Imagine you are on the verge of homelessness, no job, you have applied at every possible job opening, no training assistance available, no family to help, children at home to support and the small amount of help you do receive from the state welfare system is about to be depleted. Over 41,000 families lost their cash assistance benefits in October of 2011, over 14,000 more are estimated to lose theirs by October of 2012. Michigan families are facing these issues since Governor Snyder signed a bill limiting welfare benefits to 48 month (4 years) in ones lifetime.
Porter, 2011) The changes brought to Michigans welfare system by Snyder and the Michigan Legislature are unmatched nationally. The result is an unstable social experiment that could help transform the states economy, or fill the beds of homeless shelters and prisons (French, 2011). Safeguards need to be in place to recognize the cyclical nature of our economy Dave (Maluchnik, 2011). There is much history to welfare and State Representative Horn expanded on some of this in his article.
This was a very good concept to assist with his reasoning of the need for welfare reform. It also provides readers with a recent background regarding welfare to where it stands today. In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law federal government limits on cash assistance. Michigan Governor Jenifer Granholm signed a bill in 2006, capping assistance to 48 months.
(Horn, 2011) However, because the reform idea was repeatedly threatened with a veto, a quirky little amendment was slipped in at the last minute, causing the law to expire on Sept. 0, 2011, the day before the 48-month limit was to take place.This was politics of the worst sort because it gave honest people the impression that Michigan had a cap on welfare, while clever politicians could tell their voters not to worry about a thing they had everything under control. (Horn, 2011) Horn first sponsored and presented the welfare reform bill in 2007 because he saw many defects and weaknesses with the current welfare system.
He claims, the bill does more than put a cap on welfare and it was not created as a remedy to save the state budget, it was designed to bring clarity to an out of control system. One of the most important elements of the new law is the provision to increase the Earned Income Disregard. This gives recipients the ability to work closer to full-time hours without completely losing their grant (Horn, 2011). Up until the bill was in effect, when a person worked about 20 hours, they would begin to lose cash assistance.
At this time recipients would quit their jobs, because they felt they could earn more money on welfare. Employers complained regularly of this problem because they would have to find replacement workers (Horn, 2011). The new bill also made other revisions such as a person convicted of two or more drug related felonies are ineligible, employment related sanctions and removal of the initial excuse offer which states if a participation penalty is recorded and the participant agrees to comply within ten days loss off cash benefits will be waived. DHS seeks to comment on 2012 TANF plan, 2011).
Both Horn and DHS briefly touch on the details of the JET program. The Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Program was developed by DHS (Department of Human Services) to help cash assistance recipients overcome barriers to becoming self-sufficient and obtain self-sufficiency. The Jet program provides recipients with tools such as resume building, job searching, speakers and more. Horn (2011) goes on to explain and compare welfare time limits with Michigans neighboring states.
He claims each of these states has acknowledged the wisdom of creating a safety net with limits. Michigan has now joined our neighbors in ensuring help for the vulnerable and a path to success for the able-bodied. Michigan will always maintain a strong safety net, but this should never have been considered as a lifestyle (Horn, 2011). The new law was needed to provide clarity to the system, and fine tune some details some of which Horn expresses in his article.
Another wide know reason is that Michigans state budget has been in a crisis causing them to raise taxes and cut spending.In the many other articles I read legislatures had little to say in response to what welfare recipients would do other than, Get a job. Horns article claims that the majority of Michigan tax payers favor the change in the welfare reform, that the majority of welfare recipients have made welfare a lifestyle rather than a safety net as it is meant to be and that clarification and reform was desperately needed in the system. Though his personal knowledge and experience about the subject are noted and incorporated he failed to illustrate a good deal of supporting facts and details other than his own.
The most prevalent and impacting change of all was the 48 month lifetime limit, starting with assistance received after October 2007. That meant if a family had received cash assistance every month since October 2007 they would be would be released promptly when the reform took effect in October 2011. The Department of Human Services (DHS) took reform several steps further by enforcing the federal 60-month limit that had been ignored for years, counting assistance given out back to 1996.Since the state law only calculated assistance back to 2007 and DHS calculated back to 1996, many families were in the odd position of having timed out of a 60-month cap, while not having reached the states 48-month limit.
However In March of 2012 a Michigan circuit court judge made a ruling in a class action lawsuit that had been brought against the Michigan DHS for wrongfully releasing thousands of families off of cash assistance. In the courts opinion, DHS exceeded its authority when it enacted a rule limiting cash assistance to a period of no more than 48 months.However with careful review of the ruling DHS believes the ruling is not dependable with state law, which gives DHS authority to enact rules to achieve efficient, fair and cost-effective administration of the program. DHS has filed an appeal with the court of appeals seeking a reversal of the ruling.
This process still underway, DHS is also seeking an adjournment of the judges orders (DHS appeals Welfare law ruling, 2011). The stereotypical view of welfare recipients presents them as lazy citizens, not eager to gain employment or be a prominent member of society and living off the hard work of others.According to a recent study, 21. 9 percent of recipients need help for less than 24 months, but over 57 percent are on assistance for more than four years.
Many inequities and inconsistencies actually weaken families rather than strengthen them (DHS, 2012, para 2). DHS has recognized some of the inequality and discrepancy factors and has driven towards helping families overcome these issues. Some of the inequalities and discrepancies include include lack of education, single parenthood as well as resume building and interview skills.DHS created the JET program to assist recipients with overcoming these issues.
In 2006, 38. 7 million people in the United States lived at or below the federal poverty level, among them 13. 28 million children. Households headed by single women had the highest poverty rate in the United States fully 31 were poor (DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, Proctor, and Smith, 2010).
Hildebrandt Stevens (2006) wrote and researched much about the welfare system, including results from recent studies on current and past welfare recipients as well as affected single mothers.For a single mother in a low-paying job, a conflict can occur between her imperative to keep a job so she can pay for food and shelter and her responsibility to see to the health, safety, and education of her children (Hildebrandt Stevens, 2006). They go on to explain the many barriers single mother recipients face in order to obtain and keep jobs that could sustain their families. These include limited time with their children, child care problems, and decreases in childrens school performance.
Most women worked in spite of these limitations, but they cycled on and off jobs, which left them with intermittent benefits, unstable income, and the appearance of a poor employment record. Welfare-to-work programs were researched and barriers were found to employment and self-sufficiency, such as limited education, limited work experience, issues related to single parenting of young children, and work-limiting health problems that contributed to lower than expected levels of employment and self-sufficiency after 2 years in the program.More recent analysis of earlier data sets has indicated that women generally show modest economic progress in the short term, but considerable employment instability and cycling in and out of poverty is common. (Hildebrandt Stevens, 2006) Disconnected (being without work or welfare assistance) brings forth barriers to staying connected.
These include limited education, poor health, and lack of transportation, learning disabilities, substance abuse, domestic violence, and risk of economic hardship. Lack of child care is an important factor in employment instability for low-income mothers with young children.Because the cost of care for more than one child exceeds the earnings of most low-income mothers, these women must earn well above the minimum wage (Hildebrandt Stevens, 2006). It is apparent that welfare services are not intensive or flexible enough to meet the needs of families with multiple barriers as they try to get and keep adequate employment.
Different or enhanced strategies are needed to address the barriers of some welfare recipients if they are to move into the workforce before they are terminated from cash support.Increasing the likelihood of success will require new research so that the new strategies will be based on evidence. (Hildebrandt Stevens, 2006) Hildebrandt and Stevens do a brilliant job analyzing the welfare system, the risks giving abundant detail and contributing factors. Hilldebrandts articles are often cited in other publications and her research and articles are well recognized.
I consider her abundance of experience with citizens of poverty and the welfare system a huge asset to the knowledge she is able to portray.Many of the suggestions and points she claims and informs about are actively overlooked my other authors. It has been said that DHS will most likely succeed in their appeal to limit cash benefits to 48 months of ones life time (DHS appeals Welfare law ruling, 2011). This upcoming hearing affects me personally, among thousands of others.
The states decisions were made in haste and not looked broadly into. Specifics of situations, barriers and details of the many welfare recipients were not investigated enough.It seems they are informed through their own personal statistics rather than looking at welfare recipients more personally. Their judgment was clouded by welfare recipient stereotyping in effect leaving hard working recipients with nothing.
Both DHS and Horn acclaimed the advantages of the JET program. However there are some disadvantages that are not addressed. If a recipients wishes to further their education funding is only available once in a lifetime and is limited to a program that will be competed in one year or less.That leaves recipients with little leeway for educational choices.
Some recipients such as me have not consistently been on welfare for a continuous 48 months as things happens, jobs get lost and recipients find themselves having to become a welfare recipient once again. DHS allows little consideration for the failing economy. The U. S.
Census Bureau reports indicate that state unemployment insurance benefits rose from 20. 5 billion in 2000 to 32. 3 billion in 2007 (when the current economic downturn began) (DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, Proctor, and Smith, 2010).Many recipients do not have transportation, preventing them from gaining employment and no consideration is taken into effect rural areas that leave fewer options for public transportation and job availability.
There are those that have a past criminal history and have since changed and are held back from benefits and employment options. There are so many other barriers like these that are not addressed enough. There are many barriers facing single mothers as Hilldebrandt claims. Much is overlooked because of the governments obscured judgment.
How can they make a correct decision or analysis if they have never been poverty or welfare stricken themselves Hildebrandt did well addressing barriers of welfare recipient single mothers. The changes brought to Michigans welfare system were made in haste and unstable. The states reasonings are unclear and were not examined well. You have to ask yourself what is going to happen to the many single parents whose barriers have been overlooked or ignored.
The state needs to put safe guards in place, actively work on assisting with barriers recipients face and recognizing the state of the economy. (Horn, 2011)