In Michigan, State Lawmakers Approve Four-Year Cap on Welfare Benefits
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
State lawmakers in Michigan have approved a strict cap on welfare benefits, arguing that government assistance for needy families should be a crutch, but not a "lifestyle," as the sponsor of the legislation put it .
The measure, approved by state lawmakers on Wednesday (July 13), places a four-year cap on the time that residents can receive welfare benefits. It means that nearly 13,000 Michigan families will lose monthly benefit checks averaging $515 beginning October 1.
The Detroit News notes that the change, which Governor Rick Snyder is expected to approve, would go further than similar welfare caps already in place in other Midwestern states. "Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri have five-year limits," the paper reports. "Indiana has a 24-month limit, but only for adults; children's benefits have no time cap."
The legislation is the latest cutback of the safety net for Michigan. In March, Snyder signed legislation cutting state-level unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks, a move that led other states to make similar changes.
Republicans, who control the governorship and both legislative chambers in Michigan, say such measures are needed to bring state government back to a manageable size. But Democrats have vilified the GOP for making deep cuts to programs supporting the state's most vulnerable populations.
"This bill is draconian, damnable and unconscionable," a Democratic state senator said of the welfare cap. "The fact that we are destroying a social safety net shows we have lost sight of the fundamental purpose of being elected, which is to protect the general welfare. We need legislation that promotes job creation, not legislation that takes food away from hungry children."