Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

More unemployed qualify for state-aid programs

By TRENTON JOHNSON

Capital News Service

LANSING— While the economy’s recovery remains uncertain, the long-term unemployed in Michigan continue to rely on public assistance, experts say.

Sharon Parks, president of the Michigan League for Human Services, said long-term unemployment is reaching crisis levels.

“One important reason for unemployment is people without a secondary education are having a hard time getting a job. It’s happening to a combination of older and younger people,” she said.

The league is a nonprofit, nonpartisan statewide policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring economic security for low-income residents.

Judy Putnam, communications director for the league, said, “Everybody is affected by unemployment. Retail sales are down, as well as sales of appliances and automobiles.”

Parks said another reason why many people are unemployed is because of a ripple effect from major cutbacks in the auto industry that displaced blue-collar and white-collar workers.

Parks said being unemployed for half a year or more has devastating consequences for workers and their families. Such workers often rely on savings, earnings from a spouse or help from friends and family, which may not be enough to pay the rent or mortgage or maintain the family car.

However, there are ways for long-term unemployed workers to get help from the state.

They include cash assistance and unemployment compensation.

Gisgie Davila Gendreau, marketing and public relations director for the Department of Human Services, said cash assistance provides temporary benefits and support services to workers and their families.

Cash assistance programs include the Family Independence, Refugee Assistance and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance programs.

Gendreau said the Family Independence Program (FIP) assists families with dependent children who cannot provide for their basic needs. It also helps pregnant women.

The Refugee Assistance Program helps people admitted into the U.S. as refugees to become self-sufficient, Gendreau said. It provides cash benefits and medical aid to those who are not eligible for the FIP or Medicaid for up to eight months.

Gendreau said the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program uses federal money to help families pay energy bills.

Bruce Weaver, economic analyst for the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, said recipients of unemployment benefits must be physically and mentally able to work and available for job-hunting.

Parks said there are 64 counties in which the use of cash assistance increased during the second quarter of this year, including some in the northern Lower Peninsula.

Parks said the number in Alpena County rose from 203 families using cash assistance in the second quarter of 2009 to 221 families. The number in Cheboygan County rose from 149 families to 190 families.

Participants in Emmet County remained steady with 51 families. In Grand Traverse County, they  rose from 147 families to 164 families.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Social Policy

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