In This Week’s Lansing Update:
Nearly 13,000 Michigan families will likely lose state benefits on October 1 once Governor Snyder signs welfare reform legislation passed by the state Senate this week. House Bills 4409 and 4410 create a retroactive 48-month lifetime limit on welfare assistance for Michigan’s neediest families and strengthens penalties for those found to be in non-compliance.
The legislation is part of the administration’s effort to cut some $65 million from the 2011–12 Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) budget. DHS is the state department primarily responsible for administering policies and assistance programs that benefit Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens. According to House Bill 4409, a first instance of non-compliance will bring a three month exclusion from benefits; a second instance will bring a six month exclusion; and a third instance of non-compliance will mean a lifetime ban on assistance for the recipient and his/her children, as only those with children are eligible for monthly benefits. Both the first and second penalties will count toward the 48-month clock. Current policy allows for a grace period for the first non-compliance, three months for the second and one year for the third.
During the budget process MCC staff advocated for an exemption from the 48-month clock for those who are disabled or living with a disabled relative. The state Senate this week included such an amendment, and retained an exemption for victims of domestic violence passed earlier in the year by the House of Representatives. MCC also welcomed language in the Senate bill supported earlier in the year by the House that increases the amount of hours an individual can work while still receiving benefits.
The legislation now heads back to the House of Representatives for an anticipated quick approval before being sent to the governor for his signature. A statement from the Conference on the Senate’s passage of HB’s 4409–4410 can be read here.