By Pat Maurer
Michigan’s Family Independence Program had its lowest caseload ever during the second quarter of 2012 according to the September Economic Security Bulletin published by the Michigan League for Human Services. The number of people receiving cash and food assistance in the State and in Clare County were much lower in the second quarter of this year than they were last year.
Statewide numbers of families getting cash assistance were down to 54,000, a one-third drop from the April to June numbers in 2011 and only one-fourth the amount recorded back in 1992.
“In the past year, there have been a number of proposals to restrict cash assistance benefits to families who receive them,” wrote MLHS Analyst Peter Ruark. “The rhetoric among policymakers and … in the media is that ‘welfare’ is rife with fraud, that caseloads are growing and that the state and federal government are paying far too much on cash assistance benefits. A bit of perspective is in order,” he continued.
In fact according to the MLHS graph published last month, in 1980 approximately 250,000 families were getting assistance. Since then the number ranged between 200,000 and 250,000 each year until 1994 when the number began dropping.
Statewide, 1.4 percent of families received Family Independence Agency cash assistance between April and June this year. In Clare County, it is 1.6 percent; in Gladwin County it is 1.1 percent and in Isabella County .4 percent of the population got assistance in the second quarter.
In Clare County, the numbers, following the state trend, dropped by nearly a third – 30.3 percent, from 278 families on cash assistance in 2011 to 194 recorded for the second quarter of 2012.
Gladwin County also showed a decrease of 27.5 percent, with the numbers dropping from 162 in 2011 to 118 for 2012 second quarter numbers listed.
To the south, Isabella County also had a nearly 30 percent decrease in the number of families receiving cash assistance, from 179 in the second quarter of 2011 to 126 in the same period this year.
In the same period, the number of families getting food assistance also dropped 4.6 percent statewide from 962,286 to 918,417. In Clare County the number dropped 3.8 percent from 4,289 to 4,127 for the second quarter of 2011 and 2012 respectively. Gladwin County families getting food assistance dropped from 2,770 in 2011 to 2,586 this year, a 6.7 percent drop. Isabella County showed the most dramatic change of the three area counties with a 22.5 percent decrease this year. In 2011, 6,815 families were getting food assistance. In 2012 it was 5,280.
Michigan unemployment also dropped to 8.6 percent when comparing the second quarters of the two years. Statewide there was a 17.5 percent decrease in the numbers: from 486,333 in 2011 to 401,333 this spring. Clare County showed a 13.8 percent decrease from 12.9 to 11.2 percent in unemployment, Gladwin County a 12.9, decreasing their rate from 13.5 to 11.9 percent; and Isabella County showed a 12.9 percent drop from 7.9 in 2011 to 6.8 percent this year.
The only increases charted were in the numbers of people eligible for Medicaid (excluding FIP and SSI recipients), which increased by 3.5 percent when comparing the second quarters of 2011 and 2012 Statewide. In Clare County there was a 4.4 percent increase or 278 more people eligible while in Gladwin County 2.6 percent less people became eligible and in Isabella County the eligible number dropped by 4.6 percent.
The MLHS article reported that “Michigan spent only 21 percent of what it spent on cash assistance payments 20 years ago. And continued to say, “In the second quarter of 1992, 7.1 percent of the total population in Michigan was in families receiving cash assistance. This year the number was only 1.5 percent of the population.”
Ruark wrote, “Although 1992 was a recession year for both Michigan and the nation, unemployment and underemployment were nowhere near as bad as the recession Michigan is slowly climbing out of in 2012.”
He concluded, “It is important that public assistance policy be guided by facts and data and responsible analysis, rather than assumptions and hyperbole.”
The Michigan League for Human Services, a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan policy and advocacy group, will be renamed the Michigan League for Public Policy on October 10.