Michigan is in a critical economic position. It’s no secret that the state is facing vast deficit problems, but the measures the current government are taking to address them seem to ignore the fact that the citizens of Michigan are also facing the same problems. Last week, the Michigan State Senate passed a bill to put a 48-month lifetime limit on the state’s welfare programs in order to cut governmental spending. At a time when many Americans and especially those from Michigan are struggling to find a job, let alone gainful income for their families, this legislation couldn’t be less appropriate. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder must not sign this bill into law.
The new lifetime limit will not only affect future recipients of welfare, but also the current families who receive benefits. No families will be grandfathered in and those who expected to receive benefits into the next year will suddenly see their monthly income drop by an average of $515. 12,600 families will lose benefits on Oct. 1 and the majority of the people affected will be children. Many adults in this program already have jobs and are struggling to re-enter or stay in the workforce, but cannot earn enough money to support their families. These are not people who should be cut off from welfare.
Officially, the national unemployment rate is just under 10 percent. But most economists estimate that the percentage of people who do not have full-time jobs or are not currently seeking work is closer to 15 percent. At a time when even the most experienced professionals are out of work and filling jobs they are overqualified for, it’s going to be extremely difficult for low-income families to find employment that provides enough money to cover their basic cost of living. The current economic crisis has placed many people in a financial situation that they couldn’t anticipate. They’re not just freeloaders, as some lawmakers suggest. Many of these people are victims of recent economic troubles and abruptly slashing their income supplements could be disastrous. These are families with children, and cutting them off from welfare is one of the most callous ways for the state to save money.
Welfare has been reformed and adjusted since its inception. Unfortunately, there will always be people who take advantage of loopholes in governmental benefits if they can. There is good language in the current welfare bill that disallows the spending of benefits on things like alcohol and the lottery, but this hardly makes up for the detriment it imposes on struggling families. Michigan’s welfare system may need further revision, but reducing lifetime limits at a time like this is the wrong solution to save money. Democrats suggested providing exceptions to the 48-month limit in communities where unemployment is greater than 25 percent, but Republicans passed on the offer. Michigan citizens deserve more than a tough-luck attitude from its government. This austere legislation will cost Michigan families and children far more than the government will save.