News Releases

State must invest in renewable sources and energy efficiency measures

For Immediate Release
April 16, 2015

Contact: Stacey Range Messina
smessina@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

 

Report: Low-income families and communities of color suffer most from carbon pollution, energy costs 

LANSING – Low-income families and communities of color are disproportionately affected by high energy costs and pollutants from coal-burning power plants in Michigan, suffering more health problems such as asthma and spending a larger chunk of their income on electricity bills, according to a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The report, “Clean Energy Brings Health, Savings and Jobs to Low-Income Michigan Families,” details the problems fossil fuels bring to these populations and how they benefit the most from investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

Some key points of the report:

  • Michigan is home to more than 20 active coal plants, including Wayne County’s River Rouge Plant, one of the dirtiest coal plants in the nation where people of color make up 65% of the community.
  • The Michigan Department of Community Health calls Detroit and its downriver neighborhoods the “Epicenter of the Asthma Burden,” with residents three to six times more likely to have asthma-related hospital admissions than the state as a whole.
  • While the average U.S. household spends 3% of its income on electricity bills, low-income families spend 8% — and more when energy costs spike.
  • Approximately 6 million Americans live within three miles of a coal plant, and people of color and low-income households are more likely to live near these plants, with coal plants in urban areas overwhelmingly located in communities of color. The average per capita income in neighborhoods with coal plants is below the poverty threshold at $18,400, nearly 15% lower than the U.S. average income of $21,587.
  • 39% of U.S. residents living near coal plants are people of color although they account for only 36% of the entire population.

“Clearly Michigan’s low-income families and communities of color are suffering the most from harmful carbon pollutants and high energy prices,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Investing in renewable energy and adopting energy efficiency measures, such as those proposed by Gov. Snyder, promote economic security and better health for thousands of families struggling with these issues.”

The League supports the spirit of Gov. Snyder’s energy plan calling for a 15% reduction in energy waste and 19-24% of the state’s energy coming from renewables, so that by 2025, Michigan should meet 30-40% of its energy needs through renewable energy and energy efficiency. But the League urges the creation of mandates and accountability standards for meeting these goals.

Adopting a plan that meets the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which allows states to be credited for energy efficiency improvements in all sectors of the economy, could drop electricity bills by 8% for an annual savings of about $100 for the average consumer.

Michigan’s economy also would get a boost, with up to 6,900 new energy efficiency-related jobs created by 2020 under a scenario similar to the Clean Power Plan.

The report was released in conjunction with “Bridging the Clean Energy Divide: Affordable Clean Energy Solutions for Today and Tomorrow,” a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council showing how a transition to cleaner power and reduced carbon pollution can lead to healthier communities, greater savings, and a stronger economy in Michigan and nationwide.

“Michigan is home to many people who work hard and play by the rules, but lack the resources to protect themselves from the effects of climate change,” said Katharine McCormick, NRDC Midwest Advocate. “Much more can be done to help low-income communities keep more of their hard-earned dollars and reduce their exposures to dangerous air pollution that makes it harder for people to breathe.”

The reports were released during a panel discussion at the Radisson Hotel Lansing. Paul Smith, deputy legal counsel of the Office of Gov. Snyder, was the keynote speaker and Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, moderated. Panelists included McCormick from the NRDC along with Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director of The Ecology Center; Kimberly Hill Knott, director of public policy at Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice; and John Kinch, executive director of Michigan Energy Options.

 

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, 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.

 

Kids Count in Michigan wins grant from Skillman

For Immediate Release
April 13, 2015

Contact: Stacey Range Messina
smessina@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

LANSING – The Detroit-based Skillman Foundation has awarded $85,000 to the Michigan League for Public Policy for the 2015 activities of the Kids Count in Michigan project.

 Kids Count in Michigan compiles an annual review of a core set of measures of children and youth in Michigan, 82 counties and the city of Detroit. Those measures are in four categories: health, economic security, education, and family and community. In addition to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, the project provides an annual report on maternal and infant health and conducts a public education campaign to improve the status of children. The League partners with Michigan’s Children to disseminate the information in order to improve policies and programs for children.

“Improving communities and the lives of children depends on reliable and accurate information to show where to invest precious resources,’’ said Tonya Allen, president of The Skillman Foundation. “Kids Count is a trusted and valuable tool for advocates, policymakers and communities, and we are proud to support it.’’

The 2015 Data Book found that too many kids in Michigan remain mired in poverty while policymakers have reduced help for struggling families. The book examines trends on 15 key indicators, showing the state improving on eight between 2006 and 2013 while losing ground dramatically on five measures, including economic security.

“The support provided by The Skillman Foundation is critical to the Kids Count in Michigan project,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “The report provides rich local data and shows trends in child well-being so we can see where resources are needed most.’’

Kids Count in Michigan is part of a nationwide network of state projects supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, which houses the national Kids Count project. In Michigan, the project also is funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and other generous supporters.

Created in 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy committed to improving meaningful graduation rates in the Detroit region, so kids are ready for college, career, and life. The Foundation has assets of nearly a half-billion dollars, with an annual grants budget of $17 million. The Foundation works to achieve its goal by investing in community leadership, neighborhoods, safety initiatives, high-quality schools, social innovation and youth development.

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 The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, 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.

 

Statement: Working families find Senate support today

For Immediate Release
March 25, 2015

Contact: Stacey Range Messina
smessina@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

 

LANSING – The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on today’s actions of the Senate K-12, School Aid and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The statement may be attributed to League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“We commend the subcommittee for standing up for Michigan’s working families and recognizing that these critical programs must be boosted, not cut. We are thrilled that the subcommittee went beyond Gov. Snyder’s proposal, adding $7 million for adult education for a total of $29 million, and $10 million for third grade reading programs, bringing the total to $35 million – items that were eliminated by a House appropriations subcommittee yesterday.

“The senators also agreed with the governor’s recommendation to increase payments for high-quality providers and extend child care eligibility allowing parents to keep their subsidy despite slight pay increases that wouldn’t cover costs of care. A House appropriations subcommittee also agreed with the child care increases, but rejected $5.6 million to hire more child care licensing inspectors that the Senate approved to help ensure safety for thousands of young children so their parents can focus on work or school.

“These programs are paramount to helping Michigan families gain economic security. Our research shows that too few adults are getting the basic skills education they need to find a way out of low-paying, dead-end jobs and into careers that can support their families. For many, adult education programs are the only way out, helping them prepare for postsecondary training and better futures for them and our business community. Cutting these programs gets Michigan nowhere in workforce readiness, attracting business and improving our economic climate.

“We also know that that the ability to read by the end of third grade is central to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential, and ability to contribute to our economy. But in 2013 almost two of every five Michigan third-graders did not demonstrate reading proficiency on the MEAP. This is unacceptable in the 21st century, and it will take investments now to avoid deep problems in the future.

“We are hopeful that other senators will agree and that the House comes around to give these programs the boosts Michigan families so desperately need.”

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 The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, 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.

 

Third grade reading, adult ed must be restored

For Immediate Release
March 24, 2015

Contact: Stacey Range Messina
smessina@mlpp.org
517.487.5436 |  517.214.5994 after 3 p.m.

 

New reports prove need for investments, not cuts

LANSING – A House Appropriations subcommittee today eliminated all funding next year for adult education and for Gov. Snyder’s proposed third grade reading initiative, bucking recommendations of two new reports proving the dire need to boost both areas.

Promoting Early Literacy in Michigan,” released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy, asserts that the ability to read by the end of third grade is central to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential, and ability to contribute to the nation’s economy. But in 2013 almost two of every five Michigan third-graders did not demonstrate reading proficiency on the MEAP, according to the Michigan Department of Education. About 10,000 of those 40,000 students scored at the most elementary level. Most students who fail to achieve this critical milestone fall further behind and often drop out before earning a high school diploma.

Willing to Work and Ready to Learn: More Adult Education Would Strengthen Michigan’s Economy,” released by the Michigan League for Public Policy earlier this month, shows that too few adults are getting the basic skills education they need to succeed in occupational training and find a way out of low-paying, dead-end jobs and into careers that can support their families.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2015-16 fiscal year budget recommendation included $25 million for a third grade reading initiative and $22 million for adult education programs.

The House K-12 School Aid Subcommittee removed those items during its meeting this morning. Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Twp. and chair of the committee, said he suspected the reading funds would be restored before the final budget.

“For the subcommittee to remove this funding is extremely shortsighted,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Michigan is not reaching anywhere near enough of the working age adults who lack basic skills to be part of the state’s workforce development push and too many of Michigan’s children can’t read by the end of third grade. We need to boost these programs, not cut the little funding available now.

“Rep. Kelly and some of his colleagues may have witnessed this problem as they visited local schools during National Reading Month and read to the students over the past few weeks,” Jacobs continued. “We applaud every legislator’s attempt to connect with their local school children by reading them a book, but what kids really need is for these policymakers to invest in their families and help more kids become better readers so they can succeed in life.”

The Senate Appropriations K-12, Education and School Aid Subcommittee is scheduled to take up its own funding bill Wednesday morning.

Today’s early literacy report details how policymakers could make huge gains in third-grade reading proficiency by addressing poverty and strengthening existing early intervention programs.

Research shows that family income is the most reliable predictor of academic success, and that efforts to help children must begin long before they reach third grade or even kindergarten. In Michigan, school districts with larger percentages of low-income students also had larger percentages of students performing below proficiency. Students from low-income families are more likely to face barriers such as illness, transportation problems, no access to quality child care or enrichment activities, unhealthy housing, mobility, homelessness, and unsafe neighborhoods.

National tests show that four of every five Michigan fourth-graders from families with income below or marginally above the poverty level ($24,000 for a family of four in 2013) did not demonstrate proficiency in reading in 2013 compared with roughly one of every two higher income students.

Well-established research also shows that learning starts in infancy, long before formal learning begins, with the most rapid and critical development occurring in the first three years of life. As such, programs that foster maternal and infant mental and physical health are key strategies to improve optimum physical, cognitive and social-emotional development. States that have seen the most dramatic improvements in early literacy have made substantial investments in early interventions.

“Schools alone cannot solve this problem,” said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the League’s Kids Count in Michigan Project Director and author of the report. “Michigan has a variety of programs that provide the foundation to literacy and academic achievement, but policymakers have not directed funding to address the level of need nor have they supported policies to improve economic security. These issues are well-known to have a negative impact on child health and academic achievement.”

The report includes a series of recommendations to improve literacy among early elementary children in Michigan, including providing adequate funding to existing systems for young children and their families such as prenatal care, childhood lead poisoning prevention, Early On, the child care subsidy, and Healthy Kids Dental. The League also recommends addressing the role and causes of poverty by increasing the state Earned Income Tax Credit (included in Proposal 1), reforming the criminal justice system that disproportionately affects communities of color, and enacting policies that support successful re-entry after prison.

“Without addressing these critical issues and investing in programs that are proven to work, our children will continue to struggle with reading and no number of visiting readers can fix that,” Jacobs said.

 

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, 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.

 

Working families of color falling behind in Michigan

For Immediate Release

March 16, 2015

Contact: Stacey Range Messina
smessina@mlpp.org 517.487.5436

 

Latino Immigrants at Greatest Risk;
Study Concludes Michigan Can Address the Problem

LANSING – A sharp racial/ethnic divide has emerged within the world of working families earning low wages, posing a critical equity and economic challenge to Michigan and the nation, a new study concludes.

Unless Michigan lawmakers pursue more policies to improve conditions, African-Americans and Latinos will continue to emerge as a larger – but under-prepared and underpaid – segment of the workforce.

The disturbing portrait of America’s low-income working families was sketched by the Working Poor Families Project based on new analysis of the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The report, “Low-Income, Working Families: The Racial/Ethnic Divide,” sheds fresh light on what’s happening inside the world of the working poor, where adults are working hard but find it difficult if not impossible to get ahead. And within this world at the bottom of America’s economic spectrum, a stark divide has emerged between white and Asian families compared to black and Latino families.

“In 2013, working families headed by racial/ethnic minorities were twice as likely to be poor or low income compared with non-Hispanic whites, a gap that has increased since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007,” the authors write. “The significant differences among racial/ethnic groups present a critical challenge to ensuring economic growth and bringing opportunities to all workers, families and communities across the United States.”

In Michigan, there are 312,382 working families with incomes below 200 percent of the official poverty rate, which is $40,180 for a family of three. Half of all minority working families in Michigan are low income compared to 27 percent of all white working families. Some 56 percent of all black working families in Michigan fall into the low-income category, as do 55 percent of all Hispanic working families.

“These disparities impact our economy but they also harm the fabric of our communities here in Michigan,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “It’s past time that we address these problems at the state level.”

Latinos are particularly at risk because so many of their low-income working families include at least one immigrant parent, the data show. Despite a high work ethic, Latino immigrants are among the most disadvantaged with lower earnings, less education and little healthcare. Nationally, some 14 million of the 24 million children who live in low-income working families belong to racial or ethnic minorities. This bodes poorly for the nation’s future as children who grow up in low-income households face the very real prospect of never escaping poverty, the study found.

Disparities cannot be erased overnight, but policymakers can start to reduce the gaps with a two-pronged approach increasing access to education and training while enacting policies that “make work pay,” the researchers assert. The report recommends several policy initiatives, some of which have been adopted in Michigan but should be expanded for greater results, including:

  • Raising the minimum wage further.
  • Increasing need-based financial aid for postsecondary education and expanding child care assistance and other supports for students with children.
  • Supporting programs that link education to career opportunities and helping English language learners.
  • Extending Medicaid benefits to all who are eligible.
  • Encouraging employers to provide paid sick leave for all workers.

“Providing all low-income families with the tools they need to succeed is critical to the long-term health of our state and nation,” Jacobs said. “Our state leaders can help ensure the American Dream is once again accessible by all.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, 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.

 

Michigan’s forgotten talent needs adult education

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Contact: Stacey Messina at 517.487.5436

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan is not reaching anywhere near enough of the working age adults who lack basic skills to be part of the state’s workforce development push, according to a new report released today.

Willing to Work and Ready to Learn: More Adult Education Would Strengthen Michigan’s Economy,” released by the Michigan League for Public Policy, shows that too few adults are getting the basic skills education they need to succeed in occupational training and find a way out of low-paying, dead-end jobs and into a career that can support their families.

“Michigan’s talent and workforce development efforts are severely hampered by all of these people being left behind,” League Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill said. “We are ignoring a huge pool of potential talent and skills that could be developed to benefit Michigan and our economy.”

The report tracks state funding for adult education in Michigan, analyzes its impact on the state’s economic climate and offers recommendations for improvement. Senior Policy Analyst Peter Ruark presented the report today to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid. He was joined by Bob Steeh from the Michigan Association for Community and Adult Education.

The report shows that:

  • State funding for adult education dropped from $185 million in 1996 to $22 million today.
  • Enrollment in adult education programs has fallen by nearly half since 2001.
  • More than 221,500 Michigan adults age 25-44 lack a high school diploma or GED, but fewer than 7 percent are enrolled in adult education.
  • More than 225,000 Michigan adults speak English less than “very well,” but fewer than 5 percent enroll in ESL adult education programs.
  • 60 percent of Michigan community college students need to take remedial education classes because they have not mastered skills needed for postsecondary education.

Workers without postsecondary skills and credentials will have an increasingly difficult time finding family-supporting employment.

Almost 30 percent of Michigan adults over age 25 who do not have a high school diploma or GED live in poverty, compared to 4 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 12 percent with some college or an associate degree, and 15 percent for a high school graduate. Median annual earnings of someone without a high school diploma or GED are $17,643 compared to $31,209 for someone with some college or an associate degree.

Michigan’s push to move more low-skilled workers into postsecondary credential programs will create greater demand for adult education. With $10 million in additional funding, Michigan could educate 8,000 more adults. With $30 million more in funding, Michigan could serve 40,000 more adults.

The League also recommends removing barriers to education by offering classes in community colleges, workplaces and sites in which parents can bring their children (i.e. Head Start), and that Michigan facilitate cooperative agreements between community colleges and school districts that enable students to take adult education classes on campus that fulfill developmental education requirements.

“As the governor and Legislature have both stressed, increasing the skill level of Michigan’s workforce is critical,” Holcomb-Merrill said. “However, by neglecting adult education, Michigan is doing little to help the many workers who lack basic skills in reading, writing or mathematics needed to succeed in occupational training.”

 

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, 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.

Health care tax subsidies should be available to all Americans who qualify

Contact: Judy Putnam at 517.487.5436

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the King v. Burwell case regarding Affordable Care Act tax subsidies in Michigan and others states that did not set up their own health care exchanges. The following statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs:

“With the health care coverage of 300,000 Michigan adults at stake, it’s important that the U.S. Supreme Court justices allow tax subsidies to stand in Michigan and other states without their own health care marketplaces. It’s clear that Congress never intended that only people in certain states could take advantage of tax subsidies. Those subsidies should be available to all Americans who qualify, regardless of geographic boundaries.

“The Affordable Care Act is working well in many ways. Health care costs are down. More young adults are covered. Seriously ill people are no longer dumped from coverage. People can’t be turned away due to pre-existing conditions. Preventive care is at no cost to patients. The Affordable Care Act has been good for Michigan and the country. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will allow the subsidies for low- and moderate-income adults to continue. It’s clearly the right choice.’’

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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. Kids Count in Michigan is a project of the League.

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. (more…)

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