Community Leaders Declare War on Michigan Budget
DETROIT (AP) _ Sharon Snyder has no job, little education, bad lungs and now, no welfare check.
Snyder, 44, is among the tens of thousands of adults the state now considers able-bodied and employable, and no longer entitled to general assistance payments. The welfare checks were cut by the state budget that took effect this week.
Snyder says she can’t land a job. She can’t read or write, suffers from respiratory diseases and is on life probation for a narcotics conviction three years ago.
″If you have a third-grade education, what can you do?″ she said. ″It’s going to be rough.″
Welfare advocates, community leaders and some lawmakers say they’re worried about people like Snyder. Representatives from the groups met Friday as a coalition - Michigan Up and Out of Poverty Now - to plan a strategy to help those hit by the cuts.
″The insensitivity of that decision in Lansing is unbelievable and inconceivable,″ said the Rev. Obie Matthews of Christ Cornerstone Baptist Church. ″We need to rally the most powerful effort you’ve ever seen in this country.″
″What we’re out to do today is make sure that we’re part of a movement in Michigan,″ said Marian Kramer of the National Welfare Rights Union. ″We want to talk about Operation Michigan Storm.″
The coalition, which met at Cass United Methodist Church, plans a public education campaign, a class action suit to stop the budget and a lobbying effort at the state house, said Maureen Taylor, a coalition leader.
″We’ve got to have everybody educated about why we’re so upset about this,″ she said.
The cuts include eliminated general assistance for about 81,000 people employable, childless adults. Gov. John Engler proposed the cut soon after taking office in January. The benefits averaged $145 monthly and the program cost $246 million in the last fiscal year.
Michigan joined a minority of states that deny payments to such adults.
In addition, the budget reduced supplemental security income for 120,000 aged and disabled people and eliminated Medicaid optional services such as vision, dental and physical therapy.
″People need to know what this budget is and how it’s impacting people,″ said Dave Wiener, a spokesman for state Rep. David Hollister, a Democrat from Lansing.