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    Commentary:

    The Michigan Welfare system did not always exist. Since its creation in the middle 30’s in response to the dwindling economy almost parallel to the economy of the early 2000’s, The Michigan Welfare System has been a living system; it is continually being edited, changed, and revised to meet the needs of the State and its citizens.

    . The Michigan Welfare System is inferior to the Federal Welfare System. Its demands override the initiatives of welfare on the state level. Federally, the major changes in the Welfare system can be seen below: 1880’s-1890’s: Attempts were made to move poor from work yards to poor houses if they were in search of relief funds.

    1893-1894: Attempts were made at the first unemployment payments, but were unsuccessful due to the 1893-1894 recessions.

    1932: The Great Depression had gotten worse and the first attempts to fund relief failed. The “Emergency Relief Act”, which gave local governments $300 million, was passed into law.

    1933: In March 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed congress to establish the Civilian Conservation Corps. 1935: The Social Security Bill was passed on June 17, 1935. The bill included direct relief (cash, food stamps, etc.) and changes for unemployment insurance.

    1940: Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was established.

    1964: Johnson’s War on Poverty is underway, and the Economic Opportunity Act was passed, commonly known as “the Great Society.”

    1996: Passed under Clinton; “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996” becomes law. In Michigan, since 1939, the DHS has struggled to provide aid for needy families.

    It was in the year 1939 that the state legislation passed a bill that created a new State Department of Social Welfare, a Bureau of Social Security, and a Juvenile Institute Commission. It was decided to establish a social aid bureau in each county to administer state programs which then included Old Age Assistance, Aid to the Blind, and Aid to Dependent Children. In 1947, the Juvenile Institute Commission was abolished leaving its responsibilities to the State Welfare Commission. In 1963, Michigan adopted a new state constitution which limited the number of county wide social aid agencies to 20; reorganization was necessary. The state responded in 1965 with the Executive Organization Act. It affected a new State Department of Social Services while abolishing the State Welfare Commission. The department director reported directly to the Governor now and the Commission of Aging, Indian Affairs Commission, and housing authority were established. Legislation was also passed in 1965 under the merger law which forced counties separately providing aid to combine its efforts on the state level.

    The Michigan Department of Human Services has operated similarly until the 1990’s. In 1992, Governor Engler proposed new legislation to revise the operation and focus of DHS. It included strengthening fails by encouraging employment, targeting support, involving communities and increasing responsibility. The legislation, which was passed, featured many new programs and outreached administered by DHS. It includes expanding EDGE (Education Designed for Gainful Employment), Eliminating the Work History Requirement, Eliminating the Work History Requirement, Eliminating the Work History Requirement, Improving Children's Health Through EPSDT Participation (Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment), Improving the Child Adoption Process , Creating the Social Contract, Implementing Higher AIMS(Higher Attendance in Michigan's Schools Act), Developing Youth Education Alternatives. In 1994, a second round of legislation was passed which pursued the same initiatives with a few revisions in regard to the child adoptive service administration, social contracts, family planning, child care and adoption process strategies, and family support preservation.

    In 1996, Project Zero was established to assist recipients making the transition from dependency to self-sufficiency. Project Zero is part of the FIA's "To Strengthen Michigan Families" initiative. The goal of Project Zero is to reduce to "zero" the number of work ready Family Independence Program (FIP, formerly AFDC) households without earned income. Major legislation regarding the Department of Human Services has not yet been introduced since the mid-nineties. There is mainly current criticism of work requirements of those on assistance. The Work First Program demands that a welfare recipient must participate in a job search or be working at least 20 hours a week within 60 days of joining the welfare roll. Only about 5 percent of recipients are exempt from WF. There are talks of initiating another set of bills with the new gubernatorial reign.

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Meet your Policy Fellow: Jocelyn Cutean

    Jocelyn Cutean serves as Morality and Family policy correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network. She is a first-year student at Michigan State, majoring in Theatre and English. Jocelyn has experience working on the executive board of the Waterford Chapter Coalition for Youth. She has also piloted a grant funded city wide public service announcement entitled, "It Just Wasn't Worth It" which exposes the repercussions of driving while intoxicated. Jocelyn enjoys art of all forms, from writing to performance.