By Marian Kramer
The People’s Tribune www.peoplestribune.org
The Michigan House and Senate passed legislation approving a four-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits. If you have been on welfare for four years, you are automatically cut off.
Come October 1, 12,600 families will be cut off the rolls. The family unit will also lose their insurance and their food stamps. Then every month, more people will be eliminated. If you have been on welfare for say three years, you only have one year left. Ohio is also going through this process — they are trying to legislate a three-year time limit. These are examples of the wholesale cuts that are taking place in the Rust Belt against that section of the working class that has the least. If allowed, it could eventually affect the whole working class.
The four-year time limitation is part of TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), the welfare “reform” bill that was passed in 1996 under the administration of Bill Clinton.
However, it was left up to the states as to when they would implement this part of the bill. Some states rushed to implement it and others tended to leave the time limitation alone.
Now, the present administration in Lansing—via Gov. Snyder—is not only implementing the time limitation with the blessing of the legislative branch of the government, he is going back retroactively.
[VOD ed.: However, the original legislation establishing the four-year limit was signed by Governor Jennifer Granholm at the beginning of her second term, although she had promised during her campaign not to do so. She used as an excuse that the legislation only cut off adults, not children in the family. It is unclear from the legislation whether that provision is still maintained.]
The Governor says people are to get a job. How can you get a job in an economy that is not producing jobs for the vast majority of people—people are thrown off the job rolls by technology. We have people coming into the Michigan Welfare Rights Office who are trying to match up two or three jobs. They still can’t survive. They are not grossing the amount of money they would have realized if they had their old jobs. They need assistance.
The Michigan government claims that by moving to do the four-year time limitation, an estimated $77.4 million will be saved. There is no consideration given to what will happen to people without money to buy food or shelter. They will be out on the street.
If the masses of people do not rally against these particular cuts, it will set the foundation for the cuts to go deeper. They will continue the taxation on the pension, eat away at other benefits of the workers, and eliminate certain programs not relevant for the corporate interests. If we allow this to go forward, what is it going to do for social security on a federal level—and will there be a time limit for social security? We have to think about this. Enforcement of this bill would set the foundation for all of our benefits to be eliminated.
When Snyder went after the pensions for Michigan seniors, the people mounted a massive campaign. Suddenly some $400 million in funds showed up. The government is not broke. They don’t need to eliminate people on public assistance in order to “fuel the economy.” They are trying to use general funds for the corporate interests. We should remember, too, that it took both Democrats and Republicans to pass the original bill. We need to fight in the interests of the whole working class. Tax the rich!
Many groups, including the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, are mounting a campaign. We see this as central to the overall battles taking place for workers’ rights. Please contact us. Call (313) 964-0618 or visit our website: http://www.mwro.org/.
*VOD ed.: The next are already here. Additional legislation was passed July 13 in Michigan’s Senate to extend the four-year limit to ALL recipients, not only those eligible to participate in the Jobs, Education and Training Program (formerly Work First). Click on Four year welare limit bill 2011-HEBS-4409 and Four year asistance cut-off 2011-HEBS-4410 to read Bills 4409-10.
The new legislation requires
- Anyone in the household over 16 who is not in school to meet the JET work requirements, or the family will be cut off. Child labor is back.
- 19-year-olds in the household will no longer be covered.
- Non-citizens will be required to undergo processing through the FEDERAL SYSTEMATIC ALIEN VERIFICATION FOR ENTITLEMENTS (SAVE) PROGRAM.
- Individuals must voluntarily assign all child support benefits to the state, a double dip: if a parent is working and paying child support, they are also paying taxes which support the Department of Human Services programs. Mothers are already required to identify the fathers of their children even if they are not sure of paternity. They were receiving a $50 a month pass-through from child support, but even that appears to be eliminated.
Instances of third-time noncompliance with numerous DHS rules will result in PERMANENT ineligibility for benefits, not just 13 months. Numerous additional reasons for noncompliance are added, with the provision that the department may create more such rules.
- The recipient will have only 12 days to take action to dispute the permanent ineligibility determination.
- If the landlord is delinquent on payment of property taxes to the state, vendored rents for the tenants on assistance will cease. “Delinquent” does not mean the landlord no longer owns the property; it just means he is behind and has a chance to catch up.
- Re-assessment of eligibility is now done every 12 months, instead of 24 months.
- The Department shall review the feasibility of a SUBSTANCE ABUSE TESTING PROGRAM WITHIN THE FAMILY INDEPENDENCE PROGRAM and issue a final report by Dec. 2011.
- Families will be allowed an additional $200 a year in exempt income to qualify..
- Under HB 4410, exemptions from the JET program will be only for periods of 90 days.
- There is only a 60-day post-partum period allowing exemptions for new mothers from JET.
- Pregnant women must present medical documentation of inability to work.
- A provision allowing DHS to provide for additional exemptions is eliminated in 2013.
Sponsors of the bill are: Kenneth Horn – (primary), Kenneth Kurtz, Sharon Tyler, Lisa Lyons, Marty Knollenberg, Dave Agema, Bruce Rendon, Chuck Moss, Ray Franz, Ken Yonker, Paul Muxlow, Matt Lori, Bill Rogers, Tom McMillin, Cindy Denby, Mike Callton, Wayne A. Schmidt, Hugh D. Crawford, Rick Outman, Pat Somerville, Kevin Cotter, Mike Shirkey, Bob Genetski, Greg MacMaster, Amanda Price, Jon Bumstead, Paul Scott, Al Pscholka, Peter Pettalia, Earl Poleski, Paul Opsommer, Ed McBroom, Ben Glardon, Kevin Daley, Kurt Heise, Margaret O’Brien, Joe Haveman, Philip Potvin, Frank Foster, Gail Haines, and Aric Nesbitt.
The bill passed 24-12 along party lines (Democrats voted against it.)