Michigan's Poor Children Face An Uphill Battle

Aug 13 21:00 2003 Brian McAfee Print This Article

MUSKEGON -- ... poor are having an ... hard time making ends meet, ... to a recently ... study, and numerous social service ... ... the ... to

MUSKEGON -- Michigan's poor are having an increasingly hard time making ends meet,Guest Posting according to a recently completed study, and numerous social service organizations throughout the state.

According to the 2003 Market Basket Survey (which measures the buying power of the poor), cash assistance and food stamps, which make up all the poor receive, covers only 5 percent of the income needed to pay for food, clothing and housing. One year ago, Public Assistance provided 60 percent.

"That's a very dramatic drop, one I haven't seen in the seven or eight years that we've been doing this," stated Ellen Speckman-Randall, executive director of the Michigan County Social Services Association, which conducted the annual survey.

From a Muskegon Chronicle article on the subject: "According to the survey, a family of three would qualify for $9,830 a year in government cash assistance, food stamps and a back-to-school clothing allowance. That same family would spend an average of $18,137 in rent, utilities, transportation, food and clothing."

Cash assistance grants have not increased for ten years under conservative Republican Gov. John Engler. And now, with a new governor, Jennifer Granholm, improvement is unlikely because of the state's projected $1.7 billion deficit.

Child and Family Associates see an urgency in the public need particularly for children. One reported suggestion is an added one-cent tax on each can of beer, to generate $20 Million, with the money to be used to increase the back-to-school clothing allowance from $25 to $100 -- much more than just this is needed to ensure the well being of poor children.

Michigan's Republican-controlled legislature cut the clothing allowance from $75 to $25 to assist the Republican tax cuts for the rich.

Another aspect to this plan was that lawmakers also trimmed back eligibility, limiting it to school-age children, four years and older on public assistance. Previously infants and toddlers were eligible.

It has been noted that this past winter many children have been going to school without coats, boots or hats!

Gov. Granholm is in many ways an improvement over our now former Gov. John Engler, but she has yet to prove herself an advocate for the poor -- particularly poor children.

On a wider scale, west Michigan social activist and advocate for the poor, Father Jack LaGoe said: "A nation willing to put itself into a debt of $400 billion a year for the foreseeable future, asking only the poor and lower middle class to pay for it, has lost its vision and any hope of peace."

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Brian McAfee
Brian McAfee

Brian is a freelance writer and political activist who currently lives in West Michigan.

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