The Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS) released staggering news this morning that the childhood poverty rate in Michigan has gone up 64% since 2000. With the release of the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count Book 2011 today, the report ranked Michigan 30th in overall child well being nationwide and gave harsh criticism of cuts to safety net programs and tax breaks for working families by the Snyder administration to support the Republican $1.8 Billion tax break for businesses.
In the press release, the new report states that number of children living in poverty in MI has risen by 64%, with an additional 75,000 children now falling below the poverty line from 2000-2009. The official poverty line for a two parent family of four is an income of just under $22,000 per year. The percentage of children living in poverty in Michigan has risen from 14% at the start of the decade to a stunning 23% in 2009.
The annual report looks at ten key factors and included parental employment and foreclosure, with the current year data focusing deeply on the effects of the recession. Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Director of the Kids Count program, said in the press statement that the report "does show with startling clarity how deeply the recession has affected families across Michigan’’, and that “Unemployment and foreclosures are adult issues but ones that dramatically affect kids, too. These economic stressors place children at much higher risk of worsening health and education outcomes.” The study found that Michigan’s worst ranking was No. 47 for secure parental employment. More than 36% of all Michigan children under age 18 were living in a household where no parent had full-time, year-round employment in 2009, compared with 31 percent of children nationally, and 12% or 281,000 children in Michigan had at least one unemployed parent in 2010 compared with 11% nationally. Five percent of Michigan kids were affected by foreclosures since 2007, compared with 4 percent nationally.
The report points to drastic cuts to programs and tax benefits for working families in the state of Michigan by Republican Governor Rick Snyder as "moving in the wrong direction" and offers several strategies to ease the impact of the recession on Michigan children. Gilda Z. Jacobs, President/CEO of the MLHS says the devastating increase in childhood poverty is "a clarion call to policy makers" and requires focus on a two-generation strategy. "We must invest in preschool and early childhood but we can’t leave out adult education, higher education and job training…Our kids need a great start in life, but they also must have parents with the skills and the education to get good jobs.’’ Holding legislative feet to the fire, the MLHS cites a 60% funding cut to adult education over the last decade, the 15% cut to higher education and 4% cut to community college funding in the Republican MI omnibus budget for the new year. The 2011 Kids Count report takes in to account many budgetary issues that will have or already have had a devastating impact on Michigan families:
The Michigan Legislature cut basic unemployment from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, the first state in the country to do that, and it failed to pass legislation to modernize its unemployment system, passing up $139 million in federal funds to strengthen the unemployment system.
Expiring unemployment benefits will put many more homeowners at risk. In 2009, Michigan lawmakers created a 90-day mortgage mediation program that was recently extended only until next January and should be further extended. The state should also make it a priority to spend its allocated federal Troubled Asset Relief Program Hardest Hit funds for foreclosure prevention; it has $498 million available to assist homeowners at risk of losing their homes.
Furthermore, Michigan lawmakers voted to cut the state EITC, which supplements low earnings for working parents, from 20 percent of the federal credit to 6 percent.
The Kids Count Data Book recommended strategies to ease the impact of the recession on children and their families, saying we need to strengthen and modernize the unemployment insurance system, prevent foreclosure and strengthen existing programs that supplement low wages, such as the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
cross-posted at dailykos.com by surelyujest