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Michigan Welfare Cuts: 46,000 Children Lost Cash Assistance After State Imposed Lifetime Limits

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File Photo: Judy Moses (center) prepares to be arrested during a protest against cuts to federal safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on November 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
File Photo: Judy Moses (center) prepares to be arrested during a protest against cuts to federal safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on November 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.

The families of more than 46,000 Michigan children have lost cash assistance since the state passed new stricter limits on welfare benefits. In all, nearly 66,000 people across the state have lost financial aid from the state's Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

The Michigan League for Human Services assembled a table of relevant welfare cases closed from September 2011 to February 2012 compiled from DHS statistics. The group found Wayne County had the highest number of children who lost cash assistance benefits, a total of 25,759.

The Michigan legislature passed new strict state limits for welfare recipients last September. The state began retroactively enforcing 48-month state and 60-month federal lifetime benefits limits in November.

Many affected families applied for exemptions under Michigan's welfare guidelines, but were denied benefits when the state's Department of Human Services, which handles cash assistance, used federal rules to judge their cases.

MLHS Policy Director Karen Holcomb-Merrill said many families were unfairly penalized under the wrong strictures.

"The dual time limits -- one set by the Legislature and one set by the Department of Human Services -- have created mass confusion for many vulnerable families with children in Michigan," said Holcomb-Merrill. "The 60-month limit looks back to 1996 and does not take into account the circumstances of a recipient caring for a child or spouse with a disability," she explained. Michigan guidelines also provide exemptions based on age and exposure to domestic violence.

On Tuesday, a Genesee County Circuit Court judge agreed. Judge Geoffrey Neithercut ruled Michigan families were wrongly kicked off the state's welfare rolls, finding the state DHS overstepped its authority in using the federal five-year limit on welfare benefits to remove families from the state program.

In a joint statement, state Reps. Shanelle Jackson (D-Detroit) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) estimated the retroactive benefit limits were "on track to harm nearly 38,000 vulnerable Michigan families who are unable to work because of disabilities or other barriers."

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