Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Senator would offer aid only after a year in state

By KATHLEEN LOFTUS
Capital News Service

LANSING – A new proposal would require public benefits applicants to prove they’ve lived in the state for at least a year before receiving assistance.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, said the legislation would apply to medical assistance and Family Independence Program (FIP), or cash assistance, benefits.

Rebecca DeVooght, Shuitmaker’s legislative assistant, said Schuitmaker is aware of people moving to Kalamazoo to collect benefits and many other cases have come to her attention since the bill was introduced.

DeVooght said, “We want people coming to Michigan for jobs, not to abuse public assistance.”

Under the change, FIP recipients would need a driver’s license or other acceptable ID.

An applicant could only be considered a resident if he or she has lived in the state one year prior to applying.

For medical care, the new bill would only provide coverage to those 19 years and older who have lived in the state for at least one year before applying for aid.

According to the Department of Human Services, the number of people enrolled for FIP has increased 26,401 from 2009 to 2010.

In 2009, the monthly average for FIP recipients was 202,693. The 2011 monthly average is 233,222.

Wayne County has 8,258 more recipients and Macomb has 3,165 more than in 2009. On the other hand, Keweenaw County went from one FIP recipient to nine in the last couple of years.

Judy Putnam, the communications director at the Michigan League for Human Services, said she has not heard of a problem with people flocking to Michigan to take advantage of FIP.

The benefits are designed to help low-income families with children.

“When families move here who are in need, a year is a very long time to wait for shoes, clothing and necessities,” Putnam said.

She said there has been an increase in cases for cash assistance in the past few years, most likely because of the long recession.

Another reason families apply is because they have used up unemployment benefits and haven’t found a job.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates directly correlate to FIP cases. When unemployment was up to 14 percent in 2010, FIP cases increased by 1,000.

The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.

© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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