the help of the program will take welfare up to 45 days to approve their case.. Are u serious? If you are going to cut these people off of cash assistance at least you could let them still participate in the job search program. Doing so will at least help them with childcare to actual be able to look for jobs and go to interviews and start work with children already in daycare. At the least... everyones agenda is not to live off of welfare some of us need reliable child care!