We all know that Michigan has been hit the hardest by the nation’s economic struggles and our city has gone through some very challenging times. Sure, there have been some signs of things turning around, but we’re still hurting. We see it every day when we drive through our neighborhoods.
Families are struggling to make ends meet; foreclosed or abandoned homes line our streets; and businesses are struggling to stay afloat, even in our strongest industries. These problems are not unique to Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and urban centers - they’re happening in communities across Michigan.
That’s why it is so alarming how Republican leaders in Lansing are treating the services that provide vital support to our residents who need it the most. The Legislature met recently, and Republican leaders were able to pass the proposed 48-month cap on public assistance.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the myths about public assistance: that it’s a drain on the system, that it’s going unchecked or that Michigan is too “generous” with its support. That couldn’t be further from the truth. These temporary assistance programs help reduce financial burdens until families can get back on their feet. They make sure single parents don’t have to choose between putting food on that table or paying rent. They also help our seniors pay their heating and utility bills.
If enacted, this cap will cost 1,205 families in Genesee County their welfare assistance, according to the Michigan League for Human Services. In communities across the state - whether they’re large or small, urban, rural or suburban - the cap will cost 12,600 Michigan families their assistance: 4,863 families in Wayne County, 508 families in Muskegon County, 710 families in Kent County and 636 families in Macomb County.
The situation is even worse when you consider how the majority have already reduced unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks, slashed the state Earned Income Tax Credit and unnecessarily raided funding for our public schools. These all come at a time when Michigan’s unemployment rate is at 10.5 percent, our poverty rate is more than 14 percent and one in eight people in Michigan are at risk of going hungry or lack the resources they need to get fresh, healthy foods.
Republican lawmakers continuously tout these cuts as “cost-saving measures” and don’t hesitate to make our poorest families and workers the scapegoats for Michigan’s financial woes. My question is, what will the real cost be? If Republican lawmakers continue to tear away at our social safety net and jeopardize the future of our state, how will it cost our society?
And we must not forget the incredible amount of stress these financial burdens place on families. I fear that cutting a vital lifeline that keeps families just out of the reach of poverty and destitution will only lead good people to bad measures to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.
In the next fiscal year, the state will spend just under $1.1 billion dollars on our state prisons who are housing roughly 44,000 of our residents. These figures do not include the inmates housed in our local facilities or the cost of keeping those facilities adequately staffed and secure. If we continue to eliminate important support for our low-income families, we can expect the needs of our corrections system to grow and absorb even more time and resources that our state is struggling to provide.
We must be careful about the kind of Michigan we are creating. We cannot let Republican leaders continue to shift the heaviest burdens on our families by blindly cutting vital services and not giving a second thought to the impact it will have on our civilized society. Simply put, we cannot move Michigan forward by leaving our most vulnerable residents behind.
I will continue to do what’s right for our city and for families across Michigan, stand up to dangerous and short-sighted cuts, and continue working to create stronger, healthier and safe communities.