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Snyder signs reform bills returning welfare to original intent as temporary help for families

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder today signed legislation that will enforce a four-year lifetime limit on cash assistance, bringing Michigan in line with other states and ensuring limited resources are available to those who are truly in need.

"We are returning cash assistance to its original intent as a transitional program to help families while they work toward self-sufficiency and also preserving our state's integral safety net for families most in need," Snyder said. "Affected recipients are able-bodied and have had at least four - some as long as 14 or more - years to transition to independence."

The state's four-year limit on cash assistance will be more strictly enforced beginning Oct. 1, but the state will still allow exemptions to this limit for those who have a disability and are unable to work. Recipients who care for a disabled spouse or child, those who are 65 or older and do not qualify for Social Security benefits or the benefits are too low, or those involved in domestic violence situations that involve law enforcement may also be temporarily exempted.

The state of Michigan also has a number of programs available to help recipients step toward independence, including food assistance, Medicaid, child care and emergency services.

In addition, the Michigan Department of Human Services is working with nonprofit organizations, the faith-based community and other community partners to provide recipients with a soft landing in the transition, Director Maura D. Corrigan said.

That includes:
 Appointments with caseworkers for all affected clients to connect them with resources;
 Extending housing and job placement assistance to three months beyond October for those actively seeking employment;
 Trained job navigators who will serve as mentors in preparing for and searching for employment; and
 A jobs bank where employers can report open positions.

"Michigan continues to face financial challenges, and the fiscal reality is that we cannot afford to provide lifetime cash assistance to recipients who are able to work," Corrigan said. "Enforcing lifetime limits for cash assistance ensures that available funds are targeted toward those recipients who need a helping hand while they find employment."

The new law also eliminates a disincentive to working or seeking opportunities to earn more. To initially qualify for cash assistance, a family of three can earn no more than $814 per month, with a maximum cash assistance benefit of $492 a month. Once they've qualified, they will now be able to earn more income - up to $1,164 - and still receive state help.

House bills 4409 and 4410, sponsored by Reps. Kenneth Horn and Sharon Tyler, are now Public Acts 131 and 132 of 2011.

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The governor today also signed legislation that allows the Court of Appeals to continue charging fees that were scheduled to be reduced starting in Oct. 2012.  Continuing the fees at the current level was included in the governor's Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget. House Bill 4731, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Cotter, is now P.A. 130 of 2011.