Catholic Conference Urges Speaker, House Members to Send Welfare Reform Bills to Conference Committee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Lansing)—In order to allow for the Legislature to discuss how the state will prevent thousands of children from falling deeper into poverty, Michigan Catholic Conference has urged in a memo to the Speaker of the House and the chairman of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee for House Bills 4409 and 4410, legislation that reforms the state’s welfare assistance program, to be sent to a conference committee.
According to the correspondence from Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy Tom Hickson: “As you are aware, the legislation, if enacted, will mean thousands of vulnerable Michigan families and their children will be eliminated from state assistance due to the retroactive 48-month clock. The number of children who will be impacted, and the importance this state places on caring for vulnerable children (the MiDashboard includes a ‘children in poverty category’) demands a more thorough discussion of the bills than what took place in the State Senate.”
At the end of June the State Senate discharged from the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee HBs 4409 and 4410, which prevented testimony and comment from the general public. Two weeks later when the Senate returned to session the chamber passed the bills on a party line vote. Confusion about the bills immediately ensued as many members apparently did not realize the impact the legislation will have on the state’s poorest children. Once the Senate grants immediate effect to the bills, which is needed to realize budget savings for the fiscal year that begins October 1, the legislation will be sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence and is expected to be quickly approved and sent to the governor.
If HBs 4409 and 4410 become law, those families and their children who have received assistance from the state for a cumulative 48 months will immediately lose benefits once the bills go into effect. While the Conference credited both the House and Senate for inserting language that increases the earned income disregard and exempts disabled persons and their caregivers from the running clock, the bills in their entirety, according to an earlier statement the Conference, “will only create wider cracks through which more people will fall.”
The memo from the Conference concludes: “When House Bills 4409 and 4410 arrive from the Senate, Michigan Catholic Conference respectfully, and strongly, urges the House of Representatives to give a more thorough and compassionate review of this legislation, and to consider sending the bills to conference committee in order to allow for a discussion of how the state will prevent thousands of children from falling deeper into poverty if and when these bills become law. The welfare and dignity of vulnerable children must take priority over budget targets.”
Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.