Rep to recipients: 'Man up' and feed family

State Rep. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, tried for four years to reform Michigan’s welfare system for cash assistance. On his fifth try, bolstered by the solid Republican majorities in the House and Senate and a Republican governor brought in via the 2010 elections, Horn shepherded a massive reform effort into law. The keystone of that reform will take effect next month, when more than 11,000 Michigan families who’ve received cash assistance for more than 48 months will be banished from the system.

Horn spoke with Bridge Magazine this week about what he hopes the changes will accomplish:

Bridge: More than 11,000 families will be losing cash assistance next month because of welfare reform you authored. What will they do?

A: They’ll get jobs. The average cash assistance is $515 a month. That equates to a part-time job, 16 hours a week, at minimum wage. There are plenty of those jobs out there.

The other part of the reform is, there are other services for these families still available. They still have access to food assistance, and day care for their children so they can work.

Bridge: Why was this a problem that needed to be addressed?

A: We have people who have been on (cash assistance) for 12 to 14 years. It was time for it to end.

Bridge: Many people who have been on welfare for years have physical or mental challenges that make holding a job difficult. Others have grown up in a culture where receiving aid is a lifestyle – a generational poverty that is hard to break. How does this reform help these Michiganians become productive members of the economy?

A: People with disabilities are exempted from this cut-off. These are able-bodied adults who should be able to work, but refuse to. Right now we have a job training program (required for able-bodied welfare recipients) that isn’t running very efficiently. We have about a 21 percent compliance rate (meaning 21 percent of welfare recipients who are supposed to complete the work training actually finish the training.) Our almost exclusive contractor is Michigan Works. They’re struggling to get people to show up, and when they do show up, they quit.

Bridge: Is this as much a philosophical debate over the role of government in helping the poor, as it is an economic issue?

A: We, as a society, are saying, if you fall off your horse, we’re going to pick you up, dust you off and put you back on your horse. If you don’t want to get on your horse, then that’s a problem. Now, you now don’t earn money on welfare, you receive it. We’re asking people to earn it.

Bridge: What do you think we’ll know about welfare reform in six months that we don’t know now?

A: We’ll find out what 48 other states have already found out, that people will find their way in life, they’ll pick up a hammer or a paint brush and man up and feed their family. We have to pull this wagon together. I have confidence people will do the right thing.”

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Thu, 10/20/2011 - 9:15am
We only have to look back to when the State ended State funded payments of cash for employable adults, called General Assistance. Many people warned of people starving and dying. Nothing like that happened. The Adults used to receiving this stipend found a way to replace their income and some moved to warmer climates, they found ways to survive.
David Jones
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 9:22am
I don't see a thing wrong with this mandate, too many self interested politicians are concerned with maintaining a broken system. I am happy that someone had the wherewithall to enforce the legislation, I am saddened by the attempts to make Mr Horn a scapegoat, its not him, he is trying to aid in making a correction that will save the taxpayers some money.
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 9:36am
"Man up and feed your family"? His whole argument is based on penalizing people. This man has no understanding of the issues at hand or the state of some families in our communities.
Kathy Dennis
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 9:46am
I am sure all the church's will support these people and provide a roof over their heads when it gets cold this winter. What did JC say " Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me".
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 3:13pm
Some churches may, but many of them are already at their limit. Remember, another few thousand Michigan families will hit their 48-month lifetime cap EVERY MONTH, adding to the burden. Also, Rep. Horn is mistaken in his smug statement that "still have access to food assistance, and day care for their children so they can work." This is inaccurate, as it doesn't take into account the new ASSET TESTING that all applicants for assistance will be required to undergo. If the five-year-old car you got before you were laid off or went on food stamps is too nice, or if you haven't yet been evicted from your home...tough. No Bridge Card, heating assistance or "free day care" for you!
Mon, 10/24/2011 - 9:50pm
I don't know if recipients can or cannot get any aid at all, but I do know that we are already stretched thin and many churches across metro and tri county areas have already been helping. I find it curious that they chose to do this when there is over 24% unemployment in the city of detroit. This should have been done when we were cruising along at 4 and 5% unemployment and you could actually find a job. I think this is going to reap a much more dire consequence.
Gail Kleine
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 11:03am
I understand the rationale for this move; however, I am puzzled that it is occurring during a recession when jobs are difficult to attain, particularly for low skilled workers, which I assume many of these people are. I am concerned about the welfare of the children in these families. Don't forget that people who received cash assistance had no dependents, no children to support.
Working Citizen
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 11:05am
@ Concerned: How is he penalizing people?? The issues at hand, as well as the state of some families, is that there are too many lazy people - able-bodied people who can work - but refuse to, just like he said. I struggle, too. I make just a tad over the welfare/food stamp cut-off income. Did I lower my working hours or otherwise try to get myself just below that poverty line?? No. I suffer many times, too, with no money for food or gas. I have to borrow money from my family, or seek the help of my church. I find a way. And so can all these other "poor" people - who are "poor" BY CHOICE. I was a single mother for years. I have 2 children. It's absolutely preposterous that the "poor" people are allowed to keep having children ... 4, 5, 6 and up to 10 kids, when they have no means to support them (my friend was a social worker at DHS, she had a client who had 10 kids from 10 different fathers, and she admitted to having them so that she could keep getting money for them from the State - I say MAKE these deadbeat dads and mothers find another means to support their offspring ... Welfare should also be putting a limit on the number of children they will pay support for!!). These poor kids are the ones who grow up to see welfare as a way of life and "an income" rather than the "temporary help/gift" that it is. I see nothing wrong with helping the elderly, whose income generally declines drastically after they retire, and they often have no other resources. But many people DO have family and church. Families need to band together to start helping each other. God commands families and Christians to help the poor and needy, not the government. The government simply "acts" on behalf of the citizens, assuming responsibility for being the Christian benevolence representing the people. Benevolence is always meant to be short-term help, until one gets back on their feet, if they are healthy, able-bodied workers. It is truly time for us to be more wise, and STOP the generational reliance on welfare. It's just not fair to the rest of us who are responsible, and manage to find our own help somewhere. I applaud Rep. Horn for his efforts ... this revamping is long overdue. I am sick and tired of paying to support people who are more than able to support themselves, but refuse to. Too many people take advantage of this kindness and generosity. We owe them nothing at all. It's time for them to grow up, take responsibility, and start contributing and giving back to society, and start helping others like they have been helped. Thank you, Rep. Horn, for standing up for the rest of us!!
Chuck Fellows
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 1:50pm
Like many of the "mandates" and "reforms" being produced in Lansing this one is based upon opinion, not fact. Questions like "How many?" "What's the actual cost?" "What are alternative solutions?" Why isn't the Michigan Works program working? are seldom asked and if asked never adequately answered. Simple solutions from simple minds appealing to the lowest common denominator of human behavior. Disgusting.
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 2:38pm
Agreed! Next, let's start pushing retirees off of SSI and Medicare once what they paid in is used up in benefits (about 4 to 6 years on average). Most are unproductive for decades and have poor health habits and their volunteering drops by half at age 65. I have good health habits and I'm much more productive but still cannot afford health insurance.
Merilee Griffin
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 2:34pm
This policy is not only absolutely heartless, it's economic nonsense! Has Rep. Horn read the unemployment statistics in Michigan? Does he seriously want to add 11,000 more people to the thousands who are already competing for every one of scarce, low-paid, low-skilled jobs? I'm all in favor of requiring people to do something to better themselves while they receive assistance. I think that's what the Clinton reforms did. But to shut off the most vulnerable people just as winter approaches when there clearly are no available jobs - that's diabolical. And to Kathy Dennis, who thinks the churches will take of them: JC didn't mean the churches will do it - he meant YOU should do it.
Thu, 05/07/2020 - 11:24pm

Wow...can't help you. You're lost.

Thu, 10/20/2011 - 4:12pm
Rep. Horn is mistaken when he writes that "Right now we have a job training program (required for able-bodied welfare recipients)..." In fact, cash assistance recipients are not required to participate in job training. They are required to participate in work activities, and approved job training is just one activity among several by which they can fulfill their work requirements. The majority of cash assistance recipients who engage in work activities to fulfill the requirements do so by working in a job. Readers should not take his statement to mean that tens of thousands of cash assistance recipients are being herded into job training programs for which they are not prepared or in which they do not want to participate. That being said, there are many cash assistance recipients that DO want to participate in skills training in order to be able to find stable work, escape poverty, and avoid going onto public assistance in the future--yet are unable to do so due to child care needs, transportation, or the demands of their low-wage job. If Michigan wants to effectively address poverty, build its workforce, and help people avoid the need for public assistance, it will make a serious effort to support this population in building its skills. For some, that means letting them receive cash assistance for a longer period while they are in training. Simply "kicking them off welfare" hardly seems like the best place to start.
David Eichenberg
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 4:34pm
"What will they do?" "They'll get jobs." At 11% unemployment? This was a good idea implemented at a terrible time.
David Waymire
Thu, 10/20/2011 - 5:26pm
Of course, we are failing to even consider whether this will actually work to reduce poverty rates. The facts are that the states who do the least to help the poor have the highest poverty rates. But then, facts are no longer a relevant matter to discuss with this Legislature...or, unfortunately, the Nerd Governor. Watch the dashboard as we turn Michigan into Michissippi.
Al Covell
Sun, 07/15/2012 - 8:25pm
Rep. Horn's comment about a hammer will go down as the stupidest remark of the century. The fact there's nothing but hazy, nebulous "misinformation" emanating from the office of the DHS director and the magnificent silence of the blowhard teabaggers who pompous claims of reform confirm their reforms were/are nothing but hot air.