by MD Taylor, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
Nowhere is the collapse of the capitalist worker economy truer than in Michigan. The race to the bottom is in full swing as this once proud “labor-state” groans under the weight of pressing austerity imposed day after day. Sacrifice is becoming the State’s motto. Welfare recipients occupy the bottom strata of working people, a strata shared with the homeless, already stripped of economic opportunities. Corporations work hand-in-hand with preselected politicians to control and put in place policies that guarantee them financial profits even if it means devastation for the most sensitive populations in our communities.
Demonstrating this, a policy was introduced October 1, 2011 calling for the end of cash assistance for 277,000 welfare families was introduced with little advance notice. That action sparked a public outcry, and from that outcry came the Housing is a Human Right Coalition. The goal of the Coalition is to secure vacant homes for these embattled recipients and their children who are being evicted day after day due to the interruption of their income.
Recently, the State Welfare Department again decided to target poor women and children for cutbacks based on the suggestion that there is a truancy problem fueled by welfare children. Effective October 1, 2012, if one child in a household receiving welfare misses 10 school days, the 11th day of truancy will see a termination of food stamps and cash assistance for the family. This suspension of benefits lasts 21 consecutive school days in order to “motivate and encourage” these “lazy” parents, regardless of the attendance record of other children in the family. During that time the parent must provide proof that the child has returned to school and has not missed any days in order to have their assistance restored.
Truancy is defined as intentional, unauthorized absence from compulsory education. Last year, the State reported just over 92,000 truancies for all school-age children. While poverty has been shown to impact absenteeism, now it seems that absenteeism will also deepen poverty for families in need. To punish only welfare families for truancy is unfair, and promotes a stereotype suggesting that welfare recipients do not value education, love their children, or care if their kids succeed.