Commentary:Michigan’s Welfare Reform policy has sparked plenty of debate over the past few months, with both sides providing valid arguments for or against the reforms - but while both sides may have sound reasoning, now is not the right time for the new restrictions. .
The bills, Public Acts 131 and 132, limit state-funded cash-assistance for able-bodied people through the Family Independence Program (FIP) to 48 months. So why limit the benefits?
Governor Snyder claims that limiting the assistance will save 77.4 million dollars - and while this sounds great, what happens to the people who will lose their benefits, their homes? What will they do? According to Governor Snyder, “we are returning cash assistance to its original intent as a transitional program to help families while they work toward self-sufficiency.”
People have been relying on this logic for too long - surely anyone who lives in Michigan knows that it’s not as easy as simply going out and finding a job that supports you and your family. Michigan currently ranks 47th in unemployment rate in the United States at 10.6 percent. Michigan, tied with Mississippi, has a lesser rate than only two other states, California and Nevada, and the District of Columbia. It would seem that with more than one in ten citizens out of work, now is the worst time to restrict welfare benefits in the state.
The “if-they-got-a-job-and-stopped-being-lazy” argument is not a valid one - we need to remember that the vast majority of people on welfare have not had the same advantages as many of those condemning them for not working hard enough. And as the unemployment rate shows, it hasn’t exactly been a conscience decision for many of the recipients, but rather the only way to survive in this economic climate.
Along with the cash-assistance limits, there has also been an asset test placed on food-stamp assistance. Now, families and individuals cannot have over $5,000 in a checking or saving’s account, or cars totaling over $15,000 and still qualify for food stamp eligibility.
So, in the worst economy in many of our lifetimes, not only is the government restricting cash assistance to its citizens, but it is also restricting food stamp eligibility. It seems that in an effort to put the state back on track, we are penalizing our citizens for actions beyond their control. In a time when we should be coming together to help our neighbor, we are instead hurting him.