Cato gets it wrong

The Cato Institute recently released a report  purporting to prove that in most states, it pays more (and therefore it’s more rational) for low-skill workers to pursue government assistance rather than work. This is patently false.

According to the report, for a single mother with two kids in Michigan, the total “welfare benefits package” (which includes cash, food, housing and heating assistance, as well as Medicaid and other low-income programs) is $26,430 (or $12.71 per hour) in wage-equivalent terms, compared with just $15,390 in pretax annual wages from working full-time at a minimum wage ($7.40 per hour) job. The authors of the study then falsely conclude that this leads to a disincentive for work, and that the way to address this problem is to reduce assistance and tighten work and other requirements associated with this assistance. (more…)

Picking up the pieces

There’s still time to sign up for the League’s free policy forum on Tuesday at the Lansing Radisson.

We’re hoping for a frank discussion on what’s happening in Michigan with cuts in unemployment, food assistance and cash assistance. With so much focus on the economic recovery, we have to make sure policymakers remember the recovery is slow and many people are still being left behind.

You’ll hear from David Eich, executive director of Michigan 2-1-1, which works to connect people in need with local resources. Also speaking will be Kareemah El-Amin, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Rev. Bruce Roller, executive director of the United Church Outreach Ministry. (more…)

The cost of ignorance

This week the U.S. House of Representatives voted 232-190 to eliminate all funding for the American Community Survey — the bedrock of a substantial body of information about child well-being, as well as overall population characteristics for every place in the country.

Five of the 10 key indicators monitored annually by the national KIDS COUNT project to evaluate child well-being in the states come from this survey. The survey collects data about poverty, employment, education, family status — many of the indicators used by communities to evaluate social and economic well-being. This information would no longer be available to track outcomes, guide public policy and assess community needs. (more…)

Help fight homelessness in your community

Audrey Dowell

Audrey Dowell

There are more than 100,000 people experiencing homelessness in Michigan. Because of this, they all too often forgo the little things that most of us take for granted, like warm clothing and hair cuts.  You can do something to help.

Project Connect is an effort to help those who are at risk for, or currently experiencing homelessness. For the past five years, Project Connect has been offering a variety of important services at events held throughout the state. These services include such practical things as assistance with filling out job applications and government forms,  to the provision of much needed medical care.

In 2009-2010, Project Connect offered services to more than 14,000 people at over 50 events throughout the state. More than 3,200 citizens volunteered their time at these events to reach out to those who have difficulty obtaining life’s basic necessities.

This year, a number of Project Connect events have already been scheduled and volunteers are welcome and needed. In Charlotte on Thursday, for example, volunteers will staff the Eaton County Project Homeless Connect.

To find out more information about when Project Connect events are scheduled in your community, go to the Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness website. Your help can make a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, and help assure all the residents of our great state a brighter future!

— Audrey Dowell

More in Michigan without a roof

Audrey Dowell

Audrey Dowell

Homelessness in Michigan is a crisis that continues to escalate.

Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness recently released its 2009 Annual Summary on Michigan homelessness trends. The group estimated that 100,000 people experienced homelessness in 2009. This is a  nearly 11 percent increase from the estimated 90,300 homeless in 2008 and more than 28 percent higher than 2006 estimates.

According to the report, more than half of the homeless in Michigan were adults and children in families. Single women headed 65 percent of these homeless families, and the average homeless child was only 7 years old.

About 22,700 at-risk and homeless children were served in Michigan public schools in the 2009-2010 school year. These children are four times more likely than nonhomeless children to show delayed development and twice as likely to have learning disabilities. They are also four times as likely to have health-related problems such as asthma and respiratory infections.

The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP), funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has provided $23 million in financial grant assistance to those experiencing homelessness or to individuals and families who are trying to prevent homelessness from occurring. Within its first year, HPRP has helped 14,892 people avoid homelessness. Of those, 86 percent did not have an extensive history of homelessness, and 49 percent exited the program within the first year.

HPRP has accomplished much in its first year. What is frightening is that 100 percent of HPRP grants must be spent within two years of their initiation by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). If Michigan’s economy continues to recover at a slow pace, one can only imagine what the homelessness trends will look like in future years without the help from HPRP. Grants that are similar to the HPRP need to be continued in future budgets if we want to see positive gains in the fight against homelessness in Michigan.

Education about this growing problem and who it is affecting is critical. According to a poll conducted by EPIC-MRA in June, 85 percent of Michiganders believe that homelessness is a serious problem. However, only 40 percent believe that more needs to be done to combat it.

There are 100,000 people in Michigan who would disagree.

For more information, please click on the 2009 Annual Summary box at the top of the page on the campaign’s website.

Audrey Dowell is a graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and an intern at the Michigan League for Human Services.