Michigan is among 18 states that cut welfare assistance last year despite the continually worsening economy according to an analysis by The New York Times.
Michigan–which cut welfare rolls by 13% last year–was one of five states making double-digit cuts. This meant that welfare recipients decreased from 226,520 in 2007 to 196,775 as unemployment grew nearly 2% to 9.3%. Food stamp recipients–which are considered separate from the welfare program–grew by 6.4%.
Many are blaming the cuts on the “welfare reform” implemented by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. At the time, many warned that the changes in welfare laws would have the worst impact once the economy declined from the relative prosperity of the 1990s. However, the system has gotten harder to use according to critics, making it difficult for those who need assistance to get it. Federal aid also remains fixed regardless of the number of recipients.
Recent changes to welfare laws have made it easier to meet statistical goals by removing people from the rolls. Michigan has also implemented tougher restrictions:
“Michigan also imposed new restrictions, forcing applicants to spend a month in a job-search program before collecting benefits. Critics say the up-front requirement poses obstacles to the neediest applicants, like those with physical or mental illnesses.
“I think that’s a legitimate complaint,” said Ismael Ahmed, director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, though he blamed the federal rules. The program “was drawn for an economy that is not the economy most states are in.”