Reports


Valuing Families, Valuing Work: Four Ways Policymakers Can Help Low-Paid Workers and Their Children

 

Sick children are sent to schools. Sick workers handle food and money. New moms go back to work before they are ready. Children are sent to unlicensed child care of unknown or low quality. Workers show up for shifts and are told to go home unpaid. Workers are fired for taking time off to care for seriously-ill loved ones or for their own medical needs.

Earned sick leave, paid family and medical leave, predictable work schedules, and adequate child care assistance are some of the top workplace issues facing low-income families in Michigan and keeping many from achieving financial self-sufficiency.

The  best way to leave poverty, support a family and move toward economic security is through work, yet not all jobs have the reliability and flexibility that workers need  in order to stay employed and contribute to the economy. Most middle- and upper-income workers take for granted a predictable work schedule and the ability to take time off for sickness or family needs, but for many low-paid workers, sickness, last minute schedule changes or lack of child care result in loss of money and difficulty doing what is best for themselves and their families.

Michigan legislators can improve the workplace to help low-paid employees better meet the needs of their families:

    • Require all employers to provide earned sick leave.
    • Urge Congress to establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program.
    • Require employers to create predictable schedules.
    • Update and strengthen the state child care subsidy to reflect reality.

Earned Sick Leave

Many workers in Michigan cannot take paid time off when they are ill or to care for a sick child.1 Nationwide, 39% of private sector workers do not get earned sick leave from their employers. Seventy percent of workers in the lowest paying jobs (those in the bottom 25% of average wages) do not have earned sick leave, compared to 16% of workers in the highest paying jobs (those in the top 25% of average wages).2

Race and ethnicity also can affect paid leave, with less than half of Hispanic workers having sick leave compared to more than 60% of African American, Asian American and white workers.3

Without earned sick leave, an ill worker must either stay home and lose wages, or go to work and risk becoming sicker, working less productively, and exposing co-workers and, in some cases the public, to illness. If the worker’s child becomes sick, the parent may feel pressure to send the child to school anyway or to leave the child at home unattended if the family cannot afford the lost wages. This choice is not good for workers, their families, or the public.

Staying home sick causes not only a loss of wages for many low-paid workers, but also can lead to a loss of employment. Working mothers are especially at risk. In a 2013 survey commissioned by Oxfam America, one out of seven low-wage workers and one out of five low-wage mothers reported losing a job in the past four years because they were sick or needed to care for a family member.4 Such job instability and its resulting stress can harm the social and intellectual development of children who already are at risk due to poverty.5

Family Values at Work, a national nonprofit organization, has compiled stories showing the circumstances leading to the need for sick leave and the consequences of not having it.6 Included are accounts of working while in immense pain and delaying treatment, leaving sick children alone at home or in the hospital, spreading germs in the workplace and among the public, and threats of retaliation for prioritizing caring for a sick family member over going in to work. While the compendium features stories from workers around the country, they likely reflect what many Michigan workers face.

The United States is one of only three out of 22 high-income countries studied by the Center for Economic and Policy Research that does not require earned sick leave that would cover a five day illness. Most of the countries require employers to provide at least five days of sick leave per year, while a few have social insurance programs to cover both short-term and long-term leave.7

Three states, along with a handful of localities across the country, have sick leave laws. San Francisco was the first municipality to enact a sick leave policy in 2006, followed in 2008 by Washington DC. In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to enact such a law, and California and Massachusetts followed suit with laws that will take effect in July 2015. In Connecticut and California, the Legislature passed the sick leave law, while Massachusetts’ law was enacted through a ballot initiative.8

In Michigan, both legislative chambers have bills pending that would require all employers to provide earned sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year for employees of a small business (ten employees or less) and up to 70 hours for all other workers. The bills have strong public support: A recent poll shows 86% of Michigan voters agree that every worker should be able to earn paid sick days in order to take time off without losing pay, and 83% would be supportive of the Legislature passing a bill that would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.9

At the Congressional level, the Healthy Families Act would require employers with 15 or more workers to provide at least seven days per year of paid sick time and those with fewer than 15 employees to provide at least seven days per year of unpaid sick time. Workers would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours (seven days) per year.10 The bill was introduced by Senator Murray (D-WA) and Rep. DeLauro (D-CT).

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Maternal leave enables mothers to recover from childbirth and to bond with their newborn child without serious financial disruption. The United States is one of only eight countries in the world (and the only high-income country) that does not require paid leave for mothers of newborns. Of the 178 countries that require it, 81 also provide some level of leave to new fathers as well.11

Paid medical leave to cover long-term illnesses, injury recovery or other medical challenges is important as well. Medical leave helps prevent families from falling into poverty, foreclosure and bankruptcy, and helps to keep finances stable during medically challenging times. Medical leave differs from sick leave in that sick leave is short-term (often a day or two taken at a time) and pays full wages, while medical leave is longer term (generally up to three or four months) for serious medical conditions or illnesses, and usually replaces wages only partially.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child or a seriously ill family member, or to recover from serious health conditions or pregnancy. While the FMLA was an improvement over not having any guaranteed leave at all, it does not cover employees of a company or organization with fewer than 50 employees, and it does not meet the needs of workers who cannot afford to forgo up to 12 weeks of wages.12

Currently there are no paid family and medical leave bills under consideration in Michigan. Nationally, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY ) Act, sponsored by Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY), would provide workers with 66% of their income for up to 12 weeks if they take a leave of absence due to serious illness or pregnancy. It would cover all workers in all companies no matter the size. The program would be funded through small employer and employee contributions (similar to how Social Security and Medicare are funded) and administered by the Social Security Administration.13

Predictable Schedules

Late-notice scheduling and sudden schedule changes can cause workers to lose anticipated wages and make taking care of children extremely difficult. Many low-paid workers have experienced going in to work for an eight-hour shift only to be told to leave after two or three hours, or being called at the last minute and told not to come in at all. Some employers will post weekly job schedules one or two days before the new work week begins. Such unpredictable scheduling leaves workers scrambling to schedule (or cancel) child care, transportation and other family needs, and sometimes requires them to spend money to accommodate the unexpected change.

Along with minimum wage and paid leave, predictable scheduling is becoming increasingly recognized as a necessary policy change to protect workers and restore the integrity of work. While some mostly higher-paying professions (i.e. police and fire protection, journalism and some medical professions) have inherent unpredictability due to the need to respond to circumstances and events, such unpredictability for lower-paying occupations is usually practiced only to save the employer money. Call centers, retail stores and restaurants are increasingly using computerized “workforce optimization systems” that use sales trends, expected customer volume, weather and traffic patterns and other variables to create “just in time” scheduling that puts employees to work exactly when they are most needed—at the expense of worker well-being.

As with the absence of sick and family leave, the lowest income workers are more likely than other workers to have the most irregular work schedules. Approximately 17%  of the total workforce and 83% of hourly part-time workers have jobs with unstable work schedules, and as many as 26% of such workers report experiencing work-family conflict as a result.14 Between 19% and 31% of low-wage workers are often asked to work extra hours with little or no notice, and 40-60% percent of such workers say they comply with the request to avoid negative consequences.15

A related problem is “clopening,” requiring an employee to work a closing shift late at night and then an opening shift early the next morning. Along with not being able to get adequate sleep between shifts, employees subjected to this practice often have difficulty tending to their families’ needs. Losing sleep regularly due to such work shifts also can jeopardize health.

In 2014, bills were proposed both in the Michigan Legislature and in Congress to address schedule unpredictability. The federal Schedules That Work Act would have granted an employee the right to request changes regarding the number of hours or times the employee is required to work or be on call, the location of work, the amount of advance notice received of work schedule assignments, and the fluctuations in the number of hours scheduled to work on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis  – and to do so without fear of retaliation.

The federal bill also would have added protections for workers specifically in retail, food preparation/service and building cleaning requiring employers to give employees their schedules two weeks in advance. It also would have required an extra hour of pay to the employee if there is a change to a scheduled shift less than 24 hours before the shift is to begin. If a worker is sent home before the end of the shift, that worker would receive a minimum of four hours of pay (or pay for the entire shift if the shift was less than four hours).16 This bill has not been re-introduced in the new congressional session.

The Michigan proposal contained many of the same provisions as the Congressional bill. At this time, no state has a law as wide-ranging as the Schedules That Work Act, but Vermont has a law that provides one narrow but important piece of it: giving an employee the right to request a schedule change and requiring the employer to consider it and provide a response, and prohibiting retaliation against an employee for making such a request.17 San Francisco has a similar right-to-request law that applies only to requests pertaining to an employee’s caregiving of his or her child.18 Neither law gives the employee a right to receive a schedule accommodation, only to request it and have it considered.

Child Care Assistance

Child care is one of the biggest expenses for many working families. The average monthly cost of full-time child care in Michigan for children younger than school age is $555 per month (though in some counties it is more than $700 per month), which is approximately 30% of a single parent’s monthly basic expenses and 25% of a two-parent family’s basic expenses.19  If the single parent is working full time at Michigan’s minimum wage, he or she will not be able to afford child care, as that will consume 40% of his or her earnings.

To help with child care expenses for low-paid workers, Michigan has the largely federally-funded Child Development and Care subsidy that covers a portion of the costs. The CDC provides child care subsidies to: (1) public assistance recipients; (2) families with incomes below 121% of poverty ($22,048 for a family of three); (3) licensed foster parents caring for foster children; and (4) families with open child protective services or preventive services cases. Recipients must be working, attending school or attending approved services or trainings. The  subsidies are available for eligible children under the age of 13, as well as children between the ages of 13 and 18 in cases with health or disability reasons or a court order.

Michigan must update and strengthen the child care subsidy to help working parents keep their jobs, meet family needs and move ahead.

The CDC subsidies do not meet the needs of low-income working parents in several ways:

    • The subsidy rates are well below the federally recommended level—the 75th percentile of current market rates, which is the level designed to give families access to 75% of local providers. Michigan’s rates are below half that amount, limiting access to licensed or higher quality child care.20 To begin to respond to the problem of low rates, the Michigan Legislature recently approved another small rate increase for child care providers with higher quality ratings. Currently, the subsidy pays $1.68-$4.50 an hour and depends on the type of child care program (center, group or family home), age of child and whether the family receives 70%, 80%, 90%, 95% or 100% of the subsidy . However, 75% of parents receive the lowest baseline rate of $1.68-$3.75 an hour.
    • Michigan, unlike most states, reimburses child care providers on an hourly basis, depending on a child’s actual attendance, despite the fact that most providers bill on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This makes it difficult for providers to run their businesses and project income, and the hourly reimbursements discourage many providers from participating in the CDC program.
    • Michigan’s child care program has one of the lowest eligibility levels in the country, limiting low-income parents’ access to the child care assistance they need to work and support their children. The state’s child care income eligibility threshold (39% of state median income) has not been changed since 2003, and without adjustments for inflation has fallen from 155% of poverty to 121%, or gross monthly income of under $1,990. In response, the Michigan Legislature recently approved a new policy that allows parents who are eligible for the CDC at 121% of poverty to remain eligible until their incomes reach 250% of poverty, or $47,682 a year for a single parent with two children.
    • Michigan covers only 90 hours of care in a two-week period—down from a peak of 140 hours. Although the number of covered hours was increased from 80 hours last year, it is not enough for parents who must spend a lot of time driving to and from work. If a shift is 8 ½ hours and the commute is one hour each way, a full-time worker will need 105 hours of child care in a two-week period. Thirty-two states do not impose caps on the hours of care. Of the states that do, the average cap is 120 hours biweekly, and at 90 hours Michigan is the lowest.

Inadequate child care subsidy rates in Michigan have forced many low-income families to seek out lower cost unlicensed care of unknown or poor quality. In response, state policymakers have sought to encourage greater parental reliance on licensed care, as well as improve the quality of unlicensed care. They first reduced payment rates for unlicensed child care providers and then, beginning in 2009, required all unlicensed home providers to participate in a seven-hour orientation training before being able to receive a subsidy. When the training requirement was adopted, 65% of subsidized children were in the care of unlicensed providers; by 2012, only 38% were placed in unlicensed care.21

No data exists showing whether the parents of children no longer in unsubsidized care were able to find higher-quality child care in licensed homes or centers. And it is possible that grandparents or other relatives caring for young children simply dropped out of the subsidy program because they were unable to participate in the training, or chose not to because they anticipated only caring for children for a short period of time to help out a family member.

The child care subsidy is a way to support working parents and help them thrive in the job market, while at the same time helping to ensure that children are safe and in a constructive environment that encourages development. Michigan must increase its investments in child care and make sure that its subsidy policies address the challenges faced by low-income working parents.

 Endnotes

  1. United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 32. Leave benefits: Access, private industry workers,” National Compensation Survey, March 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2014/ownership/private/table32a.htm
  2. United States Department of Labor, ibid.
  3. Williams, Claudia and Barbara Gault, Paid Sick Days Access in the U.S.: Differences by Race/Ethnicity, Occupation, Earnings, and Work Schedule, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, March 2014. http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/paid-sick-days-access-in-the-united-states-differences-by-race-ethnicity-occupation-earnings-and-work-schedule
  4. Oxfam America, Hard Work, Hard Lives: Survey Exposes Harsh Reality Faced by Low-Wage Workers in the US, 2013, as referenced in Ben-Ishai, Liz, Access to Paid Leave: An Overlooked Aspect of Economic & Social Inequality, Center for Law and Social Policy, April 14, 2014. http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/2014-04-09-Inequities-and-Paid-Leave-Brief_FINAL.pdf
  5. For more on this topic, see Babcock, Elizabeth, Using Brain Science to Design New Pathways Out of Poverty, Crittenton Women’s Union, 2014. http://www.liveworkthrive.org/research_and_tools/reports_and_publications/EF_Report
  6. Family Values at Work website (http://famil yvaluesatwork.org/media-center/voices-front-lines)
  7. Heymann, Jody and Hye Jin Rho, John Schmitt, and Alison Earle, Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries, Center for Economic Policy Research, May 2009. http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/paid-sick-days-2009-05.pdf
  8. National Partnership for Women and Families, State and Local Action on Paid Sick Days, November 2014. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/campaigns/psd/state-and-local-action-paid-sick-days.pdf
  9. Denno-Research LLC, Executive Analysis of Voters in Michigan, Monday, February 2nd through Wednesday, February 4th, 2015. http://www.eclectablog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Paid-Sick-Days-2015-Analysis-Denno-Research.pdf
  10. National Partnership for Women and Families, Fact Sheet: The Healthy Families Act, February 2015. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/psd/the-healthy-families-act-fact-sheet.pdf
  11. Gault, Barbara and Heidi Hartmann, Ariane Hegewisch, Jessica Milli, Lindsey Reichlin, Paid Parental Leave in the United States, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, March 2014. http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/paid-parental-leave-in-the-united-states-what-the-data-tell-us-about-access-usage-and-economic-and-health-benefits
  12. Gault, ibid.
  13. National Partnership for Women and Families, Fact Sheet: The Family And Medical Insurance Leave Act (The FAMILY Act), March 2015. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/paid-leave/family-act-fact-sheet.pdf
  14. Economic Policy Institute, Irregular Work Scheduling and its Consequences, Briefing Paper #394, April 9, 2014. http://www.epi.org/publication/irregular-work-scheduling-and-its-consequences/
  15. Watson, Liz, Lauren Frohlich and Elizabeth Johnston, Collateral Damage: Scheduling Challenges for Workers in Low-Wage Jobs and Their Consequences, National Women’s Law Center, April 2014. http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/collateral_damage_scheduling_fact_sheet.pdf
  16. Ben-Ishai, Liz, The Schedules That Work Act, Center for Law and Social Policy, July 22, 2014. http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/schedules-that-work-act-CLASP-3.pdf
  17. The Vermont law can be found at: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/Acts/ACT031.pdf
  18. City and County of San Francisco, San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance: Legislative Fact Sheet. http://www.sfbos.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=45824
  19. Michigan League for Public Policy, Making Ends Meet: A Basic Needs Income Level for Family Well-Being, March 2014.
  20. Karen Schulman and Helen Blank, Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012, National Women’s Law Center.
  21. Michigan Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Application for Initial Funding, op. cit

 

Higher Ed Gets Small Bump in 2016 but Adult Financial Aid Rejected

 

Universities and community colleges in Michigan will receive small increases in state funding next fiscal year, but students will get no additional relief with lawmakers rejecting boosts to financial aid programs.

Because Michigan does not have a state agency that exercises financing or policy authority over its universities and community colleges, the Legislature funds those institutions through the Higher Education and Community Colleges budgets.

Michigan’s three existing financial aid grant programs (the Tuition Incentive Program, the Competitive Scholarship and the Tuition Grant) are funded through the Higher Education budget even though community college students may also apply for and receive those grants. The reinstatement of a grant for adult learners had been proposed by the governor in the community college budget for 2016, but was not included in the final agreement between the House and Senate.

For 2016, the governor recommended:

  • A total increase in funding for university operations of $26.8 million (2%) over the current fiscal year. As in previous recent years, this increase was in the form of performance funding using the following metrics: weighted undergraduate completions in critical skills areas, research expenditures, 6-year graduation rates, total completions, administrative costs as a percentage of core expenditures, and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants. The governor’s budget continued the practice of requiring universities to limit tuition increases in order to receive any performance funding, but lowered the limit from 3.2% to 2.8%. This “tuition restraint” prerequisite for receiving performance funding helps keep postsecondary education affordable for low-income students.
    • Senate: The Senate concurred with the governor’s operational funding level.
    • House: The House increased university operations by only $13.1 million (1%) and allowed tuition increases up to 4% — essentially shifting more of the cost of operational spending increases to students.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature increased university operations funding by $20 million or 1.5%.
  • A 1.4% increase ($4.3 million) in total operational funding for Michigan’s 28 community colleges, half of which was to be distributed as performance funding for weighted degree and certificate completions, enrollment, and administrative costs as a percentage of core expenditures. This proposed increase was less than half of that for FY 2015 (3% increase or $8.9 million). As in previous recent years, the majority of overall funding for community colleges (which includes not only operational and financial aid funding, but retirement funding, etc.) was from the School Aid Fund, and only 35% ($137.1 million) was from the General Fund.
    • Senate: The Senate concurred with the governor’s funding levels.
    • House: The House increased operational funding by 2% ($6.1 million).
    • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the governor and Senate with an increase of 1.4%.
  • No funding increases for the three major financial aid grant programs—the first time in many years that the Tuition Incentive Program has received no increase. None of the grants currently funded through the higher education budget are available to students who have been out of high school for more than ten years. Of the total funding for the higher education budget grant programs, $98.3 million is from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families allocation while $7.8 million is from the state’s General Fund. The governor also added a requirement to the Tuition Grant that in order for private college students to receive the grant, the college must submit annual data to the state P-20 longitudinal data system.
    • Senate: The Senate concurred with the governor’s funding levels for each grant program but does not include the P-20 data submission requirement.
    • House: The House added $327,500 for the Tuition Grant and does not include the P-20 data submission requirement.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature agreed with the governor in keeping financial aid grants at 2015 levels and did not include the P-20 reporting requirement.
  • An appropriation of $6 million to the community college budget for the Part-Time Independent Student Grant, which helps older students—the first time this grant would have been funded since 2009. Unlike previous years, the grant could only be used at community colleges and priority was to be given to former postsecondary students who left prior to completing a degree or certificate.
    • Senate: The Senate concurred with the governor’s funding levels and new conditions for receiving the grant.
    • House: The House funded the grant at $2.9 million and kept the new requirements.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature did not include funding for the Part-Time Independent Student Grant program.

 

Gains for Low-Income and Early Learners in 2016 School Aid/Education Budgets

 

The final 2016 budgets for School Aid and the Department of Education include some important new investments in child care safety and quality, a new initiative to improve reading by 3rd grade, an increase in funding for school districts with high numbers of low-income children at risk of school failure, and a much needed expansion in funding for adult education.

School Aid Budget

The governor’s 2016 School Aid budget totaled $13.96 billion, an increase of approximately 2% over current-year spending. The governor recommended that in 2016, School Aid revenues would again be used to fund universities ($205 million) and community colleges ($256.7 million).

Approximately $2 of every $3 in the School Aid budget is used for the per-pupil foundation allowance, which is the bedrock of school operations. Other major expenditures include special education (10%), programs for children at-risk of educational failure (2%), and early childhood education programs (2%).

Each year the Michigan Legislature determines the level of per-pupil payments schools districts will receive. After reductions in the per-pupil payments of $470 between 2009 and 2012, school districts receiving the minimum payment this year still are receiving $65 less per pupil than they were in school year 2010-11, and those at the maximum payment level are receiving $390 less per pupil.

One goal of the school financing reforms adopted in 1994 in Michigan was to close the funding gap, and this year the gap between districts receiving the maximum and minimum payments was reduced to $848 per pupil.

Third Grade Reading Initiative

The governor recommended a new third-grade reading initiative with total funding of $48.6 million ($25 million state funds). The governor’s initiative recognizes the importance of investments in the earliest years to ensure reading by third grade—a key predictor of school success. The data are discouraging. Currently, almost one of every three Michigan fourth-graders does not reach proficiency on state reading tests.

To improve reading by third grade, the governor recommended expansions in child care eligibility and rates, along with funds to increase the number of child care licensing consultants (see child care section below). The governor’s initiative also includes:

  • An expansion of ome visits to at-risk families to encourage early literacy activities and identify children with disabilities and developmental delays, with funds going to Intermediate School Districts ($5 million).
  • New funds for parent education pilot programs targeting families with children under age 4. The programs would be open to families regardless of income, on a sliding fee scale ($1 million).
  • Funding for teacher professional development and to test new elementary teachers on reading instruction capabilities prior to receiving their teacher certification ($1.45 million).
  • Funds to train teachers and administrators in the use of literacy diagnostic tools ($1.45 million).
  • Funding for additional instruction time for students who need extra assistance with reading, including assistance before, during and after school, as well as summer school programs ($10 million).
  • New literacy coaches for K-3 teachers, coordinated through Intermediate School Districts ($3 million).
  • Funds to implement kindergarten entry assessments ($2.6 million).
  • A new oversight commission outside of state government to monitor progress toward improving third-grade reading proficiency. The governor’s proposal was based on a model in Kentucky where the commission has business and philanthropic support and leadership.
  • Funding for a best practices clearinghouse on early literacy within the Department of Education ($500,000)
    • House: The House rejected the governor’s third-grade reading initiative (with the exception of several child care changes addressed below).
    • Senate: The Senate included most of the provisions of the governor’s third-grade reading initiative with the exception of funding for teacher certification tests and a research clearinghouse. The Senate included an additional $10 million for instructional time for children who are behind in reading, bringing total spending for instruction to $20 million.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature included $31.5 million for the third-grade reading initiative, along with the child care enhancements recommended by the governor (described below). The Legislature agreed with the governor on his recommended initiative with the following major changes:
      • The Legislature increased funding for additional instructional time for students needing help with reading from the governor’s recommendation of $10 million to $17.5 million.
      • The Legislature included $1 million for the Michigan Education Corps.
      • The Legislature rejected funding for the best practices clearinghouse.
      • The Legislature provided $2.5 million for an expansion of home visits to encourage early literacy activities and identify children with disabilities and developmental delays, with funds going to Intermediate School Districts—down from the governor’s recommendation of $5 million.

Per-Pupil Funding

For 2016, the governor recommended: (1) a $75 perpupil increase for all districts, bringing the minimum payment to $7,326 and the maximum to $8,174; (2) a 60% cut in funding for implementing best practices, from $75 million to $30 million; (3) a change in the criteria for qualifying for best practices funds, including a focus on school district fiscal stability, as well as early reading and kindergarten entry assessments; and (4) the elimination of funding for performance grants ($51 million). Although the governor proposed an across-the-board increase of $75 per pupil, for some districts that would be offset by the loss of funding from best practices or performance grants. Some districts could lose per-pupil funding if they are currently receiving both best practices and performance grants.

  • House: The House budget eliminated or reduced funding for a range of programs that are not part of the per-pupil formula—but are often intended to address the specific needs of low-income students and struggling districts—rolling those funds into the per-pupil allotment. Among the programs eliminated were best practices and performance grants to schools.

The House also relied on a formula that has been used in recent years to close school funding gaps by providing districts with the lowest funding with twice as much in increases as those at the top. Under the House budget, districts would receive increases ranging from $137 to $274 per pupil plus an equity payment of up to $25 per pupil for districts at the minimum level. This would increase the minimum per-pupil payment to $7,550, and the maximum to $8,236. How districts fare overall would depend on the dollars lost through cuts to other state programs that are not part of the per-pupil allotment.

  • Senate: The Senate also used the formula that provides twice as much to districts with the lowest funding, with increases ranging from $50 to $100 per pupil. Under the Senate proposal, the minimum state per-pupil payment would be $7,351, and the maximum $8,149. The Senate agrees with the governor’s proposal to reduce funding for best practices grants from $75 million to $30 million, and eliminates performance grants.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature recommended: (1) per-pupil increases ranging from $70 to $140, based on a formula that provides districts with the lowest funding increases that are two times greater than those at the top, and raising the minimum foundation allowance to $7,391 and the maximum to $8,169; (2) the elimination of funding ($75 million) for best practices grants to districts; (3) the elimination of district performance grants ($51.1 million); and (4) an increase in funding needed to ensure that all districts get a per-pupil increase of at least $25—after the loss of any best practices and performance grants ($12 million expansion).

At Risk Programs

For 2016, the governor recommended an additional $100 million for the At Risk program, bringing total funding to $409 million. Michigan provides funds to school districts for a range of instructional and noninstructional services for at-risk students based on the number of children qualifying for free school meals. This year, budget language was adopted to focus those dollars on: (1) improving third-grade reading proficiency; and (2) graduating students who are career and college ready. Funding for at-risk students has not been increased in more than a decade, remaining at $309 million.

  • House: The House rejected the governor’s proposed increase and added budget language requiring districts to use current funding to implement a school-wide, multi-tiered system of supports, instruction and intervention—a model already adopted in some areas of the state.
  • Senate: The Senate approved a $98 million increase for At Risk programs, requiring that 50% of the increase be used by districts to improve reading by the end of third grade.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature included an increase of $70 million for the At Risk program, bringing total funding to $379 million. Legislators agreed to include the Senate definitions for children who are at risk and eligible for services, as well as House language requiring the use of the multi-tiered system of supports, instruction and intervention model at least in grades K-3.

Adolescent Health Centers

The governor recommended continuation of current-year funding for adolescent health centers ($3.6 million).

  • House: The House agreed with the governor.
  • Senate: The Senate increased funding by $2 million to a total of $5.6 million, with funds to be used to expand mobile teams to provide nursing and behavioral health services in underserved schools.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the Senate recommendation, increasing funding for child and adolescent health centers by $2 million to a total of $5.6 million, with funds used to allow three existing centers to act as hubs with mobile teams serving satellite schools.

Early Childhood Education and Care

The governor recommended continuation funding for the Great Start Readiness program ($239.6 million). The per-pupil allocation for a half-day slot would remain at $3,625. Over the past two years, Gov. Snyder and the Legislature approved a $130 million increase in funding for the Great Start Readiness preschool program for low-income and at-risk 4-year-olds.

  • House: The House agreed with the governor.
  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor on funding, and added language allowing districts that are having difficulty filling preschool classes for fouryear-olds to also enroll 3-year-olds.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature included continuation funding of $239.6 million for the Great Start Readiness preschool program, and deleted Senate language that would have allowed some districts to serve 3year-olds.

Funding for School Districts in Fiscal Distress

The governor proposed a $75 million increase in funding for school districts facing academic and fiscal problems. A new distressed district emergency grant fund was established this year with a state investment of $4 million.

  • House: The House rejected the $75 million increase, and eliminated the programs, including current-year funding of $4 million.
  • Senate: The Senate increased total funding from the current level of $4 million to $8.9 million.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature agreed with the House and eliminated all funding for grants to school districts facing academic and fiscal problems.

Adult Education

The governor recommended continuation funding of $22 million for adult education. Michigan has cut state funding for adult education drastically in the past 20 years from $185 million in 1996 to $22 million this year. The state is currently in the process of changing how it allocates those funds statewide, focusing on the percentage of people in a region who are not high school graduates or lack basic English proficiency.

  • House: The House eliminated all funding for adult education, but included a placeholder in the budget indicating openness to additional discussions in the conference committee.
  • Senate: The Senate increased funding for adult education by $7 million to a total of $29 million.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature included an increase of $3 million for adult education, for total funding of $25 million.

Career/Technical Education and College Readiness

For 2016, the governor recommended: (1) continued funding of $26.6 million for reimbursements to local districts and vocational/technical centers; (2) an expansion of career and technical education through early/middle college programs in the 10 prosperity regions ($17.8 million); (3) continuation funding ($1.75 million) for grants to encourage dual enrollments; and (4) expanded funding ($1.6 million) for the Michigan College Access Network to assist students in making college and career decisions, bringing total funding to $3.6 million.

  • House: The House increased funding for career and technical education reimbursements to schools and centers by $16 million over current-year spending, rejected the governor’s new investment in early/middle college programs through the prosperity regions, eliminated funding for dual enrollment incentive grants, and maintained current-year funding ($2 million) for the Michigan College Access Network.
  • Senate: The Senate increased funding for career and technical education reimbursements by $12.4 million over current year, and agreed with the governor on the early/middle college programs, dual enrollment incentive grants and the Michigan College Access Network.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature increased funding for career and technical education reimbursements by $10 million, provided $10 million for an expansion of career and technical education through early/middle college programs in the 10 prosperity regions and sub-regions (down from the governor’s recommendation of $17.8 million), maintained current-year funding for dual enrollment incentive grants, and agreed with the governor and Senate on expanded funding for the Michigan College Access Network.

Bilingual Education

The governor includes continuation funding of $1.2 million for bilingual education grants.

  • House: The House eliminates bilingual education grants.
  • Senate: The Senate agrees with the governor.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature agreed with the governor and the Senate and provided continuation funding of $1.2 million for bilingual education.

Department of Education Budget

The budget for the Michigan Department of Education grew significantly in 2012 with the launching of the Office of Great Start and the transfer of the state’s subsidized child care program from the Department of Human Services. Two of every $3 spent by the department is from federal sources, with the Child Development and Care program accounting for $110 million (38%) of the total $287 million budget.

Overall funding for child care, as well as the number of families served by the child care program, fell steeply in recent years, in part because of changes in state policy and reimbursement rates that fall far below market rates.

Child Care Services

The governor’s budget addressed problems faced by working low-income families trying to find safe, reliable and high-quality child care by providing funds to increase rates slightly, and by allowing families to remain eligible for child care even if their incomes rise in some circumstances. Included in the governor’s budget were:

  • A new policy that would allow families to remain eligible for child care for up to one year, even if their incomes rise. The goal is to provide greater work and child care stability ($16 million, including funding for current-year implementation).
  • A new policy allowing families that are eligible for care under Michigan’s current low-income guidelines (121% of poverty) to remain eligible until household income exceeds 250% of poverty ($1.5 million).
  • A rate increase for higher quality child care providers. This year, small rate increases were given to providers who received three, four or five stars on the state’s quality rating system—Great Start to Quality. For 2016, the governor proposes to also provide increases for providers earning two stars. In April, more than three of every four providers were not eligible for higher rates because they had not received higher ratings.
    • The House and Senate both agreed with the governor on these child care improvements, and included them in legislation that makes them effective during the current budget year.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature approved the expansions in child care eligibility and payments for the 2016 budget year.

Child Care Safety and Oversight

The governor recommended $5.7 million in federal funding for a 50% expansion in the number of child care licensing inspectors needed to ensure basic health and safety in child care settings. This expansion would reduce the number of child care facilities/homes that inspectors are responsible for from approximately 150 to 98—the national average. Michigan has come under federal scrutiny for its failure to ensure compliance with child care licensing rules, and recent federal law changes require states to do both pre-licensure and annual inspections.

  • House: The House rejected the proposed expansion of child care inspectors.
  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.
  • Final Budget: The Legislature agreed with the governor and the Senate and increased funding by $5.7 million to expand child care licensing staff. Funds will be transferred to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, where the program now will be administered.

 

2016 Human Services Budget Continues Disinvestment in Families and Children

 

The final agreement on the 2016 budget for human services within the Department of Health and Human Services perpetuates the ongoing decline in investments in low-income children and families, the unemployed and adults with disabilities.

Children are living in deeper poverty in Michigan in part because of policy changes that reduced eligibility for income assistance programs, including stringent lifetime caps on assistance and the elimination of income support for an entire family due to the truancy of a single child. Fewer families can receive food assistance and food assistance benefits have been reduced—in part the result of a state asset test.

The 2016 budget approved by lawmakers fails to reverse those policies, and the number of families and children receiving state assistance is expected to continue to decline.

The final budget provides total funding for human services in 2016 of $5.5 billion, a reduction of $207 million (3.6%) over current-year spending, and $220 million below the governor’s recommended budget. Nearly 80% of all human services funds are from the federal government. Total state general funds available for 2016 are $942.2 million, down nearly $39 million or 4% from the current budget year.

The single largest program in the DHS budget is the federally-funded Food Assistance Program, which accounts for 45% of total departmental spending. Other major programs include children’s services (20%), administration and field operations (18%), and other public assistance programs (8%).

Income Assistance

The Family Independence Program (FIP) provides minimal income assistance to low-income households with dependent children. To be eligible for FIP, an average family of three must have income below $9,780 annually and financial assets of less than $3,000. The maximum benefit for a family of three is $492 per month.

Total FIP spending and eligible families: The governor recommended a 6% cut from current-year FIP spending (from $146.6 to $138 million), partly due to the continued and rapid decline in the number of families eligible, which the governor projects will be 31,400 next year. Policy changes made in 2011 resulted in dramatic decreases in FIP cases, despite continued high poverty rates, particularly among children. Between 2007 and the current budget year, spending on income assistance declined by 66%, and the number of families receiving income assistance is at its lowest levels since the Kennedy Administration.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor’s estimated caseloads and related FIP spending.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature reduced funding for the FIP program by $25.4 million based on new estimates on the number of families that will be eligible in budget year 2016 agreed to at the May Revenue Estimating Conference.

Out-stationed eligibility specialists: The governor recommended $20.6 million in private contributions and federal funding for additional workers that would be placed in health clinics, hospitals, community agencies and with private employers, rather than in DHS offices. The workers would determine eligibility for DHS services and help individuals find community services.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor’s recommendation.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the governor’s recommendation.

Elimination of Extended-FIP: The governor proposed to eliminate the Extended-FIP payment that gives households who are no longer eligible for income assistance due to increased earnings a nominal $10 per month in assistance for six months after they leave the program, ostensibly to help them access other state services as well as allowing the state to continue counting the households in its federally mandated work participation rate. This minimal assistance has, however, counted against the state’s more stringent lifetime limits, hurting children in the long run.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the governor’s recommendation and eliminated the Extended-FIP program.

Children’s clothing allowance: The governor included continued funding of $2.88 million for the annual children’s school clothing allowance. The assistance is available only for children who are living with grandparents and others who are not eligible for assistance.

    • House: The House cut the FIP clothing allowance by $200,000 and retained current eligibility for the assistance.
    • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the Senate and governor’s recommendation for continued funding and eligibility for the FIP children’s clothing allowance.

Drug testing for FIP recipients: The Senate included $275,000 for a pilot program to implement a suspicion-based drug testing pilot program in three counties, reflecting legislation passed in 2014. (PA 394 and 395 of 2014). The governor and the House did not include funding for drug testing pilots.

    • Final Budget: The conference committee provided $300,000 for a drug testing program for FIP recipients, an increase of $25,000 over the House recommendation.

DHS office closures: The governor recommended closing 11 DHS offices throughout the state, including northern and southeastern Michigan, for a total savings of $5.3 million ($2.2 million in state General Fund). Funds would be saved in part by sharing office space with up to 28 public, private or nonprofit partners. The governor’s recommendation was based on a model in Florida where workers are housed with local partners or satellite offices, or telecommute.

    • House: The House agreed with the governor.
    • Senate: The Senate assumed total savings from the office closures and consolidations of $6.1 million ($2.5 million in state General Fund).
    • Final Budget: The Legislature reduced office closures and related savings for a total cut of $3.2 million ($1.3 million in state General Fund).

Enhanced employment and training services: The governor included $800,000 to expand an employment and training program for FIP recipients with significant barriers to employment. Services are provided through Michigan Works! Agencies, and the goal is to expand the program statewide after the pilots are evaluated.

    • The House and Senate rejected the expansion.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the governor’s proposed increase of $800,000 for specialized employment and training services programs.

Food Assistance

The Food Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program) is completely federally funded, with an average monthly benefit for a two-person household of $245. More than 70% of FAP recipients receive no other cash assistance from the state. The number receiving food assistance began to fall in Michigan in 2011, the same year that the state imposed a new asset limit. Between budget years 2011 and 2015, cases dropped by 13%.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2014, food assistance recipients no longer receive $1 in federal energy assistance (LIHEAP) that previously helped recipients claim the maximum utility deduction, which subsequently increased their food assistance. The 2014 federal Farm Bill increased the required amount of LIHEAP funding for eligibility purposes from $1 to $20 (often referred to as the “Heat and Eat” policy), which essentially left states with the option of increasing the minimum energy assistance benefit to $20, or accepting food assistance cuts, along with the associated loss of federal funds. Michigan chose the latter.

Total food assistance spending and eligible recipients: The governor recommended total funding of $2.5 billion for the federally-funded food assistance program, an increase of $13.8 million over current-year spending. The governor projects that 847,700 families and individuals will need help with food in 2016.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature cut the Food Assistance Program by $193 million based on new, lower caseload projections.

“Heat and Eat” benefit reductions: The governor recommended no change in the policy that rejects additional federally funded food assistance because of a needed increase in the minimum energy assistance benefit.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature continued the current policy that has resulted in cuts in food assistance benefits for many low-income Michigan residents.

Asset test for food assistance: The governor recommended no change in the asset test that was imposed on individuals applying for federal food assistance, and which is a state option.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature continued current policies that impose an asset test on individuals and families applying for federal food assistance.

State Emergency Relief

In the current budget year, $36.3 million is provided for emergency relief for low-income families. Included are: (1) $11.5 million for local DHS offices to provide emergency services such as housing payments or repairs, rent or moving expenses, or non-energy utility assistance; (2) $15.7 million for the Salvation Army to provide services to the homeless; (3) $4.3 million for indigent burials; (4) $3 million for multicultural contract; and (4) $1.8 million for the Food Bank Council. Over the last decade, funding for the State Emergency Relief program has ranged from $39.2 million in 2006 to a low of $33 million in 2014.

Local DHS office emergency relief funds: The governor included continuation funding of $11.5 million for local emergency assistance.

    • House: The House reduced funding by $500,000 in state funds, based on Executive Order reductions taken to balance the budget this year.
    • Senate: The Senate cut $1.2 million in state and federal funds, also reflecting current-year cuts.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the Senate cut of $1.2 million for local emergency assistance.

Programs for the homeless: The governor provides continuation funding of $15.7 million for Salvation Army services for the homeless.

    • House: The House reduced funding by $1 million.
    • Senate: The Senate reduced funding by $300,000.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature retained current-year funding for programs for the homeless.

Multicultural programs: The governor retains current-year funding of $3 million for multicultural programs.

    • House: The House reduced funding by $250,000, funds that were primarily used for services for refugees.
    • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature agreed with the governor and retained current-year funding for multicultural programs.

State Disability Assistance

The State Disability Assistance program, a completely state-funded program, provides cash assistance to adults with disabilities who are permanently or temporarily unable to work, and who have annual incomes of less than $5,400 and under $3,000 in assets. The average monthly payment for a single person is $225 per month, and the average length of time on SDA is approximately one year.

Between 2011 and 2012, the number of people receiving state disability assistance fell by 14%, and has steadily declined since. There was a 35% drop in the number receiving assistance between budget years 2011 and 2015.

Total funding for the State Disability Assistance program: The governor recommended a small increase in funding for the State Disability Assistance program—up from $14.4 million this year to $14.89 million in 2016. The governor assumes that 5,800 individuals will receive assistance.

    • House: The House agreed with the governor on the number of families receiving assistance, but reduced state funds for the program by $4.5 million, leaving total funding at $9.9 million.
    • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the governor’s and Senate’s recommendation, rejecting the House cut of $4.5 million in State Disability Assistance.

Energy Assistance

Michigan uses federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grant funding for four programs: the Home Heating Credit, State Emergency Relief, the new Michigan Energy Assistance Program, and weatherization.

Federal energy assistance funding: The governor’s budget included a continuation of current-year spending of $175 million in federal funds for energy assistance.

    • The House and Senate agree with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted continuation funding of $175 million in federal energy assistance.

Michigan Energy Assistance Program: The governor recommended continuation funding of $50 million for the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, which was created in response to a state law (P.A. 615 of 2012) requiring the DHS to establish a new consolidated energy program with a single, simplified application.

    • The House and Senate agree with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature included continuation funding of $50 million for the Michigan Energy Assistance Program.

Child Welfare Services

Michigan’s child welfare system includes protective services, foster care, adoption, and family preservation and prevention services. To comply with requirements related to a lawsuit against the state for its failure to protect children, the state has been required to increase child welfare funding for staffing, training, and other programs. A shortfall is the lack of a mandate to adequately fund family preservation and prevention services.

Foster Care Payments: The governor recommended a small reduction in spending for foster care payments with an estimate of 6,400 cases in 2016 at an annual cost per case of $27,085. The governor’s budget also reduces the private agency administrative rate from $40 to $37 per day ($5.1 million), and rescinds a current-year increase in payments to private residential providers ($3.7 million).

    • The House and Senate retained current-year increases for private agency administrative rates and private residential facilities.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature retained current-year private agency rate increases.

Child Care Fund: The governor recommended a decrease of nearly 3% for the Child Care Fund (from $182.2 to $177.3 million). The Child Care Fund reimburses counties for 50% of their costs related to the care and treatment of children who are wards of the court, including out-of-home and in-home services. The governor eliminated a county “hold harmless” provision that required DHS to pay 100% of the private agency administrative rate for new cases only, and provided funds to transfer cases back to the public sector.

    • House: The House provides $181.4 for the Child Care Fund, and continued the current-year hold harmless funding.
    • Senate: The Senate provides $180.6 for the Child Care Fund and retained the hold harmless funding.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature included $177.1 million for the Child Care Fund and retained the hold harmless funding.

Adoption: The governor recommended a 3% decrease from the initial current year funding for adoption subsidies (from $247.7 to $239.9 million). Subsidies are provided to families who are adopting children with special needs, and include both cash and medical assistance. The number of families receiving adoption subsidies has been relatively stable since budget year 2011 at between 26,000 and 27,000.

The governor’s budget included savings of $6.9 million ($6.5 million state funds) in the adoption subsidy by restricting eligibility for a supplemental payment available to parents whose children had medical needs that existed before an adoption but were not identified until after the adoption was completed (a reduction already taken this year through the governor’s budget-cutting Executive Order). The governor left $1 million for the supplemental adoption subsidy payment.

    • House: The House eliminated the supplemental adoption subsidy payment, for a total cut of $7.9 million.
    • Senate: The Senate reduced funding for the payment by $7.3 million assuming only 100 families would be eligible in 2016.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature included a total of $229.3 million for the adoption subsidy payments, and eliminated funding for the supplemental adoption subsidy payment.

Youth in Transition: The governor recommended $15 million for Youth in Transition programs, a slight decrease from initial current-year funding. The Youth in Transition program assists 14- to 20-year-olds that are currently or were previously in foster care. Funds are used to provide independent living services, housing assistance, education or employment support, mentoring, and other assistance

to meet basic needs. Youth in Transition dollars also fund intervention programs for runaway or homeless youths.

    • Both the House and the Senate approved small cuts in funding for the Youth in Transition program.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature included $15 million for the Youth in Transition program.

Prevention Services: The governor’s budget provided continuation funding for Strong Families/Safe Children ($12.35 million), as well as $38.86 million for family preservation programs, including Families First ($16.98 million), Child Protection and Permanency ($12.89 million), and Family Reunification ($6.49 million). Funding for prevention services has been declining while the number of children found to be abused or neglected has been rising.

    • House: The House cut funding for prevention services, including $500,000 from Families First, $500,000 from the Child Protection and Permanency program, and $250,000 for the Family Reunification program.
    • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature adopted the governor’s and Senate’s recommendation for continuation funding.

Juvenile Justice Services

The governor recommended slightly decreased funding for the state’s three DHS operated juvenile justice facilities: W.J. Maxey Training School, Bay Pines Center, and Shawono Center. Funding previously provided to expand in-home community care programs to rural areas was reduced by 60%, from $1 million to $400,000 (continuing a reduction contained in the governor’s budget-cutting Executive Order).

    • House: The House cut an additional $400,000 from the W.J. Maxey Training School, and agreed with the governor on the continued reduction in in-home community care programs.
    • Senate: The Senate closed the W.J. Maxey Training School for a savings of $7.5 million. Funds are retained ($2.8 million) to close the facility and transfer the 40 youths housed there to new facilities. The Senate agreed with the governor on the continued reduction of in-home community care programs.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature closed the W.J. Maxey Training School, and reduced funding for in-home community care programs.

 

Overall Cuts to 2016 Corrections Budget Impacts Some Community-Based Programs

After almost two decades of strong growth, funding for the Department of Corrections has increased only modestly in recent years. The 2016 budget adopted by the Legislature, reduces overall year-to-date spending by 3%, almost all of which is from state general funds. Overall funding for the department is in line with the Senate recommendation of $1.962 billion ($1.9 billion state general fund dollars).

Prisoner Healthcare

Since budget year 2000, spending on prisoner healthcare and mental health services has grown at an average annual rate of 3.6%. Between budget years 2005 and 2010, the rate of growth was 9%, but has since grown very little. A major contributor to the growth in healthcare costs is the aging prison population. In 1995, only 24% of the prisoner population was over the age of 40; however, in 2013, this figure climbed to 43%, with nearly 20% over the age of 50. Mental health issues also continue to be a significant contributor.

Healthcare Services: The governor maintained funding for healthcare services ($75.2 million), the vaccination program ($691,200), and substance abuse testing and treatment services ($21.8 million) at the current year levels.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the governor.

Eligibility Specialists and Healthy Michigan Fund: The governor continued support for Department of Health and Human Services eligibility specialists ($100,000), and Healthy Michigan Fund administration ($1.08 million) for returning citizens to gain access to Medicaid.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the governor.

Clinical and Mental Health Services and Support: The governor maintained funding for clinical and mental health services and supports, which combine physical and mental health care services to provide more cohesive healthcare.

    • House: The House reduced funding by $901,000.
    • Senate: The Senate cut funding by $15 million to reflect estimated cost savings from moving to a unified healthcare contract.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the Senate recommendation.

Jail Mental Health Transition Pilot Program: The governor provided continuation funding ($1 million) for the pilot program, and transferred funding to the Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to streamline mental health diversion services programs and projects.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the governor.

Prisoner Reentry Into the Community

State prisoner reentry programs include education services to facilitate reintegration into the community. Prisoner education programs aim to provide marketable skills to offenders through academic, workplace, and social competency training. Prisoner reentry programs enhance public safety by reducing recidivism through a plan of services and supervision with state and local collaboration. A plan is developed for each prisoner upon entry into prison through parole and reintegration into the community.

Prisoner Education: The governor recommended total funding for prisoner education at $35.9 million, including a slight increase of $495,500 in additional federal funds. The governor also recommended replacing a portion of state general funds ($7 million) with Special Equipment Fund revenues, which come from surcharges on prisoner phone calls.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor on total funding for prisoner education of $35.9 million.
    • The House and Senate also recognized increased revenue from surcharges on prisoner phone calls. The Senate recommended using $7 million from that fund, while the House would use $9.8 million.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the governor and Senate.

Reentry Services: The governor reduced funding for local reentry services by $500,000 to reflect an anticipated yearend lapse. DOC reentry program funding levels would be maintained at $11.12 million. The governor also retained funding ($149,000) for prisoner reentry legal services pilot projects in Kent and Oakland counties.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor to reduce funding for local reentry services and maintain funding for DOC reentry programs.
    • The House recommended the elimination of funding for prisoner reentry legal services pilot projects in Kent and Oakland counties while the Senate inserted a placeholder for the program as a point of difference to be discussed in conference committee.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature agreed with the governor and reduced funding for local reentry services by $500,000, while maintaining funding for DOC reentry programs at $11.12 million. Funding for prisoner reentry legal services pilot programs in Kent and Oakland counties was eliminated.

Jail Overcrowding: The governor maintained funding for a public safety initiative that allowed for the reopening of the Flint lock-up to help the city with jail overcrowding ($4.5 million).

    • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.
    • House: The House eliminated funding for the initiative.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature maintained current-year funding as recommended by the governor and Senate.

Goodwill Industries Program for At-Risk Youths and Young Adults: Currently, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit in Wayne County receives grant funding ($2.5 million) from the state to provide education, job training, and mentoring to at-risk 16-29 year olds. The program aims to prevent people from going to prison. The governor eliminated funding for the program.

    • House: The House agreed with the governor.
    • Senate: The Senate maintained funding for the program.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature reduced funding by $500,000.

Community Corrections and Treatment: The governor continued current-year funding for community corrections comprehensive plans and services, felony drunk driver jail reduction and community treatment programs, and residential reentry services.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature concurred with the governor.

Public Works Program: The governor eliminated funding for the public works program ($1 million). The program was intended to encourage local governments or nonprofits to hire prisoners for public works projects and pay user fees for services performed. The program was never utilized.

    • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature restored $1 million in restricted funds for local public works projects.

Field Operations

The Field Operations Administration is responsible for state parole and probation supervision as well as other methods of specialized supervision. There are parole and probation offices located in 10 regions throughout the state. DOC currently supervises about 47,000 offenders on felony probation and more than 14,000 offenders on parole.

The Swift and Sure Sanctions Program: The governor eliminated DOC funding ($1 million) for an interdepartmental grant to DHS to expand the Swift and Sure Sanctions program. The Swift and Sure Sanctions program is an intensive probation supervision initiative that targets high-risk felony offenders with a history of probation violations or failures. It aims to improve probationer success by promptly imposing graduated sanctions, including small amounts of jail time, for probation violations.

    • Senate: The Senate proposed to maintain current funding levels.
    • House: The House agreed with the governor to eliminate funding.
    • Final Budget: The Legislature eliminated funding for the program expansion.

New Senate Initiative – Parole Sanction Certainty Pilot Program: The Senate budget included $500,000 for a new parole sanction certainty pilot program to distribute funds to accredited rehabilitation organizations in Berrien, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Macomb, Muskegon, Oakland, and/or Wayne counties for operation and administration of pilot programs that are to be utilized as a condition of parole for technical violators.

    • Final Budget: The Legislature included the Senate recommendation for $500,000 for the pilot program.

 

Spending on Human Services Not Keeping Pace with Need: House and Senate Recommendations for 2016 Budget

Some critical new investments for low-wage families proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder in his 2016 budget are facing legislative opposition, including a new initiative to improve reading by third grade, additional funding for children at risk of falling behind their peers academically, and funding to make sure that state-licensed child care is routinely inspected to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. Research shows that these investments help parents work, give children a better chance of succeeding in school, and ultimately, provide fuel for Michigan’s economy.

The rapid decline in funding for many major public assistance programs for children, the unemployed and adults with disabilities is an ongoing concern. Children are living in deeper poverty in Michigan, in part because of policy changes that reduced eligibility for income assistance programs, including stringent lifetime caps on assistance and the elimination of income support for an entire family due to the truancy of a single child. Fewer families can receive food assistance, and food assistance benefits have been reduced—in part the result of a state asset test.

The Michigan House and Senate have completed their versions of the 2016 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, and differences between their budgets will be worked out in a joint House/Senate conference committee. Although the legislative timetable is difficult to predict precisely, final budgets are expected by the middle of June.

An additional complication in tracking human services spending is the governor’s executive order combining the Departments of Community Health and Human Services into the new Department of Health and Human Services. The governor’s revised budget for DHHS includes a cut of nearly $8 million, largely through the removal of some staff positions.

This report summarizes the governor’s fiscal year 2016 budget recommendations, as well as House and Senate actions, on services that were part of the former Department of Human Services—prior to the merger.

The governor included $5.73 billion in total funding for the Department of Human Services (DHS), including $978.9 million in state general fund dollars. The governor’s budget reduces state general fund expenditures by $2.3 million over the current year, while the Senate recommends a $7.3 million reduction and the House a $12.7 million reduction.

The single largest program in the DHS budget is the federally funded Food Assistance Program, which accounts for 45% of total departmental spending. Federal funds account for nearly 80% of the DHS budget, up from 70% in 2004. Other major programs include children’s services (20%), administration and field operations (18%), and other public assistance programs (8%).

Income Assistance

The Family Independence Program (FIP) provides minimal income assistance to low-income households with dependent children. To be eligible for FIP, an average family of three must have income below $9,780 annually and financial assets of less than $3,000. The maximum benefit for a family of three is $492 per month.

Total FIP spending and eligible families: The governor recommended a 6% cut from current year FIP spending (from $146.6 to $138 million), partly due to the continued and rapid decline in the number of families eligible, which the governor projects will be 31,400 next year. Policy changes made in 2011 resulted in dramatic decreases in FIP cases, despite continued high poverty rates, particularly among children. Between 2007 and the current budget year, spending on income assistance declined by 66%, and the number of families receiving income assistance is at its lowest levels since the Kennedy Administration.

  • The House and Senate agreed with the governor’s estimated caseloads and related FIP spending.

Out-stationed eligibility specialists: The governor recommended $20.6 million in private contributions and federal funding for additional workers that would be placed in health clinics, hospitals, community agencies and with private employers, rather than in DHS offices. The workers would determine eligibility for DHS services and help individuals find community services.

  • The House and Senate agreed with the governor’s recommendation.

Elimination of Extended-FIP: The governor proposed to eliminate the Extended-FIP payment that gives households who are no longer eligible for income assistance due to increased earnings a nominal $10 per month in assistance for six months after they leave the program, ostensibly to help them access other state services as well as allowing the state to continue counting the households in its federally mandated work participation rate. This minimal assistance has, however, counted against the state’s more stringent lifetime limits, hurting children in the long run.

  • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.

Children’s clothing allowance: The governor included continued funding of $2.88 million for the annual children’s school clothing allowance. The assistance is available only for children who are living with grandparents and others who are not eligible for assistance.

  • House: The House cut the FIP clothing allowance by $200,000 and retained current eligibility for the assistance.
  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.

Drug testing for FIP recipients: The Senate included $275,000 for a pilot program to implement a suspicion-based drug testing pilot program in three counties, reflecting legislation passed in 2014. (PA 394 and 395 of 2014). The governor and the House did not include funding for drug testing pilots.

DHS office closures: The governor recommended closing 11 DHS offices throughout the state, including northern and southeastern Michigan, for a total savings of $2.2 million. An additional $3.2 million would be saved by sharing office space with up to 28 public, private or nonprofit partners. The governor’s recommendation is based on a model in Florida where workers are housed with local partners or satellite offices, or telecommute.

  • House: The House agreed with the governor.
  • Senate: The Senate assumed more savings from the office closures and consolidations, with a total cut of $2.4 million from closed offices, as well as $3.7 million from co-location with community agencies.

Enhanced employment and training services: The governor included $800,000 to expand an employment and training program for FIP recipients with significant barriers to employment. Services are provided through Michigan Works! Agencies, and the goal is to expand the program statewide after the pilots are evaluated.

  • The House and Senate rejected the expansion.

Food Assistance

The Food Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program) is completely federally funded, with an average monthly benefit for a two-person household of $245. More than 70% of FAP recipients receive no other cash assistance from the state. The number receiving food assistance began to fall in Michigan in 2011, the same year that the state imposed a new asset limit. Between budget years 2011 and 2015, cases dropped by 13%.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2014, food assistance recipients no longer receive $1 in federal energy assistance (LIHEAP) that previously helped recipients claim the maximum utility deduction which subsequently increased their food assistance. The 2014 federal Farm Bill increased the required amount of LIHEAP funding for eligibility purposes from $1 to $20 (often referred to as the “Heat and Eat” policy), which essentially left states with the option of increasing the minimum energy assistance benefit to $20, or accepting food assistance cuts, along with the associated loss of federal funds. Michigan chose the latter.

Total food assistance spending and eligible recipients: The governor recommended total funding of $2.5 billion for the federally funded food assistance program, an increase of $13.8 million over current year spending. The governor projects that 847,700 families and individuals will need help with food in 2016.

  • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.

“Heat and Eat” benefit reductions: The governor recommended no change in the policy that rejects additional federally funded food assistance because of a needed increase in the minimum energy assistance benefit.

  • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.

Asset test for food assistance: The governor recommended no change in the asset test that was imposed on individuals applying for federal food assistance, and which is a state option.

  • The House and Senate agreed with the governor.

State Emergency Relief

In the current budget year, $36.3 million is provided for emergency relief for low-income families. Included are: (1) $11.5 million for local DHS offices to provide emergency services such as housing payments or repairs, rent or moving expenses, or non-energy utility assistance; (2) $15.7 million for the Salvation Army to provide services to the homeless; (3) $4.3 million for indigent burials; (4) $3 million for multicultural contract; and (4) $1.8 million for the Food Bank Council. Over the last decade, funding for the State Emergency Relief program has ranged from $39.2 million in 2006 to a low of $33 million in 2014.

Local DHS office emergency relief funds: The governor included continuation funding of $11.5 million for local emergency assistance.

  • House: The House reduced funding by $500,000 in state funds, based on Executive Order reductions taken to balance the budget this year.
  • Senate: The Senate cut $1.2 million in state and federal funds, also reflecting current year cuts.

Programs for the homeless: The governor provides continuation funding of $15.7 million for Salvation Army services for the homeless.

  • House: The House reduced funding by $1 million.
  • Senate: The Senate reduced funding by $300,000.

Multicultural programs: The governor retains current year funding of $3 million for multicultural programs.

  • House: The House reduced funding by $250,000, funds that were primarily used for services for refugees.
  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.

State Disability Assistance

The State Disability Assistance program, a completely state-funded program, provides cash assistance to adults with disabilities who are permanently or temporarily unable to work, and who have annual incomes of less than $5,400 and under $3,000 in assets. The average monthly payment for a single person is $225 per month, and the average length of time on SDA is approximately one year.

Between 2011 and 2012, the number of people receiving state disability assistance fell by 14%, and has steadily declined since. There was a 35% drop in the number receiving assistance between budget years 2011 and 2015.

Total funding for the State Disability Assistance program: The governor recommended a small increase in funding for the State Disability Assistance program – up from $14.4 million this year to $14.89 million in 2016. The governor assumes that 5,800 individuals will receive assistance.

  • House: The House agreed with the governor on the number of families receiving assistance, but reduced state funds for the program by $4.5 million, leaving total funding at $9.9 million.
  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.

Energy Assistance

Michigan uses federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grant funding for four programs: the Home Heating Credit, State Emergency Relief, the new Michigan Energy Assistance Program, and weatherization.

Federal energy assistance funding: The governor’s budget included a continuation of current year spending of $175 million in federal funds for energy assistance.

  • The House and Senate agree with the governor.

Michigan Energy Assistance Program: The governor recommended continuation funding of $50 million for the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, which was created in response to a state law (P.A. 615 of 2012) requiring the DHS to establish a new consolidated energy program with a single, simplified application.

  • The House and Senate agree with the governor.

Child Welfare Services

Michigan’s child welfare system includes protective services, foster care, adoption, and family preservation and prevention services. To comply with requirements related to a lawsuit against the state for its failure to protect children, the state has been required to increase child welfare funding for staffing, training, and other programs. A shortfall is the lack of a mandate to adequately fund family preservation and prevention services.

Foster Care Payments: The governor recommended a small reduction in spending for foster care payments with an estimate of 6,400 cases in 2016 at an annual cost per case of $27,085. The governor’s budget also reduces the private agency administrative rate from $40 to $37 per day ($5.1 million), and rescinds a current year increase in payments to private residential providers ($3.7 million).

  • The House and Senate retained current year increases for private agency administrative rates and private residential facilities.

Child Care Fund: The governor recommended a decrease of nearly 3% for the Child Care Fund (from $182.2 to $177.3 million). The Child Care Fund reimburses counties for 50% of their costs related to the care and treatment of children who are wards of the court, including out-of-home and in-home services. The governor eliminated a county “hold harmless” provision that required DHS to pay 100% of the private agency administrative rate for new cases only, and provided funds to transfer cases back to the public sector.

  • House: The House provides $181.4 for the Child Care Fund, and continued the current year hold harmless funding.
  • Senate: The Senate provides $180.6 for the Child Care Fund and retained the hold harmless funding.

Adoption: The governor recommended a 3% decrease from the initial current year funding for adoption subsidies (from $247.7 to $239.9 million). Subsidies are provided to families who are adopting children with special needs, and include both cash and medical assistance. The number of families receiving adoption subsidies has been relatively stable since budget year 2011 at between 26,000 and 27,000.

The governor’s budget included savings of $6.9 million ($6.5 million state funds) in the adoption subsidy by restricting eligibility for a supplemental payment available to parents whose children had medical needs that existed before an adoption but were not identified until after the adoption was completed (a reduction already taken this year through the governor’s budget-cutting Executive Order). The governor left $1 million for the supplemental adoption subsidy payment.

  • House: The House eliminated the supplemental adoption subsidy payment, for a total cut of $7.9 million.
  • Senate: The Senate reduced funding for the payment by $7.3 million assuming only 100 families would be eligible in 2016.

Youth in Transition: The governor recommended $15 million for Youth in Transition programs, a slight decrease from initial current year funding. The Youth in Transition program assists 14- to 20-year-olds that are currently or were previously in foster care. Funds are used to provide independent living services, housing assistance, education or employment support, mentoring, and other assistance to meet basic needs. Youth in Transition dollars also fund intervention programs for runaway or homeless youths.

  • Both the House and the Senate approved small cuts in funding for the Youth in Transition program.

Prevention Services: The governor’s budget provided continuation funding for Strong Families/Safe Children ($12.35 million), as well as $38.86 million for family preservation programs, including Families First ($16.98 million), Child Protection and Permanency ($12.89 million), and Family Reunification ($6.49 million). Funding for prevention services has been declining while the number of children found to be abused or neglected has been rising.

  • House: The House cut funding for prevention services, including $500,000 from Families First, $500,000 from the Child Protection and Permanency program, and $250,000 for the Family Reunification program.
  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor.

Juvenile Justice Services

The governor recommended slightly decreased funding for the state’s three DHS operated juvenile justice facilities: W.J. Maxey Training School, Bay Pines Center, and Shawono Center. Funding previously provided to expand in-home community care programs to rural areas was reduced by 60%, from $1 million to $400,000 (continuing a reduction contained in the governor’s budget-cutting Executive Order).

  • House: The House cut an additional $400,000 from the W.J. Maxey Training School, and agreed with the governor on the continued reduction in in-home community care programs.
  • Senate: The Senate closed the W.J. Maxey Training School for a savings of $7.5 million. Funds are retained ($2.8 million) to close the facility and transfer the 40 youths housed there to new facilities. The Senate agreed with the governor on the continued reduction for in-home community care programs.

The House and the Senate Appropriations Committee Retain Special Rural Hospital Obstetrical Payment

Both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee have rejected the governor’s proposal to eliminate the special hospital obstetrical payment and voted to retain it at its current level in their recommendations for the 2016 budget for the Department of Community Health (now the Department of Health and Human Services).

This special hospital OB payment, a legislative initiative, was included for the first time in the current budget year. An increased obstetrical payment to physicians also was implemented in the current budget year.

For the budget year that begins on Oct. 1, 2015, the governor recommended the elimination of the special hospital OB payment, saving $11 million in total funds, but saving only $3.8 million in state funds. The increased obstetrical payment to physicians was continued in the Executive Budget recommendation.

The Problem

Over the last few years, a number of Michigan hospitals have closed OB units due to low Medicaid reimbursement. When hospital OB units close, it impacts the entire community, not just those enrolled in Medicaid. There currently are 17 contiguous counties in northern and mid-Michigan with no hospital OB units. To stop the erosion of obstetrical services in Michigan hospitals, the Legislature created a special payment for qualifying rural hospitals in the current budget year.

Testimony has been provided year after year on the importance of access to delivery and emergency OB services for pregnant women and their babies within a reasonable geographic area. While the special hospital obstetrical payment will not remove any of the red X’s on the map, it is intended to prevent more counties from closing their OB units.

With around 50% of Michigan births paid by the Medicaid program, it is important to recognize the impact of reduced hospital OB availability on low-income women and their families. Many may face significant transportation issues. Requiring longer travel to reach needed care and delivery services puts women and their babies in jeopardy.

Retaining the special rural hospital obstetrical payment is critically important to low-income pregnant women and their babies, as well as to the communities where they live.

 

Funding for Third Grade Reading and Adult Education Threatened in House Budget

 

The House has approved its version of the 2016 budget for the Department of Education and K-12 education this week, leaving out much of the governor’s forward-thinking third grade reading initiative, and completely eliminating funding for adult education. The House also ended many “categorical” programs that are targeted to high poverty districts that are struggling academically and financially, redirecting those funds to the per-pupil school payment.

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee adopted most of the governor’s proposed third grade reading investments, and increased funding for adult education—after years of deep cuts. The next step is Senate passage, ultimately the resolution of differences between the bills in a joint House/Senate conference committee.

Reading by Third Grade

The governor proposed to spend nearly $50 million to help turn around Michigan’s disappointing fourth grade reading scores. A recent League report shows that the ability to ready 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 state’s economy. But roughly 40% or 40,000 of the state’s third-graders read below proficiency as defined in the 2013 MEAP test.

To improve literacy, the governor proposed a range of changes, including:

Child care enhancements ($24 million in federal funds): In addition to being a critical support for working parents, child care is a potential learning environment for thousands of Michigan children. The governor proposed to increase the quality and stability of child care by: (1) allowing very low-income families to retain their child care subsidies for up to twelve months even if they receive modest raises or promotions; (2) increasing payments to high quality providers, reflecting the reality that Michigan payments have been some of the lowest in the country for many years; and (3) hiring more child care inspectors to counter damaging federal audits showing Michigan didn’t have enough inspectors to ensure children were safe.

    • House: The House approved the extended eligibility for child care services and provider payment increases, but rejected the additional child care inspectors, despite the fact that all funds for the expansion are federal, and will need to be returned to the federal government for redistribution to other states if not spent.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate Committee adopted the governor’s child care enhancements.

Other early interventions ($25 million): The governor’s proposal for improving third grade reading included: (1) home visiting programs for at-risk families; (2) parent education pilot programs; (3) testing and professional development, along with literacy coaches for K-3 teachers; and (4) $10 million for additional instruction time for children needing the assistance.

    • House: The House committee rejected the governor’s third grade reading initiative, although the Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid noted that a work group is meeting to create a plan to improve third grade reading, with recommendations expected in the next several weeks. Because the House and Senate differ on their support for the governor’s plan, early interventions will be part of the discussions in the joint House/Senate conference committee, although it is unclear at this time if the recommendations will encompass services for families with young children (ages 0 to 5) as well as interventions in the early grades (K-3rd grade).
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee agreed with most of the components of the governor’s initiative, and added another $10 million for extra instructional time for students, bringing total instructional funding to $20 million.

Additional funding to districts with high numbers of children at risk of educational failure ($100 million): If adopted, the governor’s recommendation to increase At Risk funding for schools would be the first significant increase since 2001. Districts are given funding based on the number of low-income students eligible for free meals, so it is a valuable source of support for districts struggling with high numbers of low-income children.

    • House: The House committee rejected the governor’s recommendation to increase At Risk funding by $100 million, and deleted language defining which children would be eligible. Instead, districts could only receive their current level of funding next year if they implement a specific instructional model—the Multi-tiered System of Supports.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee included the additional $100 million for At Risk, and specified that 50% of that increase must be spent on third grade reading initiatives.

Adult Education

The governor did not propose to increase funding for adult education, which has fallen from a high of $185 million in 1996 to only $22 million today. An important component of workforce development in Michigan is an expansion in the number of people receiving GEDs and/or acquiring the basic skills needed to prepare for occupational skills training leading to employment.

With current funding, Michigan cannot reach many working-age adults who need services. Nearly 222,000 Michigan adults ages 25-44 lack a high school diploma or GED, but fewer than 7% are enrolled in adult education. In addition, more than 225,000 adults in this state are not proficient in English, but fewer than 5% enroll in English as a Second language adult education programs.

    • House: The House committee eliminated all funding ($22 million) for adult education, as well as all funding ($1.2 million) for K-12 bilingual education.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee: The Senate committee increased funding for adult education by $7 million, to a total of $29 million, and agreed with the governor to continue funding for K-12 bilingual education at current levels.

 

Clean Energy Brings Health, Savings and Jobs to Low-Income Michigan Communities

Full report | Executive Summary

On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Entrenched coal interests immediately seized on the proposal as one that would dramatically cut coal use, force the implementation of new and expensive technologies, and harm people with low incomes. These claims are disingenuous. In fact, the standards gradually will transform our electric system over the next 15 years. Each state will have a tailored carbon pollution reduction target and can decide how to best reach this goal through upgrades to power plants, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. This will save consumers money while providing reliable and cleaner electricity to meet our nation’s needs.

It is critical that low-income Michigan households share in these benefits. These households spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs, which becomes more challenging when energy bills rise.1 Also, low-income communities are more likely to be near power plants, dramatically increasing the risk of more direct health impacts from the resulting pollution. Energy efficiency and renewable energy have the potential to help address these challenges.

The Real Reason Coal is Shrinking

Coal plants are being retired as cheaper power becomes available from natural gas, wind and solar resources, and as households and businesses increasingly save energy and money through investments in efficiency.

Since the mid-2000s, plans for 183 coal-fired power plants have been canceled and dozens of coal-fired power plants have been retired.2 Coal is becoming more expensive to produce, in part because it is harder to mine the remaining coal in many parts of the country, which makes the process more expensive. Moreover, because it is costly, dirty, and inconvenient, there is lowerthan-historic demand in the United States and in Europe, and an uptick in coal exports from other countries is crowding out U.S. coal.3

Michigan is currently home to five coal plants that received a failing Environmental Justice Performance grade, based on how they affect low-income communities and communities of color.4 The 75 coal plants nationwide that received a failing grade (including Michigan’s five coal plants) produce only 8% of the country’s total energy. However, those same 75 plants are responsible for 14% of sulfur dioxide and 13% of nitrogen oxide emissions. These coal plant emissions have a disproportionate effect on the surrounding communities.

Health Impacts

In the United States, approximately 6 million Americans live within three miles of a coal plant, and according to the NAACP, 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.5 The average per capita income in neighborhoods with coal plants is below the poverty threshold at $18,400, which is nearly 15% lower than the U.S. average income of $21,587. Furthermore, 39% of the people living in these neighborhoods are people of color, a higher percentage than the total percentage of people of color in the United States (36%).6 For example, 56% of white Americans live within 30 miles of a power plant compared to 68% of African Americans. Likely not coincidentally, African Americans frequent the emergency room for asthma attacks three times as often as white Americans,7 and roughly 30% of childhood asthma is due to environmental exposures, with average costs of $4,900 per patient—certainly a burden for any low-income household.8

The following examples speak volumes to the disproportionate effect carbon pollution has on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

The Michigan Department of Community Health has deemed the City of Detroit and its nearby downriver neighborhoods the “Epicenter of Asthma Burden.”9 According to a report released by the Sierra Club, Detroit ZIP codes in particular are three to six times more likely to have asthma-related hospital admissions than the rest of the state as a whole.10 In addition, in 2014 the American Lung Association ranked Wayne County—the home of the coal-burning River Rouge Plant—as the region with the highest number of pediatric asthma cases in Michigan. Wayne County also is home to more poor residents than any county in Michigan, with 465,744 of 1,792,365 residents (or 25% of the county population) below the poverty line.11

Wayne County’s River Rouge Plant is one of the dirtiest coal plants in the nation and sits in the middle of the River Rouge community, where people of color make up 65% of the population—this led to the seventh lowest EJP rank in the nation.12 ”Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People,” a report from the NAACP, quotes River Rouge resident Yvonne White:

The plant is located right in the middle of the community. About a block and a half down [from the plant], you can see actual homes where there’s a full community of people living in this environment. This is a park that we’re standing in. In the park you’ll see children playing and there’s actually the Rouge River, which comes through here and we have a number of people who are fishing in this area. This is a mixed community but mostly minorities; you’ll find a lot of Latinos, a lot of African Americans in this area. And I believe less than a block or so away is an elementary school. And so, this area is very critical when it comes to environmental issues.13

Benefits of Energy Efficiency

Medical costs in these communities tell only part of the story. Compounding health issues are the high costs of living in a home that is not energy efficient. A 2015 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that energy efficiency, achieved through improvements such as better insulation, lighting, and appliances, can significantly cut the amount of energy used and lower bills for homeowners.14 Because the Clean Power Plan allows states to be credited for energy efficiency improvements in all sectors of the economy, the EPA predicts that electricity bills will drop by 8% for an annual savings of about $100 for the average consumer.15

Housing can be expensive, especially for households living on a low or fixed income. Programs such as low-income weatherization are helping to reduce costs of housing nationwide. Offered and implemented across the country, these programs specifically for low-income homeowners help buildings become more resilient and energy efficient in a variety of ways, including protecting against damage caused by precipitation and wind, sealing leaks, and optimizing and reducing energy use. These programs can help reduce the costs associated with owning a home, and are especially helpful in low-income areas. Multifamily housing accounts for 26% of all housing units in the United States and 17% in Michigan, and almost half of all very low-income renters live in these spaces.16 By increasing weatherization funds, energy efficiency improvements could save building owners and their tenants up to $3.4 billion every year nationwide.17

Energy Efficiency in Michigan

In Michigan, the first three years of energy efficiency programs cut energy use by more than 7.7 million megawatt-hours (MWh)—enough to power 900,000 Michigan homes for a year—and produced more than $800 million in net benefits for customers.18 In addition, the efficiency measures installed through the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard are expected to reduce annual carbon emissions by approximately 6.8 million tons in 2015 and up to 11.4 million tons in 2025.19 Furthermore, the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard has spurred more than $2.3 billion in new investments and created new clean energy jobs in areas of efficiency and renewables since its enactment.20

In Michigan, the Weatherization Assistance Program is funded with federal dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy, with occasional supplements of Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program dollars from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While LIHEAP funds are not always allocated to weatherization, as they also fund the Michigan Energy Assistance Program and the State Emergency Relief program, there currently is funding available for 2015 and 2016 for the state.21 The Michigan Department of Human Services receives the federal funds and allocates the grant money to Community Action Agencies throughout the state and one limited-purpose agency to administer the program. These agencies let communities know about weatherization opportunities through news releases, web posts, and working with other community partners to spread information. The average family saves $300 alone by reducing heating costs 20-25%.22 While some of the funds are used for weatherization efforts, more is needed for low-income housing weatherization to protect the most vulnerable citizens from dangers of exposure to inclement weather, pollution from power plants, and high energy bills.

Benefits of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy provides another opportunity to cut energy costs. Renewable technology can be created on rooftops or in fields of corn. It uses no water and has little to no environmental side effects. For coal- and gas-burning plants, fuel may account for up to 90% of the wholesale price of electricity, but wind and solar energies have no associated fuel costs.23 However, equal access and benefits will not be automatic as costs decline; states and utilities must push to proactively address this issue so that as renewable energy comes online, low-income households accrue their share of the environmental, health, and economic benefits.

Renewable Energy in Michigan

In 2008, Michigan lawmakers passed the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act calling for renewable energy, such as wind and solar, to make up 10% of our state’s energy mix by 2015. Michigan is on track to reach this threshold by the end of the year. The Renewable Energy Standard created by this legislation is proving to be cost effective: a report by PJM Interconnection LLC, the largest grid operator in the nation, found that generating 30% of the electricity in its region with renewable energy would save consumers up to 30% on electric bills, even after factoring in the cost of additional transmission lines.24 Moreover, according to the DOE, costs for wind and solar energy are at an all-time low. This means that because renewable energy technologies are already competitive with conventional generation methods, and the prices are continuing to fall, transitioning away from some of the state’s failing coal plants to renewable energy sources makes sense. More recently, Michigan’s governor addressed the state in a special energy message, stating that by 2025 we should meet 30-40% of our energy needs through renewable energy and energy efficiency. Specifically, Gov. Snyder called for a 15% reduction in energy waste and 19-24% of the state’s energy coming from renewables.

Reliability

The coal industry often voices concern for the reliability of our electric grid, but these concerns are overstated. The Clean Power Plan would require only a modest shift in resources. Many plants currently slated to close ran only 38% of the time last year.25 U.S. electric grid operators have confirmed that nearly all the planned closures can occur without affecting electricity service reliability.

The reliability of fossil fuels has been exaggerated. In reality, the highly volatile nature of natural gas prices has contributed to volatile electricity rates—a major risk for low-income households. Figure 2 shows just how directly one region’s electricity prices depend on the price of natural gas. By diversifying our energy sources, we can reduce much of this risk.

Renewable energy’s intermittency has been exaggerated, too. Grid operators already have integrated more than 75,000 MW of wind and solar power into the grid and approved the retirement of tens of thousands of megawatts of old, expensive coal plants, all while preserving grid reliability.26 The output from renewable energy sources is increasingly predictable. And, through regional interconnections, wind from Arkansas can help power homes on a still night in Michigan.

Jobs

It is clear that switching from dependence on coal plants to renewable sources can cut energy bills, and can help boost the state’s economy with additional job creation. According to Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity, more than 18,000 new jobs were announced in the clean energy field in the third quarter of 2014 alone.27 The NRDC found that if the nation shifted to clean energy under a scenario similar to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, $37.4 billion would be saved in electric bills in 2020 across the United States, and more than 274,000 efficiency-related jobs would be created across the country.28 That could mean up to 6,900 efficiency-related jobs in Michigan in 2020.29 Not only does the creation of new jobs in renewable and energy efficiency mean a boost for the overall state’s economy, but the average wage for someone employed in the clean energy industry is $44,000.30 This is higher than the average wage in the United States. More money in people’s pockets means more money available to spend within the local economy, giving the state an overall boost.

Conclusion

Carbon pollution is a dirty problem for the United States, with Michigan ranking as one of the top offenders.31 Home to five of the nation’s most offensive coal power plants, Michigan clearly contributes significantly to the country’s carbon pollution. These coal plants are driving up energy costs for some of our most vulnerable populations, and disproportionately contribute to negative health effects for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. On an economic front, Michigan is importing 100% of its coal from other states to meet its energy needs. With the dependency on other states’ coal, almost half of our energy is produced with these imports. Of the more than 20 coal plants active in Michigan, with a total of 40 operating coal generators, nine are ripe for retirement.32 This means that due to outdated pollution controls, among other things, they have reached the end of their useful life and make no economic sense to keep running.

We know that the only way to completely stop the harmful effects of a coal plant is to close it, and fortunately with the innovative progress being made in renewable energy sources, we have an alternative. If Michigan can increase the state’s Renewable Energy Standard past the 10% goal mandated through the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act, as well as increase incentives for multi-housing unit and low-income housing weatherization, families could benefit with cost savings on energy bills as well as healthcare. It is important to preserve and strengthen the EPA regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan, to maintain the cornerstone of our state’s measures and regulate the pollution affecting the health and well-being of residents.

 Endnotes

  1. For the purposes of this fact sheet, “low income” refers generally to households that fall at or below about 200% of federal poverty guidelines. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2014 a family of four living on $23,850 was considered poor, so a family of four living on $47,700 would be considered low-income. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “2014 Poverty Guidelines,” January 24, 2013, aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/14poverty.cfm.
  2. Sierra Club, “Proposed Coal Plant Tracker,” content.sierraclub.org/coal/environmentallaw/plant-tracker (accessed December 1, 2014).
  3. Energy Information Administration, “U.S. Coal Exports Fall on Lower European Demand, Increased Global Supply,” October 3, 2014, www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=18251.
  4. Adrian Wilson, “Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People,” National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Indigenous Environmental Network, and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, 2011, naacp.3cdn.net/afe739fe212e246f76_i8m6yek0x.pdf.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Martha Keating and Felicia Davis, “Air of Injustice,” Clear the Air and the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, October 2002, www.energyjustice.net/files/coal/Air_of_Injustice.pdf.
  8. Miriam Cisternas et al., “A Comprehensive Study of the Direct and Indirect Costs of Adult Asthma,” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 111, no. 6 (2003): 1212, www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(03)01071-6/pdf.
  9. Michigan Department of Community Health, “Chapter 12: Detroit – The Epicenter of Asthma Burden,” Epidemiology of Asthma in Michigan, 2010, michigan.gov/documents/mdch/14_Ch12_Detroit_Epicenter_of_Asthma_276687_7.pdf (Accessed March 23, 2015).
  10. Sierra Club, “Wayne County’s Mounting Pollution Problem: Michigan Must Act on Federal Mandate to Reduce Harmful Sulfur Dioxide Emissions, Report, https://content.sierraclub.org/coal/sites/content.sierraclub.org.coal/files/docs/0778%20SO2%20Michigan%20Fact%20Sheet%2003_x1a%20%282%29.pdf
  11. American Lung Association, State of the Air 2014, Report, www.stateoftheair.org/2014/assets/ALA-SOTA-2014-Full.pdf.
  12. Wilson, “Coal Blooded”
  13. Ibid.
  14. Natural Resources Defense Council (hereinafter NRDC), “Michigan’s Clean Energy Future,” Issue Brief, March 2015, www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/files/clean-power-plan-state-options-MI.pdf.
  15. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “By the Numbers: Cutting Carbon Pollution from Power Plants,” June 2014, www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-06/documents/20140602fs-important-numbers-clean-power-plan.pdf.
  16. The federal government defines “very low income” as households that earn less than half the national median income. U.S. Census Bureau, “Population and Housing Narrative Profile: 2011,” factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_11_1YR_NP01&prodType=narrative_profile (accessed March 23, 2015). Gary Pivo, “Energy Efficiency and Its Relationship to Household Income in Multifamily Rental Housing,” Fannie Mae, September 12, 2012, www.fanniemae.com/content/fact_sheet/energy-efficiency-rental-housing.pdf. Michigan numbers: The American Community Survey 5 year estimates, 2009-2013
  17. Anne McKibben et al., “Engaging as Partners in Energy Efficiency: Multifamily Housing and Utilities,” American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and CNT Energy (now Elevate Energy), January 2012, www.elevateenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Engaging_as_Partners_in_Energy_Efficiency_Multifamily_Housing_and_Utilities.pdf.
  18. NRDC with Energy Futures Group, Building on Michigan’s Energy Efficiency Accomplishments, April 25, 2013, http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/rstanfield/NRDC,%20Building%20on%20Michigan’s%20Energy%20Efficiency%20Accomplishments.pdf.
  19. Jim Grevatt and Chris Neme, Projections for Power Sector Carbon Emissions Reductions: Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Energy Futures Group, memo, April 17, 2014.
  20. American Wind Energy Association, Michigan Wind Energy, August 2014, http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/FileDownloads/pdfs/Michigan.pdf.
  21. U.S. Department of Energy grant dollars for Michigan have been pretty consistent with only small differences in increases or decreases over the years.
  22. Benefits.gov, “Michigan Weatherization Assistance Program,” www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/1861 (Accessed March 23, 2015).
  23. Mark Bolinger and Ryan Wiser, “The Value of Renewable Energy as a Hedge Against Fuel Price Risk: Analytic Contributions from Economic and Finance Theory,” LBNL, August 17, 2009, escholarship.org/uc/item/65g8f2t4.
  24. General Electric International, Inc., “PJM Renewable Integration Study,” prepared for PJM Interconnection LLC, March 31, 2014, /www.pjm.com/~/media/committees-groups/committees/mic/20140303/20140303-pris-executive-summary.ashx.
  25. Moore, J., “Environmental Standards Will Help Reduce Consumer Electricity Bills,” NRDC Switchboard, November 4, 2014, switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jmoore/environmental_standards_will_h.html.
  26. There were 61,327 MW of wind installed capacity and 15,900 MW of solar by mid-2014. American Wind Energy Association, “Wind Energy Facts at a Glance,” www.awea.org/Resources/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=5059&navItemNumber=742 (accessed November 25, 2014). SEIA, “Solar Energy Facts: Q3 2014,” September 22, 2014, www.seia.org/sites/default/files/Q3%202014%20SMI%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf (accessed November 25, 2014).
  27. Environmental Entrepreneurs, “Q3 2014 Jobs Report,” November 2014, cleanenergyworksforus.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014_Q3_Report_final.pdf.
  28. NRDC, “America Can Create 274,000 Efficiency-Related Jobs, Cut Electric Bills by Billions, and Curb Carbon Pollution,” May 2014, www.nrdc.org/air/pollution-standards/files/national-cps-bills-jobs-FS.pdf.
  29. NRDC, “Michigan Can Create 6,900 Efficiency-Related Jobs, Cut Electricity Bills, and Curb Carbon Pollution,” Fact Sheet, May 2014, http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution-standards/files/cps-state-benefits-mi.pdf.
  30. Mark Muro, Jonathan Rothwell, and Devashree Saha, “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment,” Brookings Institution and Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, 2011, www.brookings.edu/~/media/series/resources/0713_clean_economy.pdf.
  31. Union of Concerned Scientists, “Michigan’s Dependence on Imported Coal,” Burning Coal, Burning Cash: 2014 Update, www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_energy/Michigan-Coal-Imports-BCBC-Update-2014.pdf.
  32. Union of Concerned Scientists, “Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing Michigan’s Costliest Coal Plants,” November 2012 http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_energy/Ripe-for-Retirement-Michigan-Report.pdf

 

 

House Subcommittee Rejects Governor’s Third Grade Reading Initiative

 

The Senate subcommittee developing next year’s education budget endorsed Gov. Snyder’s forward-thinking initiative to ensure that children can read proficiently by third grade. Only the day before, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education had rejected most of the governor’s recommendations and left children without early interventions needed to meet that critical educational milestone.

The next step is for the subcommittee bills to be acted on by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Their versions of the bills will be sent to the floors of the House and Senate for debate and approval. Any differences between the final House and Senate versions will be worked out in joint House/Senate conference committees. Legislative leaders have said they would like to complete action on the budgets by the end of May.

A recent League report shows 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 state’s economy. But almost two of every five Michigan third-graders do not demonstrate reading proficiency on the MEAP, with one in four scoring at the lowest level.

The research is clear: Learning begins in infancy, with the most rapid and critical brain development occurring during the first three years of life. States that have seen the most dramatic improvements in early literacy have made substantial investments in early interventions. The governor’s 2016 initiative recognizes the importance of the early years and deserves support.

Governor’s Reading Initiative and Legislative Actions to Date

There are three basic components to the governor’s third grade reading initiative. Below are the governor’s recommendations and actions taken by the House and Senate subcommittees:

(1) Investment of $23.6 million in federal funds for improvements in child care quality and access, funded through the Department of Education budget.

Governor’s Proposal:

  • $6.1 million for provider payment increases for licensed child care centers and homes that accept children with a state subsidy, and that have at least two stars on Michigan’s five-star quality rating system.
  • $16 million to allow families to remain eligible for the child care subsidy for up to one year, even if their incomes rise.
  • $1.5 million to allow families to earn up to 250% of poverty without losing child care subsidies—but only if families initially qualified at the current eligibility threshold of 121% of poverty.
  • $5.7 million to hire more child care inspectors needed to ensure that state-licensed child care centers and homes are meeting basic health and safety requirements.

The number of low-wage working families able to receive a child care subsidy has dropped by nearly 70% since 2003, in part because of the state’s low eligibility rates and provider payments. As a result, Michigan has unspent federal child care funds that the governor proposes to use to enhance quality and expand access. While this is a small step forward in a grossly underfunded system, it moves the state in the right direction after years of neglect for the well-being of thousands of vulnerable infants and toddlers whose parents must work to support their basic needs.

Legislative Actions to Date: The Senate subcommittee approved all of the governor’s recommended changes for child care. The House subcommittee rejected the expansion of child care licensing consultants, but approved the other child care enhancements. The increases in child care rates and eligibility were included in a supplemental budget bill recently signed by the governor, so will be implemented in the current budget year. Funds to expand child care licensing staff were not part of the supplemental budget bill.

(2) The dedication of $25 million in School Aid funds for services to support families and encourage early literacy, as well as improve reading instruction in grades K-3.

Governor’s Proposal:

  • $5 million for home visiting programs for at-risk families to encourage early literacy activities.
  • $1 million for parent education pilot programs.
  • $5.9 million for testing and professional development for elementary teachers and administrators to ensure they have the best tools to diagnose and improve reading difficulties in children, along with literacy coaches for K-3 teachers.
  • $10 million for additional instruction time (before, during or after school, or in the summer) for children who need extra assistance.
  • $2.6 million for continued implementation of the Kindergarten Entry Assessment.

Legislative Actions to Date: The Senate subcommittee approved the governor’s recommended third grade reading initiative, and added an extra $10 million for additional instruction time for students who are not on track with reading skills. The House subcommittee rejected the governor’s third grade reading initiative.

(3) An additional $100 million for children at risk of falling behind their peers academically, with funds to be used in part to ensure that children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Governor’s Proposal:

  • An increase of $100 million in At Risk School Aid funding—the first significant increase since 2001—bringing total funding to $409 million.
  • Funds would continue to be allocated to districts based on the number of students eligible for free meals, giving additional resources to districts educating a high number of low-income children.
  • At Risk funds are to continue to be used to improve third grade reading, as well as ensure that youths are career and college ready when they graduate from high school.

Legislative Actions to Date: The Senate Subcommittee approved the additional $100 million for At Risk services, and added language that requires that at least 50% of the increase be spent on third grade reading—in addition to existing spending. The House Subcommittee rejected the increase in At Risk funds.

Early Intervention Can Improve Reading Skills

High-quality child care allows parents to work to support their children, and prepares children to succeed in school.

  • Child care is both a support for working parents and employers, and an environment where children learn. More than half of children under age 5 are in child care at least part of the week, and while high-quality child care can help them succeed in school, low-quality care can threaten their health, safety and development.
  • Increases in child care payment rates and eligibility proposed by the governor and endorsed by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on School Aid/Education help to improve child care quality and allow parents to keep care longer even if their income rises. State policies, including low provider payments and income eligibility thresholds have contributed to a 70% drop in the number of families provided subsidies, and this trend needs to be reversed if Michigan is going to be a “comeback state for all.” A lack of access to affordable child care has made it impossible for many parents to work to support their children, and the economy has suffered. For example, a single mother with two children in care earning $11 an hour who gets a 50-cent raise (bringing income to $23,880 for a family of three) would lose her state child care subsidy, and child care costs would jump from about $3,000 per year to $18,000—a complete barrier to work. The quality and stability of a child’s relationships, including with child care providers, are critical to healthy development and future school success.
  • Although not part of the governor’s budget or the subcommittee budgets, an increase in the initial entry-level eligibility rate for child care, which has been at 121% of poverty since 2003, is needed to help low-wage parents enter the workforce. While it is helpful that parents may be able to keep their child care longer, even with small wage increases, Michigan still will have the second lowest initial income eligibility thresholds for child care in the country. An increase in the entry eligibility level from 121% to 150% of poverty would be a good start.
  • At a minimum, the state must ensure that all children in licensed child care are in settings that comply with basic state health and safety requirements. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education rejected the governor’s proposal to increase the number of child care inspectors charged with ensuring that licensed child care centers and homes meet basic state health and safety regulations. Recent federal audits have found serious problems in Michigan’s oversight of child care safety, including the failure to do all required criminal record and protective services background checks for people coming in contact with young children, as well as hazardous conditions such as blocked fire exits, unsupervised toddlers, and chemicals within reach of children. The governor and Senate subcommittee have supported funding for additional child care inspectors, bringing Michigan from one of the highest ratios of inspectors to child care providers (1:153) to the national average (1:98).

The governor’s recommendation to invest in early intervention services is an important step in improving children’s ability to read by third grade.

  • Efforts to help children read must begin long before they reach third grade or even kindergarten. Because the most rapid and critical brain development occurs in the first three years of life, programs that foster maternal and infant mental and physical health are critical. Examples include prenatal care, childhood lead poisoning prevention, home visiting programs that help parents with early literacy activities, and better efforts to identify infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays through the state’s Early On program.
  • Family income is the most reliable indicator of academic success, and Michigan must more aggressively address poverty and economic opportunity, including the restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit (included in Proposal 1), and income assistance policies that provide families with some stability as they get additional education and training and enter the workforce. National tests show that four of every five Michigan fourth-graders from families with incomes 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. Students from low-income families are more likely to face barriers such as illness, transportation problems, no access to high-quality child care, unhealthy housing, mobility, homelessness and unsafe neighborhoods.

 

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