News Releases

Government programs, tax policies reduce child poverty

Contact: Judy Putnam or Jane Zehnder-Merrell at 517.487.5436

Michigan rate drops in half when safety net counted

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s poverty rate for children drops by half when the positive effect of government programs and tax policies are taken into account, a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation concludes.

In fact, 341,000 Michigan children are lifted from poverty when such programs as food assistance, federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits, cash assistance, child care assistance and housing subsidies are counted. About the same number are left in poverty.

“At a time when so many programs designed to help children and families have been cut, this is good information that shows safety net programs do work as intended,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy, which helped release the report.

The report looks at the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), created by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011, which uses costs affecting a modern family’s budget and measures the impact of government programs. The official poverty measure, created in the 1960s, is based on outdated information and leaves out major safety net programs.

While the official poverty measure is still in use, the SPM provides a more accurate assessment of poverty levels on a state and regional basis, according to the Casey report, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States. Unlike the current poverty measure, the SPM also takes into account the variations in cost of living.

The SPM finds that 30 percent of Michigan children are in poverty without government transfers, higher than the official child poverty rate of 24 percent. But the SPM rate drops to 15 percent when benefits from all programs are counted.

“Policymakers need to have a clear picture of the success of anti-poverty programs at the national and state levels,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Child poverty takes its toll not only on individuals but on society as a whole with lost productivity and higher health- and crime-related costs. It’s important to know that public policy can and does make a positive difference.’’

Michigan voters have a chance to weigh in on the May 5 ballot proposal on road funding. It is linked to the full restoration of the state Earned Income Tax Credit. A ‘yes’ vote will increase the state EITC to 20 percent of the federal credit, protecting more than 1 million kids in working, while raising needed revenue to fix the roads.

It’s also important that Congress continue funding the Supplemental Poverty Measure so that resources are directed in ways that offer the best chance for children to succeed.

State lawmakers and the administration should also:

• Ease a harsh state asset test on food assistance that limits federally funded food aid.
• Revisit the strict 48-month time limit on cash assistance for families playing by the rules. Months in which families receive as little as $10 a month are unfairly counted in the lifetime limits.
• Employ two-generation strategies such as connecting job training opportunities to Head Start and Great Start Readiness preschool so more parents can access better-paying job.
• Update state child care subsidies for parents searching for work or working for low wages. The subsidies have not kept pace with inflation.

Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States is available at www.aecf.org.

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The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonpartisan policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way. Kids Count in Michigan is a project of the League.

Many kids stuck in poverty without solutions

Contact: Judy Putnam or Jane Zehnder-Merrell, 517.487.5436

Kids Count in Mich. ranks 82 counties on child well-being

LANSING, Mich. – Too many kids in Michigan remain mired in poverty at a time when policymakers have reduced help for struggling families, according to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015 released today.

Three measures of economic conditions worsened over the trend period with nearly one in every four children living in an impoverished household, a 35 percent increase in child poverty over six years. The trend period measured from 2006 to 2012 or 2013, depending on the availability of data.

“The unraveling of family’s economic security cries out to be addressed by state leaders but what’s happened is just the opposite of what is needed,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan Project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The state Earned Income Tax Credit was cut 70 percent in 2011. It goes to working families earning the least. (Voting ‘yes’ on the May 5 road funding proposal will restore it to 20 percent.) Other barriers are hard caps on lifetime limits for cash assistance, fewer weeks of unemployment, an asset test that limits federally funded food assistance, and child care subsidies that haven’t kept up with inflation.

“These are the tools we have to make sure a family in a crisis doesn’t spiral downward and is able to survive. The shredding of these programs is bad policy when it comes to the well-being of Michigan’s children,’’ Zehnder-Merrell said. “It’s hoped that the merger of the state departments of Community Health and Human Services will offer improved services for children and families, though budget pressures could bring more cuts.’’

In addition, Michigan in recent years eliminated financial aid grants for adults attending public colleges and universities and slashed adult education to a fraction of where it was a decade ago.

The toxic effect of poverty on children cannot be overstated. Research shows that children growing up in poor homes are more likely to drop out of school and less likely to have stable employment as adults. Boosting income in those families through such strategies as tax credits pays off with children in those families earning more and working more hours when they grow up.

More than a half-million Michigan kids lived in poverty, defined as $23,600 or less a year for a two-parent family of four. Child poverty is particularly high in communities of color where a lack of jobs and transportation has deepened economic woes. Detroit, a majority African-American city, has the highest level of concentrated poverty of the 50 largest U.S. cities, a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found.

The Kids Count report also highlights the racial inequity in access to oral health that needs to be addressed in the 2016 budget. The Healthy Kids Dental program, which provides additional payments to dentists for children on Medicaid, is in 80 counties. The three remaining counties left out of the program, Wayne, Oakland and Kent, have large populations of children of color.

That means that only 28 percent of white children eligible for Medicaid are in counties without Healthy Kids Dental compared with 63 percent of African-American children eligible for Medicaid.

“Gov. Snyder has called for the Healthy Kids Dental to be available in all communities. That needs to happen this year. Using public dollars in a way that mainly benefits white children and leaves out African American children is simply unacceptable,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Of the 15 trends in child well-being examined in the report, eight improved, five worsened, one stayed about the same and one could not be tracked over time. The report also ranks 82 of the 83 counties for overall child well-being with Livingston and Ottawa counties tied for the best rating of No. 1.

Statewide, all four education trends improved while fewer children remained in foster homes or relative care. Yet nearly 200,000 children live in families investigated for abuse or neglect, a 41 percent jump in the rate between 2006 and 2013, while nearly 34,000 were confirmed as victims of abuse or neglect.

A partner in the release of the Kids Count report, Matt Gillard, president and CEO of Michigan’sChildren, said p revention and early intervention are the keys to ensuring safety at home.

“It’s so very important that we focus on interventions that work – the earlier the better. This includes increasing evidence-based services for the most challenged families in local communities to prevent child abuse or neglect, and targeting services to vulnerable families with infants,’’ Gillard said. “A two-generation approach that helps parents get the resources and tools that they need, while at the same time supporting children, is critical.”

The Michigan Coalition for Children and Families, representing 20 child and family advocacy groups across the state, will use the report to focus on improvements to benefit children.

“This report offers communities and state level officials a treasure trove of information so they can know what’s working and what needs to be improved,’’ said Michele Strasz, chair of MCCF and the director of the Capital Area College Access Network.

More contact information: Matt Gillard, matt@michiganschildren.org, 517.488.9129 (c); Michele Strasz, programdirector@capitalareacan.org, 517.712.2014 (c).

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Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Battle Creek Community Foundation, Kalamazoo Community Foundation and John E. Fetzer Fund of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

Statement: Lots to like in governor’s budget; executive order brings concern

For immediate release
Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436

The Michigan League for Public Policy today issued the following statement on Gov. Rick Snyder’s executive budget and executive order. The statement may be attributed to League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

 “There’s a lot to like in Gov. Snyder’s executive budget. The addition of child care inspectors, more dollars for low-income students, third-grade reading initiatives and postsecondary grants for adult students are all steps in a very positive direction.

 “In addition, you can’t work or learn with a toothache and the governor’s budget addresses this by partially expanding Healthy Kids Dental to three counties as well as investing in improving Medicaid dental services for adults statewide.

 “We applaud the executive budget for those efforts to help those who earn the least in our state.

 “Still unclear, however, is the impact from the merger of the Department of Human Services and Department of Community Health on the people they serve. In addition, state workers are already spread thin and the executive order issued today will likely worsen that with significant cuts. Children, families and individuals struggling to make ends meet must have the support they need to withstand a crisis or underemployment. The economic recovery has not reached everyone.

 “What is clear is that deep cuts to business taxes in 2011, as well as the legacy business tax credits, act as an anchor on the economy. Growing the skilled workforce for the 21st century will take much deeper investments in education, training and other services than are reflected in this budget.”

 

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

 

 

 

 

Income tax cuts would hurt Michigan’s economy

Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436 (o) or 517.410.5798 (c)

LANSING, Mich. –Rolling back Michigan’s income tax would jeopardize jobs and the economy, and it’s fiscally irresponsible at a time the state has major budget shortfalls.

House Republicans last week proposed an income tax cut from 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent. A new fact sheet from the Michigan League for Public Policy explains why that’s bad for Michigan’s economic recovery.

“Cutting the income tax would hurt our chances of creating jobs, growing the skills of our workforce and building a strong economy,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “We need to keep the economic momentum going, not jeopardize it.’’

Cutting the income tax would disproportionately benefit Michigan wealthiest taxpayers. In fact $3 of every $5 from the proposed tax cut would flow to the wealthiest 20 percent of Michigan taxpayers, those earning $89,000 or more.

Across-the-board income tax cuts would not boost Michigan’s economy but would contribute to rising income inequality, and further drain resources from public schools, community colleges, universities, healthcare and public safety—the very services that fuel economic growth.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Lopsided income growth in Michigan

Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436
Editor’s note: A noon Monday (today, Jan. 26) media conference call will be held by the Economic Policy Institute to discuss the findings of the report. Details below.

Michigan is the 15th most unequal state in the country

The top 1 percent in Michigan took home 25 times more than the bottom 99 percent in 2012, according to new analysis published by the Economic Policy Institute for EARN — the Economic Analysis and Research Network.

In The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State, 1917 to 2012, Estelle Sommelier and Mark Price update their analysis of IRS data—using the same methodology employed by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez to generate their widely cited findings—and show inequality is rising throughout the United States.

Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent of taxpayers captured an increasing share of income in every state. While incomes at all levels declined as a result of the Great Recession, income growth has been lopsided since the recovery began.

From 2009 to 2012 top 1 percent incomes grew faster than the incomes of the bottom 99 percent in every state except West Virginia. In Michigan, the top 1 percent captured 82 percent of income growth in the period following the Great Recession.

“This is clear evidence why the economic recovery has not been felt by all families in Michigan — only those who were already doing well,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, an EARN affiliate. “Our lawmakers should look to this as they create the next budget. They should resist more tax cuts so that Michigan can help struggling families and grow the skilled workforce we need.’’

The study’s authors calculate how much income is required to be in the top 1 percent in each state. In Michigan, it is $300,750.

Nor is this a recent phenomenon. Lopsided income growth is also a long-term trend. Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent in Michigan took home all of the total increase in state income. And Michigan was among four states (including Nevada, Wyoming and Alaska), where only the top 1 percent experienced rising incomes between 1979 and 2007, and the average income of the bottom 99 percent fell.

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Today’s media teleconference

What: Media teleconference on rising income inequality in every state
Who: Estelle Sommeiller, socio-economist at the Institute for Research in Economic and Social Sciences in France, Mark Price, labor economist at the Keystone Research Center
When: Monday, Jan. 26 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Call-in number: 1-800-311-9402 Passcode: UNEQUAL    
Contact: Dan Crawford, Donté Donald or Liz Rose at 202.775.8810 or news@epi.org

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, nonprofit think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States.

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

Statement: State of the State strikes hopeful tone

Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.410.5798

The following statement was released by Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs in reaction to Gov. Rick Snyder’s fifth State of the State address.

“Much appreciated is Gov. Snyder’s call for treating people with dignity and addressing the root of the problems of the unemployed and the underemployed.

“Helping those who lack opportunity was a major theme of the State of the State, and it offers a welcome chance to work with the administration. Important will be ensuring that the programs truly help families and individuals rather than counting success simply by lowering caseloads.

“The governor’s call to intervene early to get kids reading by third grade, rather than mandatory retention in third grade, was also good news.’’

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

Michigan has a revenue problem due to low business taxes

Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436

Revenue Estimating Conference: Michigan has a revenue problem due to low business taxes

The following statement was released Friday by the Michigan League for Public Policy in response to the Revenue Estimating Conference that revealed lower revenues than anticipated. The statement may be attributed to Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill.

“We do not have enough revenue to pay for the education, healthcare, child protection and other services we need. This is not due to a bad economy or too much spending. This is due to a problem with our revenue system. The big tax shift of 2011 means we have far fewer dollars from the Corporate Income Tax. In fact, only 2 percent of our total revenue comes from businesses, a smaller share than almost all other states.

“Efforts to roll back the income tax will only further worsen the situation, and in light of the falling revenue, it’s critically important that voters approve the May 5 ballot proposal to increase the sales tax by a penny to raise needed dollars for road repairs and schools, while protecting families earning the least with an increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit.’’

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

Oversight missing to ensure child care safety

Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan fails to ensure that kids attending licensed child care are safe, making it harder for working parents to find reliable care, a new policy brief from the Michigan League for Public Policy concludes.

The lack of oversight stems from the high caseloads for state child care inspectors — triple the recommended ratio of 1 worker for every 50 child care programs. Michigan would need to add 140 workers to the 70 now employed to meet that recommended staffing level.

“Ensuring the health and safety of our youngest children should be top priority on everyone’s agenda. Not only do working families need the security, employers do, too,’’ said League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. “As the next budget is put together, it’s important that child care safety be strengthened. Kids, parents and employers all have a stake in this.”

Projected revenue is down, making it harder for the administration and lawmakers to beef up staffing as needed. Some in the Legislature have discussed reducing revenues even more by rolling back the state income tax or giving more corporate tax breaks, further jeopardizing the state’s ability to oversee safety and health regulations.

Recent unannounced federal audits found all providers who were checked failed to comply with one or more state health and safety licensing requirements, including background checks of workers. And two national studies gave poor grades — an F and a D — to Michigan’s oversight.

Michigan falls far short in meeting the recommended quarterly unannounced visits to child care centers, and child care homes.

Child care centers and group homes (up to 12 children with two providers) are inspected only every two years at renewal of the licenses. Interim inspections in the off-years are spotty. For family child care homes (up to six children) inspections may be as far apart as six years.

“It’s important for lawmakers to realize that they are letting down the youngest residents of the state when we don’t have the resources to make sure kids are in safe and healthy conditions,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, director of Kids Count in Michigan Project at the League. “This is one of the most critical responsibilities of our elected officials, and it’s very clear they need to do a better job.’’

The report, State’s Failure to Guarantee Child Safety Places Children at Risk, can be found online at www.mlpp.org.

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

Statement: Road package is reason to celebrate

Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436 or jputnam@mlpp.org

The following statement was released by Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, in reaction to the road funding compromise announced today.

“This bipartisan compromise is truly a reason to celebrate. If lawmakers and then voters approve, the plan will fix the roads without taking away from Michigan’s kids, and it protects those earning the least by restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit to 20 percent of the federal credit.

“In fact, the larger EITC would benefit more than 1 million kids in Michigan. It would help working families stay on the job by assisting them with transportation costs and would lift many more families from poverty.

“This is a welcome holiday package wrapped up with a bow.”

For more information on the EITC, see the League’s fact sheet: Cuts to Michigan’s EITC raise taxes on working families 

See the League’s road funding report: Road funding proposals: Let’s not make it harder for people to get to work

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

Schools would lose millions under House road plan

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

House plan to fix roads would divert millions from local school districts

LANSING, Mich. – Shortchanging Michigan’s 1.5 million public school students to pay for road repairs is bad policy and would stymie efforts to build a highly skilled workforce.

New estimates show staggering sums would be diverted from local school districts under a plan approved by the Michigan House last week. For example, Saginaw schools would lose an estimated $3.4 million a year if a House plan to divert sales tax to fix roads goes through, Lowell schools would give up $1.8 million, Marquette would be out $1.5 million a year, while Ann Arbor schools would lose $7.8 million.

“Enough is enough. Our kids must have the skills needed in a 21st century economy so that they can compete. This plan shortchanges our kids and our future,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Michigan voters in 1994 dramatically changed the way schools are funded, by lowering property taxes and raising the sales tax from 4 cents to 6 cents. The extra two cents was dedicated to schools and revenue sharing for communities. This includes sales tax on gasoline. Changing that now without replacement revenue violates the spirit and the voters’ intent of Proposal A.

“This is nothing short of a shell game. Proposal A brought higher sales taxes to offset the lowering of property taxes. Now to take those dollars to fix roads would solve one problem but create a far bigger one – fewer dollars for already stressed classrooms,’’ Jacobs said.

New estimates by district show a staggering impact from the House-approved plan to divert sales tax on fuel, now dedicated to schools and revenue sharing. The estimates are based on a report from the House Fiscal Agency estimates that schools would lose $634.1 million this year, rising to $888.7 million in 2022-23. The Michigan Association of School Boards has estimated an average loss of $475 per pupil per year.

More than 1,700 people have signed a League petition telling lawmakers to fix roads the right way. Taking from kids is the wrong way.

The Senate-approved plan supported by Gov. Rick Snyder is a far better option. It raises new revenue to pay for roads with a wholesale tax on fuel.

What is the impact on your district? http://www.mlpp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Copy-of-School-district-impact-2.pdf

See the League’s report on road funding:  http://www.mlpp.org/road-funding-proposals-lets-not-make-it-harder-for-people-to-get-to-work

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

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