Throwing kids under the bus

Added August 2nd, 2011 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs
From the First Tuesday newsletter

Buried in a demographics report from the Department of Human Services is a number that should scare us: 7.

That’s the average age of children receiving help through the Family Independence Program, the state’s cash assistance program.

An estimated 25,000 children are slated to lose FIP grants in October because their parents were on assistance 48 months or longer, under House Bills 4409 and 4410. This dangerous legislation will take away rent money from kids who need it.

The FIP grant is a maximum of $492 per month for a family of three. Many families work but can’t make enough to leave cash assistance. Under the legislation, families will lose this assistance starting in October.

These bills have passed the House (May) and the Senate (July) in different forms and have yet to be finalized. While the League opposes the bills as poor public policy, we believe the Senate version to be better because it at least recognizes the hardship of parents who can’t work because they care for a disabled spouse or child.

Our policymakers are trying to save $77.4 million through this action, which will have devastating effects. Some in the Senate, where no public testimony was taken on the bills, stated publicly that they thought only a portion of the cash assistance, representing the adult share, would be taken away. While the legislation is fuzzy, others say it will close the entire case, and the budget savings are based on closure of 12,600 full cases.

That means 25,000 children and their parents – enough to fill the seats at Comerica Park – would lose an important source of income.

It won’t stop there. The DHS report also finds that there are 3,700 families that could reach their 48-month limit by late winter.

Low- income people have been slammed by other budget-saving moves: A 70 percent cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit and elimination of the back-to-school clothing allowance for 124,000 children. These are the children in our state we should be lifting up, not punishing.

Let’s picture the Detroit baseball stadium filled with first- and second-graders and their parents – nearly 40,000 people. Now picture that many people losing all or a portion of their rent money.  Shelter is our most basic need.  Is this really the path we want to take to balance our budget? I think not.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

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