Michigan Republicans and the Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Maura Corrigan has opened another front in the ongoing war on the poor and working poor; this time with rules that will kick more than 15,000 people off federal food assistance on Oct. 1.
DHS changes its eligibility rules to kick anyone off with assets greater than $5,000, and the total value of all family vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats, all-terrain vehicles and recreational vehicles cannot exceed $15,000. Every dollar over $15,000 counts against the $5,000 limit.
The new Bridge Magazine from the Michigan Center has an excellent article on this, and it points out that this was another knew-jerk reaction from the GOP-controlled Legislature. The reporter points out that when Auburn resident Leroy Fick won $1 million in the Michigan lottery, 15,000 people lost their food stamps.
Fick actually was honest and called his DHS caseworker within a week to say he had won the lottery and to turn in his Bridge Card, but he was told he still qualified for food stamps because food assistance is based only on income. Because Fick had chosen to take a lump-sum payment of about $850,000, instead of monthly payments spread over 20 years, his winnings were considered an asset, not income. The media got hold of the story, and it sparked outrage; Republicans used it to continue their class warfare.
It makes sense to disqualified lottery winners, but a family going through temporary tough times will be SOL unless they sell most of the stuff they worked hard to earn. This move comes on the heels of news that the poverty rate in Michigan jumped 20 percent since 2007, and Republicans are hell-bent on shredding the social safety net.
The caseload for food assistance dropped from March to April of this year by nearly 24,000 cases; the first decrease from the previous quarter in many years despite the bad economy and Michigan having the third worst unemployment rate in the country. That’s because Corrigan took food stamps away from 30,000 Michigan college students in August.
But there is more. In this economy the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature passed a bill in July limiting lifetime welfare benefits at 48 months and immediately throwing 12,000 families into even deeper poverty. When the bill goes into effect on Oct. 1, some 12,600 families with children will lose the paltry $510 a month they now receive, giving Michigan the honor of having the harshest time limits on cash assistance in the Midwest.
The Legislature also reduced the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor earlier this year after failing to eliminate it completely. In March the Governor signed a bill that cut unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, making Michigan the only state in the country to reduce unemployment benefits at a time when unemployment is at the highest it has been in many years.
This is class warfare, not math, and the working class continues to lose badly. Gov. Rick Snyder has said “job 1 is jobs,” but not a single jobs bill has been introduced in the Legislature that was swept in on the jobs mantra. Instead, all they have done is make the working class more poor and gone after social issues; like so-called “partial birth abortion” and labor unions.