Helping women helps children

I’ve always been interested in how our society treats women. Women are impacted negatively in almost every sphere of their lives: social, personal, economic, professional. Women are less likely than men to be in the labor force, and more likely to live in poverty. And it’s even worse for women of color who face a number of institutional barriers.

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about how women are affected in policy: maternity leave and child care policies in the Trump budget that benefits the rich, the American Health Care Act’s negative affect on women, access to equal pay … and the list goes on. All of these policies that impact women usually have consequences—positive and negative—for our children. If women can’t afford healthcare, housing and basic necessities, it’s often children who suffer. We can only work to help our children through the equal support of their mothers.

Kids mom brushing teethData shows that a family’s struggles are a child’s struggles. In Michigan, 22% of our children are in poverty, 54% of third graders aren’t reading proficient, 9.1% have dropped out of high school and 15% live in households that were food insecure in the past year. The average median income for Michigan families with children is $61,600, and for Black/African-American households that number is less than half: $27,200. Ten percent of children live in extreme poverty, and 24% of Black/African-American children experience extreme poverty. All of these factors of children’s well-being are directly influenced by parents’ economic standing.

Parents often face significant obstacles in their daily lives. And when families can’t afford to provide food or buy school lunches, don’t have reliable forms of transportation, or have to work multiple jobs during teacher office hours, students experience challenges outside their control.

If you want to help children, you have to help the people in charge of them: parents. And often in cases of poverty, their mothers. Fifty-two percent of Michigan children living in one-parent (mother) households are in poverty.

Women and families need to be fully supported if they’re going to be successful and if we’re going to have a successful society. Our government needs to accept responsibility for better supporting our families and our children.

My experience as a woman, and as a child in a household with income instability, pushed me towards policy and political science, because disadvantaged and vulnerable people need to be heard in our world and our culture. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work. The League works tirelessly to improve the economic security of those living in Michigan, and to improve the lives of children.

To take care of children we must take care of their families.

As a new member of the League, this is why I do the work that I do. As a data lover, I hope to help inform work that improves the lives of kids, mothers and all families in Michigan.

— Harriet McTigue

Red alert: Delay on healthcare is time to redouble efforts

Monday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score on the U.S. Senate healthcare bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act or BCRA. According to the report from the nonpartisan CBO, nothing in the bill makes care better and it is largely a continuation of the flaws in the House-passed healthcare bill.

Over the last two days, a vote by the Senate on their healthcare bill went from imminent to delayed at least a week. But we still need to keep fighting and make sure everyone knows how bad the BCRA is.

The CBO report shows that under the Senate healthcare plan:

  • 15 million people would become uninsured in 2018, with a total of 22 million people by 2026.
  • Federal funding to states for Medicaid would decline by $772 billion, forcing states to increase provider rates or reduce care. These cuts would also force states to look at funding priorities whether it be infrastructure, education or healthcare.
  • States’ Medicaid expansion programs would be phased out. In Michigan, that would mean the over 670,000 Michiganians who receive care through the Healthy Michigan Plan would lose health coverage.
  • Individuals may lose coverage to critical health services including treatment for substance use disorders and maternity care.
  • Average healthcare premiums would go up 20% in 2018.
  • Individuals who are low income will pay more for less comprehensive coverage.
  • Four million people with employer-sponsored coverage would lose insurance.
  • Nearly all of the coverage gains experienced under the ACA would be eliminated by 2026 and the uninsured rate among the non-elderly would rise almost to its 2010 level, before the ACA took effect. (Under the ACA, the uninsured fell to a historic low of nine percent.)

I’ll admit, I have been having a hard time over the past couple of months thinking that legislation that hurts this many people would and could actually pass. I understand that there is a legislative process and following the announcement that the vote will be delayed, I’m sure that over the coming days and weeks we will see changes made to this bill, but changes may still result in large sums of people losing life-saving care.

CBPP BCRA-AHCA Comparsion 575x525

I want to enjoy my Fourth of July and I want you to do the same, but maybe you can also take a few minutes over the next couple of weeks to call Congress at (202) 224-3121 or attend an event or town hall and tell your Representative that you will not accept any healthcare bill that:

  • Reduces healthcare coverage;
  • Ends Medicaid expansion and the Healthy Michigan Plan;
  • Ends the traditional Medicaid program as we know it through per capita caps or block grants; and
  • Makes individual market coverage less affordable.

This delay on a vote is a great sign, but the fight is not over. We must keep up our pressure on our members of Congress. Thankfully, Michigan’s two U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have already come out in strong opposition to the BCRA (but it doesn’t hurt to thank them for their support). The lives, safety net and economic peace of mind of our fellow Michiganians and Americans are at stake.

— Emily Schwarzkopf

Philosophy, career changes and granola bars: How kids can inspire our choices

It’s hard for high school teachers like me to motivate teenagers, but I’ve found that—surprisingly—good old philosophy always gets them talking and thinking.

I start with Plato’s cave, delve into some Nietzsche, and touch on Camus. During one unit, I explain to my students Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The lesson starts simply enough: I draw a triangle on the board and explain the concept. I show them that if we don’t have shelter, if we’re hungry, if we’re cold, we can’t move up the hierarchy.

As the lesson continues, I watch. The students begin to look around the room. I can see, suddenly, a bit of empathy. A bit of compassion. They realize that kids who may struggle academically or socially are likely facing much deeper problems outside the classroom. Maybe the girl who doesn’t say much in class is financially supporting her siblings. Maybe the boy who doesn’t hand in homework is hungry. Maybe the student who has trouble keeping friends has been moving from couch to couch, without a permanent home.

I know the power of understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy because it is one of the most impactful lessons I have learned. It gives me a helpful lens to use when I deal with frustration in the classroom. It allows me to feel compassion and to understand when kids fall asleep in class, or when they don’t finish homework. It’s the reason I keep a box of granola bars in my desk. The reason I’m willing to extend a deadline or stay after school to work with students. And this year, it’s the reason I feel called to leave my classroom.

Maslows Hierarchy 525x326This choice may seem counterintuitive, but I promise there’s a purpose. When I saw that the Michigan League for Public Policy was hiring a communications associate this spring, I realized it was a chance for me to make a difference in kids’ lives outside my classroom walls. While teaching provides incredible opportunities to impact children, we are not often able to help them meet their most basic needs. I’ve struggled with this for years, and I realized that leaving the classroom might be the best way for me to make a difference to the children in my classroom.

This new role with the League will be the best of both worlds. I can still be with my students each day as I teach part time, but I will also be able to help the League fulfill its mission of addressing poverty and creating economic opportunity for all Michigan residents—especially our kids. I will still be ready with granola bars and hugs at school, but I’m eager to help our state’s kids meet their needs beyond that realm. I am so grateful to be part of the work being done here.

— Laura Millard Ross

Michigan continues to lag behind nationally in outcomes for kids

Data point after data point seems to demonstrate clearly that we are failing to educate our children in Michigan. We know the importance that education has to achieving long-term economic security. Education levels also impact health and other outcomes over time. And poverty, health and communities have an effect on how well kids are able to learn. This means that our policies should recognize that our educators alone cannot improve the system or outcomes, and that policies need to support our teachers and schools along with their partners in helping kids to reach their potential.

infographic - PublisherKids living in poverty or with low incomes also face a number of challenges. Of fourth-grade students whose families have low incomes, 84% were not proficient in reading compared to around 60% of students whose families were not low income. Where children live and attend school can also impact their outcomes. Albeit reading proficiency is not much better, but fourth-graders attending schools in suburban areas tend to have better rates of proficiency compared to students in city, town and rural communities.

Also impacting child development and outcomes, like education, are the notably high rates of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Michigan ranked 41st in the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book with 17% of kids living in areas with concentrated povertya worsening trend from 2008-2012. Even more disturbing are the racial disparities in the data: Michigan has the highest rate of concentrated poverty in the country for African-American children and top five highest for Latino kids. Children living in high-poverty communities and attend schools located in these areas are likely to have limited access to resources or parks and recreation and be exposed to more crime and violence. These adverse childhood experiences are not only traumatic to child well-being, but carry into adulthood. Michigan must invest in communities.

What does this mean for our kids who are growing up in an evolving and competitive global economy?

Schools with larger numbers of students with low incomes struggle to help their students overcome many of the barriers their students face and experience every day—and they cannot be expected to improve educational outcomes alone. Recent investments in the At-Risk program—an equitable approach to target resources in high-poverty schools—and in child care are moves in the right direction. Programs like Communities in Schools, Pathways to Potential and before- and after-school programs are great examples of addressing the whole child and family to help kids thrive and need to be expanded. And, using a cradle to career strategy through the use of programs like home visitation and adult education are critical.

Our educators, however, are the foundation for our kids’ learning and they must be supported. Recent moves by the Legislature to “reform” the teacher retirement system will do nothing to retain and attract some of our most important figures for our kids. This is a move backwards and will do nothing to improve the quality of education. The League will continue to support students, families, schools and communities as we work to get Michigan heading in the right direction on education.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

House budget bills have bright spots, but still raise concerns

For Immediate Release
June 20, 2017

Alex Rossman

Positives include funding for “heat and eat” fix, Healthy Michigan Plan and increased per-pupil funding

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the budget bills passed out of the House of Representatives today. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“A major goal of the League this year has been to support ‘heat and eat’ to secure additional food assistance for hundreds of thousands of Michigan families, seniors and people with disabilities. Seeing this program funded is reassuring. The budget contains support for other valuable food programs, including ‘double-up food bucks’ in Flint, which helps residents who receive food assistance make their dollars go further when purchasing fruits and vegetables that help combat the effects of lead exposure.

The decision to continue funding the Healthy Michigan Plan is a win for all Michiganians—especially the 660,000 residents who rely on the plan for healthcare.

We are also pleased that the Wayne Residential Alternative to Prison program was supported. It provides low-risk probation violators an opportunity to avoid going to prison and instead enter a residential program in which they receive occupational training and cognitive behavioral programming. The budget not only continues this program, but adds $1.5 million to replicate it in 13 counties on the west side of the state.

One exciting update from today’s budget is the Legislature’s decision to fund the Pathways to Potential program, which places ‘success coaches’ in schools to identify barriers faced by students and their families. This important program—left out of an earlier budget—will help students access important services, and the League commends the governor for recommending its expansion. We are also pleased to see the increase in per-pupil funding and expansion of at-risk funds, but believe more should be done in order to help our students.

Though some great wins were announced today, we still have major concerns. This budget was balanced due to a surplus in the Unemployment Insurance Penalties and Interest fund. This surplus, however, is no boon to our state. On the contrary, it is due to a flawed system that wrongly accused nearly 50,000 Michiganians of fraud. This money does not belong to the state, it belongs to the honest citizens who were incorrectly assessed exorbitant fines and penalties. We must rectify this situation and make whole the people who were harmed by the State’s mistake.

Though we are cheered by elements of the budget, the whole picture must be examined. Millions of Michigan residents struggle to get by each day, and our hope is that the final budget will do better to serve them all.”

For additional League statements on the budget process, view our budget briefs.


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

School aid and education conference committees include expanded funding for early learning and high-poverty schools


Pat Sorenson, Senior Policy Analyst
June 2017


Joint House/Senate conference committees have resolved differences between the House and Senate School Aid Fund and Department of Education budgets for 2018, and the budgets contain several much-needed expansions in funding for high-poverty schools, as well as child care services for working families with low wages.


BB School Aid and Ed Conf Committees Include Expanded FundPer-Pupil Spending: Two of every $3 in the School Aid budget are used to support per-pupil payments, which are the primary source of funding for school operations. For 2018, the governor recommended an additional $128  million to raise per-pupil spending by between $50 and $100, with districts currently receiving the lowest payments per pupil receiving the largest increase. The goal is to further reduce the gap in state funding between the lowest-funded districts and the highest.

The governor also proposed higher per-pupil payments for high school students, reduced payments to cyber schools, and a cap on funding for instructional programs for nonpublic and home-schooled students (cutting total funding by $55 million).

  • The Senate increased per-pupil payments to between $88 and $176—using $100 million currently provided to districts to offset teacher retirement costs under the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS). The Senate rejected the governor’s proposal for higher per-pupil payments for high school students, as well as the cuts in payments to cyber schools. The Senate cut programs for nonpublic/home-schooled pupils by only $2 million.
  • The House provided an across-the-board increase for all districts in the state of $100 per pupil—rejecting the use of the formula that provides higher payments for the districts that currently receive lower per-pupil foundation allowances. The House rejected the governor’s proposals to increase payments for high school students, as well as cuts for cyber schools and nonpublic/home-schooled student programs.
  • The conference committee: 1) increased per-pupil payments by $60 to $120, with the biggest increases going to districts with the lowest funding currently (total cost of the increase is $153 million); 2) rejected the governor’s proposal to provide higher per-pupil payments for high school students; 3) rejected the governor’s proposals to reduce payments to cyber schools; and 4) reduced the governor’s recommended cut of $55 million for programs for nonpublic and home-schooled students to $2 million.

The League supported increases in school funding that help raise the quality of education and mitigate the impact of inflation and fixed costs on school operating funds. In the last decade, the minimum K-12 per-pupil foundation allowance rose 5.7%—less than half the rise in inflation at 15.1%.1

Declining Student Enrollment: Since Proposal A, the reliance on a per-pupil foundation allowance for public school operations has meant that schools with rapidly declining enrollments can face at least short-term difficulties in adjusting to large funding losses. In recognition of the impact on local schools and students, the governor included $7 million for two years of supplementary funding for districts that have experienced large enrollment declines (more than 5% over two years).

  • Both the Senate and the House rejected the governor’s proposal for supplementary funding for schools with declining enrollments.
  • The conference committee rejected the governor’s proposal to provide funding for schools with rapidly declining enrollments.

The League supported funding to ameliorate the impact of declining enrollments on local schools and their students.

Funding for Students Academically at Risk: The At-Risk School Aid program is the state’s best vehicle for addressing the educational challenges children who are exposed to the stresses of poverty bring through the schoolhouse doors. The governor recognized the need to focus on high-poverty schools by recommending an additional $150 million in At-Risk funding for 2018 and by expanding eligibility. The governor also established a new set of goals and metrics for districts, including chronic absenteeism rates; English language proficiency in third grade; math proficiency in eighth grade; and the rate of enrollments and completions in career/technical education, advanced placement and dual enrollment programs.

Currently, the At-Risk program provides state funds to schools based on the number of children receiving free school meals (130% of poverty). Under the governor’s proposal, districts could receive funding for children up to 185% of poverty. In addition, the governor would provide funding to “out-of-formula” or “hold-harmless” districts that are currently not eligible. These are districts that have combined state and local per-pupil foundation allowances that are higher than the basic amount, even though they may have a high number of children living in poverty. The governor projects that with these changes an additional 131,000 children could be served.

  • The Senate increased At-Risk spending by $100 million and agreed with the governor on changes in student eligibility. The Senate altered the allocation formula as follows: 1) $5 million of the new funding would be earmarked for English language learners; and 2) districts that are currently eligible for At-Risk funding would be guaranteed at least as much per pupil as they are receiving in the current school year (applied to the broader base of economically disadvantaged students), with the remaining new funds (estimated to be approximately $41 million) awarded to all districts, including those currently not eligible.
  • The House increased At-Risk funding by $129 million and agreed with the governor on changes in student eligibility. The House also adopted the governor’s proposal to expand eligibility to “hold-harmless” and “out-of-formula” districts but capped the per-pupil At-Risk payment to those districts at 50%. The House added budget language indicating an intent to use a portion of 2019 At-Risk funds to reimburse school districts that provide transportation to pupils enrolled in schools of choice or charters.
  • The conference committee: 1) increased At-Risk funding by $120 million to a total of $499 million; 2) included the governor’s changes in student eligibility and funding formulas for currently-eligible districts; and 3) capped payments to newly-eligible “hold harmless” and “out-of-formula” districts at 30%. Under the conference agreement, currently-eligible districts will receive an estimated $777 per eligible pupil, while newly-eligible districts would receive $233. The conference committee did not adopt the governor’s new goals and metrics for the At-Risk program.

The League supported full funding of the At-Risk program, as well as expansion of eligibility to all children who are economically disadvantaged or at risk of educational failure.

Reading by Third Grade: Michigan law now allows for grade retention if children are not reading proficiently by third grade, making the need for early literacy programs even more critical. The governor proposed doubling funding for early literacy coaches at Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) from $3 million to $6 million. The governor also eliminated funding ($1 million) for the Michigan Education Corps. The largest component of the state reading initiative—funding for additional instructional time for children who are behind in reading—was retained at $17.5 million by the governor.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor and increased funding for ISD early literacy coaches by $3 million.
  • The House slightly reduced total funding for early literacy and allocated remaining funds ($25.4 million) through grants to districts, with an estimated $245 per first-grade pupil.
  • The conference committee agreed with the governor on the $3 million increase for early literacy coaches in ISDs, but increased funding for the Michigan Education Corps, from $1 million to $2.5 million. The conference committee consolidated all other early literacy programs and required that those funds be allocated to districts based on the number of first-grade students. Funding for professional development and diagnostic tools are both capped at 5%.

The League supports increased investments in early literacy, including programs that address learning in the earliest years of life such as early intervention through the Early On program, expanded home visitation programs, and a state-funded preschool option for 3-year-olds in high-risk schools and communities.

Adult Education: Despite a high level of need, state funding for adult education has dropped 70% since the 1997-2001 budget years. The governor recommended flat funding of $25 million for adult education programs in 2018.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor on flat funding for adult education and provided $2.5 million for career and technical education pilot projects in the state’s five prosperity regions.
  • The House agreed with the governor on flat funding for adult education.
  • The conference committee provided continuation funding for adult education programs of $25 million, and provided $2 million for the Senate-proposed expansion of career and technical education pilot programs.

The League supports an increase in funding for adult education of at least $10 million for $35 million total, which would help nearly 8,000 additional students and serve as an important tool for improving educational achievement and adult literacy—part of a two-generation approach to improving the state’s economy.


Child Care Subsidies: The number of Michigan parents with low wages who received assistance with their child care costs fell by over 70% between 2003 and 2016—in part because of the state’s stringent income eligibility standards and low child care payments. In addition to forcing parents to either stay out of the workforce or find care that isn’t suitable for their children, the state’s child care policies made Michigan one of only a handful of states that had to turn away federal child care funds because of a lack of state matching dollars. In recognition of the need for high-quality child care, the governor included an increase of $6.8 million in the current budget year (2017), as well as $27.2 million ($8.4 million in state funds) in the 2018 budget to increase rates paid to child care providers.

  • The Senate provided $23.8 million ($7.1 million in state funds) for increased child care provider rates, as well as $5.8 million to increase the income eligibility threshold from 125% to 130% of poverty. Rate increases would be based on the number of stars a provider has in the state’s quality rating system, ranging from a maximum increase of 50 cents per hour for providers with no stars to $1.50 per hour for child care centers with a five-star rating. Unlicensed providers (family, friends and neighbors) who care for infants or toddlers could receive an increase of 25 cents per hour.
  • The House agreed with the governor to include $27.2 million for rate increases for child care providers.
  • The conference committee included: 1) $19.4 million total ($11 million in federal Child Care and Development Block Grant funding and $8.4 million in state General Fund money) to increase child care reimbursement rates based on the Great Start to Quality rating system; 2) $5.5 million in federal funds to increase the child care eligibility level from 125% to 130% of poverty; and 3) $1 million for TEACH scholarships for child care providers trying to increase their quality ratings.

The League supported payment increases for child care providers as well as a boost in income eligibility levels, both of which are needed to ensure that parents can secure and keep their jobs while children are in safe and supportive settings that encourage optimal learning. In addition, the League supports efforts to bolster the supply of high-quality child care businesses, including the movement away from hourly billing to biweekly or monthly payments, which make it easier for providers to care for children from families with low wages.

Great Start Readiness Preschool Program: The governor recommended level funding for the Great Start Readiness Program ($243.6 million) which provides a high-quality preschool education for 4-year-olds from families with low incomes. Currently, the program is for children from families with incomes below 250% of poverty, but districts can expand it to children with incomes of up to 300% of poverty if they can demonstrate that all children with lower incomes who want to participate have had the opportunity to do so. For 2018, the governor restricted eligibility to children in families with incomes of 250% of poverty or less, and required that 100% of children meet that income eligibility level, rather than 90% as currently required. In addition, the governor changed the allocation formula to ISDs.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor on spending levels and on the new allocation formula, but retained the option of serving children in families with incomes of up to 300% of poverty.
  • The House adopted the governor’s recommendations for the Great Start Readiness Program funding and allocations.
  • The conference committee retained current funding and income eligibility levels for the Great Start Readiness Program, allowing children living in families with incomes of up to 300% to be enrolled—if all children at 250% of poverty and below have been served. Children from families with incomes above 250% of poverty would be subject to tuition on a sliding scale basis. Districts would still be required to contract with nonprofit and for-profit community-based providers for at least 30% of the children served.


Given the long-term damage lead exposure can inflict on children, the need for ameliorative services and supports for Flint is ongoing. While there are investments in other state budgets, the governor recommended that School Aid funds for the Flint School District and the Genesee ISD be reduced by $1.4 million in 2018. Total funding in the School Aid budget would be cut from $10.1 million to $8.7 million, with remaining funds allocated to expand Great Start Readiness preschool program eligibility ($3 million), school nurses and social workers ($2.6 million), ISD support to Flint residents that attend districts other than Flint ($2.5 million), and nutrition programs ($605,000).

  • The House, Senate and conference committee agreed with the governor on the $1.4 million cut in School Aid funding for the Flint water crisis.

1. K-12 Schools Minimum Foundation Allowance History, Senate Fiscal Agency (Oct. 1, 2016).


Human services conference committee budget falls short in reducing poverty


Pat Sorenson, Senior Policy Analyst
June 2017

Budget Brief JPG USE THIS ONEA joint House/Senate conference committee has resolved differences between the House and Senate human services budgets for 2018, and while funding for several League priorities was retained—including the “heat and eat” policy for food assistance—overall the budget fails to address long-term disinvestments in children and families living in poverty.

BB-Joint House Senate_Bdg fall graphicACCESS TO HEALTHY FOOD

Effective this year (the 2017 budget year), the Michigan Legislature approved $6.8 million in state funding to reinstate the “heat and eat” policy that allows Michigan to leverage additional federal funds and increase food assistance benefits for nearly 340,000 Michigan families, seniors and people with disabilities.

  • The Senate used federal energy assistance money to continue the “heat and eat” policy.
  • The House agreed with the governor to provide continued state funding for “heat and eat” food assistance benefits. The House also added language that prohibits the state from seeking a waiver to exempt able-bodied adults without dependents from food assistance work requirements in areas with high unemployment.
  • The conference committee: 1) agreed to continue the “heat and eat” policy using federal energy assistance funds; and 2) included House language to eliminate waivers from work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents.

The League supported state funding for “heat and eat” as a way to prevent hunger for children, families, seniors and people with disabilities. The League opposed work requirements for persons in areas of high unemployment.

Increasing Access to Healthy Foods:

  • The Senate included an increase of $380,000 for the Double Up Food Bucks program in Flint.
  • The House included a placeholder for a new “Michigan Corner Store Initiative,” which if funded would provide grants to small food retailers to increase the availability of fresh, nutritious foods in lower-income neighborhoods.
  • The conference committee: 1) included a place-holder for the Michigan Corner Store Initiative; 2) provided $500,000 to help farmers markets purchase wireless equipment that will allow them to accept food assistance payments; and 3) included an increase of $380,000 for the Double-Up Food Bucks program in Flint.

The League supported state efforts to improve access to healthy foods in lower-income neighborhoods.


Family Independence Program (FIP) Benefits: The number of Michigan families receiving FIP is at its lowest level since 1957, and the governor and Legislature are projecting that it will continue to fall to only 17,000 in 2018. As a result of falling caseloads, the FIP budget is expected to drop from $98 million this year to only $76 million in 2018—a reduction of 22%.

With fewer children being served by FIP and benefit levels stalled (maximum of $492 per month for a family of three with average monthly payments of $366), children are living in deep poverty, and parents are finding it hard to both care for their children and find and keep work. In recognition of this hardship, the governor proposed an increase in the FIP yearly clothing allowance from $140 per child to $200 for a total cost of $2.7 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds.

  • The Senate rejected the increase in the annual FIP clothing allowance.
  • The House included under $900,000 to increase the yearly benefit from $140 to $160.
  • The conference committee failed to increase funding for the FIP clothing allowance, leaving it at the current yearly benefit level of $140 per child.

The League supported the governor’s recommendation to increase the annual FIP clothing allowance as a small step toward addressing the insufficiency of income assistance programs for children and their parents.

Expand the Pathways to Potential Program: The governor recommended $5.6 million to expand the Pathways to Potential program that places “success coaches” in schools to identify barriers faced by students and their families and make appropriate referrals for needed services. The program is currently in 259 schools in 34 counties.

  • The Senate did not fund the expansion but included a $100 placeholder to ensure continued discussions in the joint House/Senate conference committee.
  • The House rejected the governor’s recommendation to increase funding for Pathways to Potential.
  • The conference committee rejected the governor’s proposal to expand Pathways to Potential funding, but added budget language requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to dedicate 29 new public assistance field staff to the Pathways to Potential project.

The League supported the governor’s recommendation to expand Pathways to Potential, which is a promising model for meaningful school/community partnerships and a two-generation approach to school success for all children.

Increased Support for Homeless Shelters: An estimated 100,000 people in Michigan are either homeless or imminently at risk of homelessness, and families with children make up half of the homeless population. More than half of the state’s homeless are African-American, and the senior homeless population continues to grow significantly each year.1

In recognition of the problem, the governor increased the daily rate provided to emergency homeless shelters from $12 per night per person to $16, at a total cost of $3.7 million in state general funds. The governor indicated that he intends to recommend another $4 per person increase in the 2019 budget year.

  • The Senate rejected the governor’s increase in payments to homeless shelters, but included a $100 placeholder to ensure continued discussions in the joint House/Senate conference committee.
  • The House agreed with the governor to increase funding for homeless shelters, using both state general funds and federal TANF dollars.
  • The conference committee included the rate increase for homeless shelters, using both state general funds and federal TANF dollars.

The League supported increased funding for emergency homeless shelters, as well as policy and budget changes that could prevent homelessness such as: 1) increases in income assistance payments; 2) housing policies that could prevent homelessness; and 3) tax changes that benefit workers with low wages including a restoration of the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit.


Child Abuse and Neglect Programs: More than 1 of every 100 children in Michigan lives in a family that has been investigated for potential child abuse or neglect and over 37,000 are confirmed victims.2 As of February 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services was responsible for the supervision of 12,800 children in out-of-home care, with the majority placed with relatives, in licensed foster homes, child caring institutions or emergency shelters.3

While most families with low incomes are not more likely to abuse or neglect their children, living in poverty can limit the ability of parents to provide for their children’s basic needs. The vast majority (81%) of confirmed victims in Michigan’s child welfare system are there because of “neglect,” which can include a failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care.

More than a decade ago, the state was sued by a national child advocacy organization for its failure to move children quickly into safe, stable and permanent homes; provide children in foster care with adequate medical, dental and mental health services; and prepare children who age-out of the foster care system. To comply with a court settlement agreement resulting from that lawsuit, the state has increased resources for “tail-end” child welfare services, but relatively little has been done to prevent child neglect, including efforts to move children out of poverty.

For 2018, the governor recommended an additional $3.6 million for: 1) regional resource teams to recruit, train and support foster families; and 2) to expand the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI) to all Michigan counties (currently in 64 of Michigan’s 83 counties). The MYOI helps young people who are in or have recently exited foster care make a successful transition to independent living through housing, education, employment and community engagement services.

The governor also cut “one-time” funding of $6.1 million—approved in the 2017 budget year—to expand the Parent Partner and Family Reunification programs. Funds are being used this year in Genesee and Macomb counties to prevent the need for foster care, ensure that children are more quickly reunified with their families when it is safe to do so and assist parents after children are returned home.

  • The Senate rejected the governor’s recommendation to increase funding for regional resource teams and the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative by $3.6 million, but included a $100 placeholder to ensure further discussion in the joint House/Senate conference committee. The Senate agreed with the governor to reduce prevention funding by $6.1 million.
  • The House agreed with the governor on regional resource teams and the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative, increasing funding by $3.6 million. The House also reduced prevention funding by $6.1 million, and further cut funding for the Fostering Futures program by $750,000.
  • The conference committee: 1) adopted the governor’s proposal to include $3.6 million for foster parent support through regional resource teams, as well as additional funding for the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative; 2) included $1 million in state funding to increase payments for licensing relatives as caregivers (not in the governor’s budget); 3) cut family preservation programs by $6.1 million; and 4) retained funding for the Fostering Futures program.

The League strongly advocated for increased funding for services that can strengthen families, prevent child neglect and reduce the need for out-of-home placements for children. The state’s efforts to improve its child welfare system as required by the court settlement agreement are important, but more needs to be done to prevent child abuse and neglect by strengthening families—including ensuring parents can meet their children’s basic needs and have access to mental health and other services.

Adult Services: As Michigan’s population ages, the need for services for seniors and people with disabilities continues to grow. A 2014 audit found that Michigan was unable to respond quickly to reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of adults—in large part because of staffing shortages.

In response, the governor recommended $11.3 million to hire 95 new workers who could assist adults with high needs by providing protective services, independent living services and adult community placement assistance.

  • The Senate reduced the number of new adult services workers to 71 (with a delay in their hiring), resulting in total spending of $1.9 million in the 2018 budget year.
  • The House cut the number of new adult services workers in half to 47, at a cost of $5.6 million.
  • The conference committee approved only 35 new adult services staff for 2018, at an additional cost of $4.2 million.

The League supported the governor’s expansion in funding for adult services workers to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities are safe. Between 2002 and 2015, the number of adults needing protection from the state more than tripled, while the number of staff fell by 14%.


  1. Ending Homelessness in Michigan: 2015 Annual Report, Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
  2. 2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book: A Michigan Where All Kids Thrive, Michigan League for Public Policy.
  3. Children’s Services Agency: Foster Care Overview, Presentation to the House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (March 9, 2017).



The Trump budget: A triple threat to household energy security and health

In March, President Donald Trump released his first “skinny budget”—a preview of his priorities and desires for federal spending in the upcoming fiscal year. He recently released a more detailed budget proposal that reaffirms his intention to fulfill his sweeping promises of national prosperity at the expense of millions of Americans who already are just getting by on the skinniest of budgets.

Although Trump proposes alarming cuts to many services that provide a basic living standard for people with the fewest financial resources, for now I’d like to focus on just one aspect: home energy needs. The president has targeted for elimination the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which struggling families rely on for survival in the short term and to transition to economic self-sufficiency in the long term.

LIHEAP graphicPeople who can’t afford to spend much on housing often end up in old, poorly insulated homes where the rent or mortgage is low but the energy costs are exorbitant; thus, despite their efforts to budget responsibly, the poor condition of their living space limits their ability to get ahead. Federal funds make quality housing more affordable through help with utility bill payment, energy-related crisis assistance, permanent reduction in energy use through weatherization, and repairs necessary to make homes safe and energy efficient. As a result, there’s more money in household budgets for other basics such as food, transportation and healthcare. Furthermore, we all benefit from weatherization and energy efficiency measures through increased electric grid reliability and reduced pollution.

The elimination of these services would certainly have an impact in Michigan, where LIHEAP served nearly 455,000 households in budget year 2016. Approximately half of these households were below 75 percent of the federal poverty line and about 40 percent included an elderly person, a child age 5 or younger, or a person with a disability. Even with these resources, applicant households generally outnumber those actually funded by tens of thousands in a given year. Moreover, Michigan is a “heat and eat” state, meaning that households receiving at least $20 in heating assistance qualify for an increase in their monthly food assistance benefits. Thus, axing LIHEAP would directly increase hunger among some of the state’s most vulnerable people and further jeopardize their health.

The loss of all of these services would hinder working recipients’ ability to achieve economic security and punish those who can’t work—mainly children, seniors and people with disabilities—with potentially life-threatening consequences. Even more people would have to choose between freezing to death in the winter and resorting to unsafe measures in an attempt to keep warm. More people would have to try to survive on an unhealthy diet because they can’t afford the energy to power a refrigerator or stove. More people who rely on home medical equipment would have to forego treatment or get it in a healthcare facility, which may be associated with higher system-wide costs, worse health outcomes and a lower quality of life.

This is hardly a successful blueprint for American greatness. It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to cut people off from utility bill assistance while eliminating funding for home improvements and weatherization measures that can reduce their need for such assistance in the first place. It’s downright cruel to do so while pushing legislation that will raise out-of-pocket insurance costs and rescind coverage that millions of people need in order to combat the negative health effects of household energy insecurity.

It’s often said that the cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use. The same can be said for healthcare. If we want Americans to enjoy better health at a lower cost, investing in quality housing and home energy security is common sense. Tell your congressional representatives to protect these vital services that reduce pollution, lower healthcare costs and empower people with low incomes to achieve economic independence.

— Julie Cassidy

Changes to teacher retirement come at a high cost to students, schools

For Immediate Release
June 15, 2017

Alex Rossman

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the House and Senate passage of legislation to change the state’s school employee retirement system. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“These changes to the school retirement system (SB 401 and HB 4647) passed today do little to clear up the state’s fiscal picture while clouding the future of our students, teachers and schools. These bills still come with significant short-term costs and more importantly, do not resolve the broader concerns about the state’s financial obligation to school retirees in previous plans.  At the same time, the League believes that a strong educational system is the key to economic recovery in Michigan. Highly qualified, experienced teachers are the foundation of a high-quality education for children, and this new system will make it even harder for schools to attract and retain teachers and encourage longevity.

“Michigan should be doing all it can to keep top teaching talent in the state and in the classroom. Our state’s dismal national ranking in education—41st—is because of underfunding education and other harmful policies, and we clearly need to put more emphasis on improving Michigan schools. In that regard, today’s bills get failing marks.”


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

President Trump’s attack on food assistance is expensive for Michigan, devastating for families

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) helps more than 726,000 Michigan households put food on their tables. President Donald Trump’s budget proposal would shift a significant share of the cost of SNAP and other vital programs to states, however, and would for the first time allow states to cut SNAP benefits. This would seriously threaten SNAP’s long-term success in reducing hunger and malnutrition, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Although states are responsible for some of the administrative costs, SNAP benefits have always been fully funded by the federal government and passed through by the states directly to households. This is to ensure that regional disparities in hunger, poverty and resources are properly addressed, which in turn helps ensure that low-income households have access to adequate food regardless of the state in which they live.

Microsoft PowerPoint - SNAP graphicThe president’s budget would end this longstanding and successful approach by forcing states to cover 10% of SNAP benefit costs beginning in 2020 and increasing that share to 25% in 2023 and later years. The proposal would cut federal SNAP funding by $116 billion over a decade and shift the costs to states, costing Michigan $542 million in additional annual costs and nearly $3.8 billion over the full 10 years of the Trump budget. This is all in addition to the potential block granting of SNAP that would also cause major problems for Michigan.

Lest any readers doubt the integrity and effectiveness of SNAP as a federal assistance program, here are a few facts:

The Trump budget proposal jeopardizes the ability of struggling families to put food on their tables. Given the size of the cost shift to states, Michigan would have to either drastically cut monthly food assistance benefits for SNAP participants (which states are allowed to do under the proposal), cut state funding for other critical programs or raise taxes. Do we really want to put our state in such a position rather than support a federal assistance program that has been working very well?

What is more, this cost shift would come on top of hundreds of billions of dollars in other cost shifts to states in the Trump budget. In total, the president’s budget would shift about $453 billion annually to states and localities once cuts are fully implemented in 2027—while at the same time including massive tax cuts largely for the wealthy and corporations that would likely cost several trillion dollars over the coming decade.

This is the biggest attack that we’ve seen in decades on the programs that Michigan and American families are depending on to survive. We urge readers to contact your members of Congress and urge them to reject the president’s SNAP cuts and other devastating budget cuts.

— Peter Ruark

Next Page »