This week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the fiscal year 2024 budget, which contains several critical programs for feeding the poor, providing for children in foster care, increasing the availability of affordable housing, and more.
Here is a rundown of the items of interest to the Michigan Catholic Conference that made it into the final budget:
Mothers and Children
The finished budget kept $4.4 million in diaper assistance grants for diaper assistance programs, maternity homes, and other nonprofit agencies that distribute diapers free of charge, which will help mothers and families in need. The spending plan also included:
- $50,000 for the foster care closet, which allows local children and foster families in need to shop — for free of charge — clothing, shoes, toys, linens and more.
- Preservation of the foster care administrative rate paid out to foster care agencies such as Catholic Charities at not less than $55.20.
Serving the Poor and Vulnerable
Lawmakers increased by $2.8 million the annual back-to-school clothing allowance for eligible children in the Family Independence Program, bringing the allocation to $10 million total.
An additional three months of food assistance was funded for victims of domestic violence or human trafficking. The budget also eliminates the five-year eligibility waiting period for legal resident immigrants to obtain Medicaid coverage.
Other programs to help the poor and vulnerable in our state provided for in the budget include:
- $50,000 for caseworkers to provide immediate assistance to kids removed from dangerous environments, including victims of human trafficking.
- Preservation of $200,000 human trafficking intervention services and $170,000 for the Human Trafficking Commission fund.
- Preservation of the Heat/Eat program, which helps low-income residents, including the elderly and persons with disabilities, receive additional federal food assistance.
- Maintenance of the rate paid to homeless shelters at $19 per diem.
There were several funding provisions related to gun safety and suicide prevention, including funding to distribute gun safety equipment.
These items included $600,000 to create a state Office of Community Violence, which the budget stipulates can use funding to distribute trigger locks and gun safety boxes to households where a child is present, and education and outreach materials and services to interested private community organizations, firearm retailers, and operators of gun ranges related to suicide prevention.
Another $500,000 was provided to distribute gun safety equipment to public and law enforcement agencies. Additionally, budget language stipulates that certain state agencies can use funds appropriated for firearms safety to distribute gun safety equipment to the public and law enforcement agencies at no cost.
Lawmakers allocated $3 million to provide legal services, housing support, staffing, and outreach for foreign-born non-citizens in this state.
The budget allocates $50 million to, in part, expand access to affordable housing across the state.
There was also a $7 million grant allocated toward the Pope Francis Center in Detroit for a housing project. The center serves the homeless in Detroit by providing meals, supportive services, crisis response, and housing assistance, according to its website.