Lansing Update: April 15, 2011

In This Week’s Lansing Update:

  1. Michigan Bishops Urge Greater Attention to Poor and Vulnerable in State Budget Debate
  2. Catholic Conference Calls DHS Budget Recommendations “Unacceptable”

Michigan Bishops Urge Greater Attention to Poor and Vulnerable in State Budget Debate

The seven diocesan bishops in Michigan this week sent a letter to Governor Snyder and legislative leaders urging greater attention to the poor and unemployed during the state budget debate. Proposals that have been put forward by the administration and the Legislature, such as eliminating the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and imposing lifetime limits and harsh sanctions in welfare reform measures, would create a greater burden upon those who are already suffering, the bishops wrote.

From the beginning of this legislative session Michigan Catholic Conference has sought to preserve the EITC as the Conference believes the policy moves more low-income workers and their children out of poverty than any other policy. The Conference has supported the measure for several years and, in January, made preserving the policy its top advocacy priority for this legislative session.

According to the bishops’ letter, which was distributed to Governor Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and House Minority Leader Richard Hammel, “Various policy proposals addressed in committee and others that have been put forward, if enacted, would adversely impact the state’s destitute and working poor population and will likely create additional hardships for those for whom we are collectively responsible—you as elected leaders, and we, the spiritual leaders, of the people of this state.” The letter was copied to the Lieutenant Governor, all 148 members of the Michigan Legislature, the State Budget Director and the State Treasurer.

The bishops’ letter can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

Catholic Conference Calls DHS Budget Recommendations “Unacceptable”

Legislation that passed out of the House and Senate human services subcommittees this week was deemed “unacceptable” by the Michigan Catholic Conference as the Legislature seeks to meet the Governor’s May 31 deadline to finalize the state budget.

In the House Appropriations Department of Human Services Subcommittee, members passed legislation onto the full House Appropriations Committee that would nearly eliminate the Children’s Clothing Allowance policy and reduce funding for the State Disability Assistance Program. The Children’s Clothing Allowance policy grants $79 per child for those families enrolled in the Family Independence Program to purchase new clothes for the school year. The Family Independence Program is the state’s basic welfare assistance program. The policy was created in the early 1990s by then-Governor John Engler. The subcommittee also reduced funding for the disability program, which provides financial assistance to those incapable of working, from $269 to $175 per month.

More details about the subcommittee’s recommendations can be found by reading the Conference’s statement by clicking here.

In the Senate Appropriations DHS Subcommittee, members passed legislation onto the full Senate Appropriations Committee that would nearly eliminate the indigent burial policy, eliminate assistance to caregivers of those receiving the State Disability Assistance Program, and create a 48-month lifetime limit for those who require state assistance. The indigent burial policy assists cemeteries and funeral homes with necessary funds to bury poor persons. Eliminating assistance to caregivers of those on disability, along with shifting the program’s requirement to reflect the federal Supplemental Security Income policy, would cut the programs by roughly sixty-six percent, or about $19 million. The Senate subcommittee, however, reinstated language in the department’s bill that would allow for those with a drug-related offense to receive state assistance.

More information about the Conference’s concerns about the Senate DHS subcommittee’s legislation can be found by clicking here.

In the coming weeks the Conference will continue to advocate for state funding that provides a necessary level of assistance to those in greatest need in Michigan. It is expected that a conference committee will be required to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Department of Human Services budget.