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DHS built a strong partnership in Saginaw to dispel myths about welfare

Posted by Iahmed on May 21, 2010

The Welfare 101 event that the Michigan Department of Human Services held earlier this week in Saginaw was a huge success. I was surrounded by 23 partners at the SVRC Tuscola Educational Center to dispel myths about welfare.

For example, one myth we busted was: Welfare recipients only live in poorer, urban communities, not the suburbs or more affluent areas of the state.

Here are the facts:

Michigan residents are struggling to put food on their tables and pay their bills in communities statewide. The DHS has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of families seeking temporary assistance, including in Michigan more affluent communities.

Today, it is more likely than ever before that your relative, friend or neighbor is receiving benefits because that pain is being felt everywhere.

Here is a comparison of city-suburb benefit recipients from July 2008 to April 2010:

In Saginaw County:

Saginaw saw a 33 percent increase in Medicaid recipients – from 27,995 to 37,212; and a 14 percent increase in food assistance benefits – from 31,409 to 35,882.

Birch Run saw a 31 percent increase in Medicaid recipients – from 994 to 1,304; and a 43 percent increase in food assistance benefits – from 792 to 1,134.

Frankenmuth saw a 22 percent increase in Medicaid recipients – from 389 to 475; and a 34 percent increase in food assistance benefits – from 202 to 270.

In Genesee County:

Flint saw a 39 percent increase in Medicaid recipients – from 43,682 to 60,679; and a 12 percent increase in food assistance benefits – from 56,282 to 62,804.

Flushing saw a 41 percent increase in Medicaid recipients – from 2,213 to 3,129; and a 48 percent increase in food assistance benefits – from 1,741 to 2,575.

Grand Blanc saw a 56 percent increase in Medicaid recipients from 3,218 to 5,035; and a 72 percent increase in food assistance benefits – from 2,457 to 4,232.

Here is another fact:

There were more than one million foreclosures in Michigan from 2005 to 2009, according to the Michigan State Housing Developmental Authority. The statewide increase was 66.7 percent. For example, from 2005 to 2009:

In Saginaw County, foreclosures increased 51.9 percent – from 2,130 homes to 4,435 homes.

In Genesee County, foreclosures increased 62 percent – from 6,372 homes to 16,784 homes.

In Midland County, foreclosures increased 64.9 percent – from 435 homes to 1,241 homes.

Clearly, welfare recipients live in communities throughout Michigan.

Consider that myth busted.

The Saginaw event was the largest gathering of partners since DHS launched its Welfare 101: busting myths about welfare campaign on April 1 in Lansing. The goal of the campaign is to reduce widespread negative perceptions and show how valuable the welfare system is for so many Michigan residents, as well as to the state’s economy.

The DHS encourages you to do your part to educate the critics. For more information on the truth about welfare, please visit www.michigan.gov/welfare101.

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Need doesn’t know county lines

Posted by Iahmed on May 12, 2010

The Michigan Department of Human Services continued its efforts this week to bust myths about welfare, myths that are tarnishing the good that welfare offers to Michigan’s vulnerable residents.

The Detroit event featured Dana Weeks, a client receiving food assistance benefits, who knows that some people equate welfare to shame. It is an unfortunate truth that the DHS is striving to change.

And even though Weeks never imagined needing assistance at 57, he is not embarrassed to use his Bridge card at the grocery store – an act that makes many people hide their faces. Rather, he is thankful because he knows he would be worse off without the $200 a month he receives to fill his pantry.

“I know it’s temporary,” said the Detroit resident. “It’s a blessing. For some people, a lot of pride gets in the way, but welfare is there for them to fall back on.”

Weeks’ message is important. And it’s one that every Michigan resident must hear because the economic pain is being felt everywhere.

There is a belief that welfare recipients only live in poor, urban areas, while people living in the suburbs or wealthier areas of the state are immune to today’s economic struggles. This is a myth.

Trust me when I say that need does not discriminate. It does not recognize race, gender, religion, and certainly not whether a person lives in Detroit or Bloomfield Hills.

Michigan residents are struggling to put food on their tables and pay their bills in communities statewide. The DHS has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of families seeking temporary assistance, including those who live in Michigan’s more affluent suburban communities.

For example, communities such as Dearborn Heights, Livonia, St. Clair Shores and Bloomfield Hills each saw more than 60 percent increases in the number of people coming to us for food assistance. For Medicaid, each community saw more than a 30 percent increase.

Foreclosures are also affecting some of southeast Michigan’s more prosperous counties. Home foreclosures in most of these counties – Livingston, Macomb and Oakland – exceeded the statewide increase of 66.7 percent from 2005 to 2009.

Welfare recipients certainly do not only live in the state’s poor, urban areas. They come from all walks of life and live in communities statewide.

Consider that myth busted.

We prefer to deal with the facts because misunderstandings lead to myths, which create a stigma that may keep people truly in need – those with young children or the elderly – from asking for help. We want to put an end to that.

I encourage you to visit www.michigan.gov/welfare101 to learn the truth about welfare.

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A couple of op-eds by one of our partner

Posted by Iahmed on May 3, 2010

A couple of op-eds by one of our partners, Sharon Parks. Worth reading and sharing: http://ow.ly/1GoDi and http://ow.ly/1GoHd

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You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent

Posted by Iahmed on April 30, 2010

All children deserve a safe, permanent and loving home.

That’s a message I truly stand behind and want to share as the Michigan Department of Human Services earlier this week began a yearlong, statewide campaign to recruit foster and adoptive parents for the 16,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system.

We shared the news at a very successful event in Grand Rapids with our partners, Bethany Christian Services. You can see the video here: http://ow.ly/1FcKJ for Part 1; http://ow.ly/1FcSA for Part 2; http://ow.ly/1FcW9 for Part 3; http://ow.ly/1FcZw for Part 4; and http://ow.ly/1Fd2g for Part 5.

And if you want to see photos of some of the children who are currently available for adoption here in Michigan, visit www.miheart.org

Some say we’re asking foster parents to take on a big burden. But I say it’s an opportunity. Yes, we’re asking people to take on a huge responsibility, but as a father of five, I can tell you that you get a thousand times in love what you invest. 

As part of the campaign, DHS will run radio public service announcements and newspaper ads statewide in May for the foster and adoptive parent recruitment campaign. 

The public service announcements are part of a national Ad Council campaign – You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent – developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Adopt Us Kids, which works to raise awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families, and supports state in their own efforts. They’ve allowed Michigan to use their messages and materials, and to route interested parents who contact them to the appropriate state contacts. 

The public service announcements use humor and everyday life situations to demonstrate that adopting a child from foster care isn’t about “being perfect,” but rather about the commitment demonstrated by normal interactions between any parent and a child in a loving parent/child relationship. They are running in May because it’s National Foster Care Month. 

For the past year, our department has undertaken significant reforms to make sure we’re doing our part to find safe, permanent and loving homes for the 16,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system. 

More children in Michigan’s foster care system are in permanent homes. That might mean they are reunited with their family, have been adopted or have a guardian. In fact, more than 3,000 children were adopted from foster care in 2009 – the highest number we’ve ever had. 

But the children who are in foster care, as well as their caregivers, get much better support today. For example, they have access to mental health services and prevention programs. 

For more information about the campaign, please visit www.michigan.gov/perfectparent. Additional resources include: www.adoptuskids.org or call toll-free 888-200-4005. For Spanish, visit www.adopte1.org or call toll-free 877-236-7831.

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Welfare Myth 03: Welfare is a waste of Michigan taxpayers’ dollars

Posted by Iahmed on April 23, 2010

Did you know that the assistance the Michigan Department of Human Services provides to vulnerable residents has a positive economic impact? My answer – or rather, the facts – will bust myth 03: Welfare is a waste of Michigan taxpayers’ dollars.

Welfare benefits contribute to local communities and represent an investment the nation has made in Michigan. In turn, those dollars have a significant economic impact on local communities.

DHS’ budget totals about $6 billion, of which about $1 billion is from Michigan tax sources. Generally speaking, the federal government funds benefits and Michigan funds the administration of the programs, such as food assistance.

In fiscal year 2009, DHS distributed:

• More than $2.1 billion in Food Assistance Program benefits to almost 2 million Michigan residents. These are dollars that were spent exclusively on food and related products in Michigan grocery stores, convenience stores and local markets. The more than $2 billion in federal benefits helped more than 1.7 million people access healthy foods.

• $362.9 million in Family Independence Program benefits to more than 120,000 families and households with minor children. Of this total, more than $300 million of the benefit dollars were provided by the federal government, not state taxes. These benefits help families pay rent and house payments, property taxes, utilities, clothing and other living costs, and the money is primarily spent in local communities.

• $317 million in Child Development and Care payments covering service for more than 191,000 children. These payments were made directly to small businesses and individuals that provided services for children from low-income families. The majority of these funds came from federal sources.

• $136.8 million in emergency energy payments for heat, electricity, heating fuel, furnace repairs and related services. These funds were paid to Michigan utilities and other businesses that provided energy services or products. All of the funding was federal.

• $16.9 million for non-energy emergency payments for relocation, home ownership, utilities and deposits, home repairs, burials and other services. More than $10 million came from federal sources and $6.6 million from state funds.

Here’s another fact:

DHS and a network of community action agencies and other partners saw an unprecedented influx of federal dollars in fiscal year 2009 that helped residents and created jobs throughout Michigan. Some examples:

Stimulus funding:

In 2009, Michigan received $36 million in grant funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) in addition to the department’s $23 million federal allocation.

The funds, all federal, support community action agencies that serve 489,000 low-income individuals each year with housing assistance, income tax preparation, food, transportation, employment assistance and economic development.

The DHS Weatherization Assistance Program received $243 million in federal stimulus funding to be delivered over three years.

The weatherization program helps low-income renters and homeowners save money on energy – typically as much as 25 percent or about $300 per year.

More than 4,800 low-income households received weatherization services such as insulation, furnace repair or replacement, and energy conservation education in the program year from April 2008 through March 2009.

Over the three-year period, the additional federal funding will enable 33,000 homes to be weatherized and will create 700 to 1,300 new jobs in local businesses that provide weatherization services.

Food assistance:

A new benefit increased Food Assistance Program benefits for many households starting in March 2010.

DHS will provide $1 in federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to all households receiving food assistance. This will enable these households to qualify for the standard utility allowance when calculating benefits, regardless of their living arrangements. As a result, as many as 180,000 households that currently receive food assistance could see an increased benefit of about $88 per month.

This could put an estimated $16 million in additional direct food dollars into Michigan communities each month. DHS will provide every food assistance case with the $1 LIHEAP benefit on their Bridge card. DHS will provide the $1 on an annual basis to households receiving food assistance as long as there are federal funds available to support it.

We know that ever $5 of food benefits generates about $9.20 in economic activity in communities. We expect the additional direct food benefits put into communities could generate an estimated $360 million in annual economic activity, including through increased demand for goods and services.

Consider this myth busted.

The Michigan Department of Human Services on April 1 started an important campaign, Welfare 101: busting myths about welfare, to educate the public about true value of the welfare system.

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Welfare Myth 02: Welfare is full of fraud and no one’s doing anything about it

Posted by Iahmed on April 16, 2010

The Michigan Department of Human Services on April 1 started an important campaign, Welfare 101: busting myths about welfare. It’s time, once again, to delve deeper into the myths surrounding welfare.

Myth 02: Welfare is full of fraud and no one’s doing anything about it.

Here are the facts:

Clients who receive Food Assistance (FAP) benefits are restricted to purchasing food and related products. The federal Government Accountability Office estimates that for every $1 in food stamps, about 1 cent is obtained fraudulently. Families with children receiving cash under the Family Independence Program can spend the benefits as they choose. There are no legal or programmatic restrictions on these benefits, which recipients earn by participating in Work First activities, including developing and adhering to written plans to achieve independence.

Here’s another fact that busts this myth:

In fiscal year 2009, the Michigan Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General continued its focus on ensuring that public assistance is used for those with a legitimate need and expanded the department’s fraud prevention efforts. During that year the office:

* Completed 5,214 recipient fraud investigations in which agents identified fraud of $18.6 million. Recouped $4.90 for ever $1 spent investigating fraud.

* Denied, reduced or withdrew program benefits in 1,742 instances through the Front End Eligibility, the department’s fraud prevention program. Saved taxpayers $9.3 million.

* Expanded its Special Investigations Unit that performs the most complex investigations involving vendors, service providers and employee allegations. It completed 126 cases, identifying more than $1.3 million of alleged fraud.

* Partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Michigan State Police in multiple FAP trafficking investigations. In one instance, the investigation and arrests of four suspects associated with a Detroit-area convenience store resulted in the seizure of about $90,000 during the arrests. Some $670,000 in trafficking transactions has been associated with this convenience store; the owner was ordered to pay restitution.

* Contacted 7,730 child care providers and reviewed time and attendance records for compliance with Child Development and Care program requirements. As a result, 3,659 providers were terminated from the program for significant non-compliance. The efforts resulted in $6.6 million in cost savings to taxpayers.

* Was recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as first in the Midwest region for new fraud claims established, fraud claims recouped, amount of fraud determined and total disqualifications.

Anyone who suspects fraud in the welfare system is encouraged to report it by calling 800-222-8558 or at www.michigan.gov/dhs.

Consider that myth busted.

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Welfare Myth 01: Welfare recipients are a drain on the system

Posted by Iahmed on April 9, 2010

I wanted to take a moment to continue highlighting DHS’ Welfare 101: busting myths about welfare campaign. We want to put a stop to these myths that tarnish the true purpose of the welfare system.

Myth 01: Welfare recipients are a drain on the system.

Here are the facts:

Today, it is more likely than ever before that your neighbor or relative collects one or more welfare benefits because of unemployment, home foreclosures, or child or adult abuse or neglect.

In fiscal year 2009, more than 2.5 million people in Michigan — more than 25 percent of the state’s residents — received one of five programs. That includes cash, food, medical, state disability or child development and care assistance.

Thousands more used benefits or services related to energy assistance, adult and child abuse or neglect, foster care or adoptions, home help services or something else making the real total greater than 25 percent.

Here’s another fact that busts this myth:

The average family receiving assistance is a single parent with two children. They receive help for a short time. On average, that family receives Family Independence Program (FIP) cash benefits averaging $415 a month, Food Assistance Program (FAP) benefits averaging $252 a month, Medicaid benefits and possibly Child Development and Care (child care) reimbursement for the time the parent works or attends required Work First activities. The average child care benefit is about $610 a month.

The parent probably works part-time earning minimum wage. Between part-time income and benefits, the family may live on $700 to $800 a month. This places the family at about 50 percent of the federal poverty income guideline for a family of three of about $1,526 a month.

These benefits are temporary; the average FIP client receives benefits for 21 months and the average FAP client receives benefits for 24 months.

Consider this myth busted.

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Michigan Department of Human Services launched statewide campaign to bust myths

Posted by Iahmed on April 2, 2010

I stood firmly with 20 of our partners yesterday to bust welfare myths with facts at the Ingham County DHS office during the kick-off of DHS’ Welfare 101: busting myths about welfare campaign. It was empowering to take a stand to educate people about the true value of the welfare system and the tremendous impact it has on Michigan’s residents and its economy.

Michigan’s ailing economic climate has caused an unprecedented number of families to seek help paying their bills or putting food on their tables. And with that staggering increase in demand for services come myths that are tarnishing the purpose of the welfare system.

It’s unfortunate that there are many myths and misconceptions about who receives help, what that help actually does and the requirements necessary for receiving that help. Those myths have, in turn, created a stigma that is likely preventing some people who truly need help, like families with young children and the elderly, to come to us.

We wanted to put a stop to that because today, it is more likely than ever before that our neighbors, friends or relatives collect one or more welfare benefits because of unemployment or home foreclosure.

You can also read our press release here: http://ow.ly/1u4dc.

You can also watch video from the event on YouTube here: http://ow.ly/1u2Dd

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Michigan Department of Human Services Turns $1 Into $16 Million

Posted by Iahmed on March 19, 2010

I had the great pleasure yesterday to announce that 360,000 residents receiving food assistance will be able to fill their grocery carts even more. That’s because the Michigan Department of Human Services is turning $1 in federal funds into $16 million in additional food assistance each month.

It’s a new kind of spring green. This is a significant amount of money that will help individuals and families access healthy food while also helping local businesses, like grocery stores, create jobs. A great big thanks to Mark Murray of Meijer and Jane Marshall of Food Bank Council of Michigan for joining us at the event. What great partners!

You can read our press release here: http://bit.ly/cIyb1Y.

You can also watch video from the event on YouTube here: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeldkt8-KhI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfxJWYzw1jY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyUaPngGKwo

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Support governor’s budget

Posted by Iahmed on February 18, 2010

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I just got back from making a presentation to the joint appropriations subcommittee at the Capitol.

I asked committee members to support the Department of Human Services fiscal year 2011 budget as introduced by Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm on Feb. 11 because it would help us meet the unprecedented increase in demand we’ve seen in the past year.

The governor’s budget would set aside about $7 billion for DHS in the new fiscal year starting in October. That’s an increase of more than $1 billion from the current year.

And it’s funding that we need to help Michigan’s vulnerable children, adults and families.

The proposed budget would help us meet both Michiganians’ child welfare and assistance needs. The governor’s budget would provide $39 million in new funds to pay for 495 child welfare staff, expand family preservation funding, and provide adoption subsidies and subsidized guardianship for children up to age 20.

It would also provide for 200 limited-term staff field staff and add full-time funding for 197 new staff. These staff would help manage our rising medicaid, food assistance and emergency relief caseloads.

All things considered, the governor’s budget provides us with resources to meet the increased needs of vulnerable adults, children and families in Michigan. If passed, the budget will enable us to meet our mission and lend a hand to the more than 2 million people that come to us for help.

In the meantime, Gov. Granholm also introduced a supplemental budget bill for the current year that – if passed – would help us meet the increased demand. The supplemental bill includes an additional $430 million that would restore the JET Plus program, provide funding for the 197 new field staff to start working this fiscal year, and cover other costs to help us provide services.

I ask you to tell your local legislators to support Gov. Granholm’s fiscal year 2011 budget and the supplemental budget as introduced. You can find your legislator’s contact information at www.michiganlegislature.org. Thanks for your support.

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