Senator Clarke’s statement is as follows:
This amendment requests that we maintain the current level of state Supplemental Security Income payments to the neediest citizens in our state who are still able to live independently. Now these payments equal an amount of $14 per month. Mr. President, this is very important because these are people who are barely able to survive right now, and they have to pay their own bills. Fourteen dollars a month is a lot of money when you are earning a little over $100 a week. This is money that people would need for their food, shelter, and medication.
Another reason why I ask you to maintain this funding is because the federal government requires us to do so unless they expressly give us the permission not to make these payments. The federal government has not yet allowed us to not make these payments. So I urge you to maintain these payments because we should under our arrangement with the federal government, but also it is the right thing to do to help people who are many times disabled, blind, or who are otherwise struggling just to barely make it at an income of $600 a month. This additional $14 will make a difference for them.
Senator Hardiman’s tenth statement is as follows:
While I certainly appreciate the Senator from the 1st District and his sentiments on wanting to help those who are in need, as I have said before, these are painful cuts, but they are necessary to balance the budget. This particular reduction was proposed by the Governor in the executive order. I stand in opposition to the amendment and would ask the body to turn it down.
Senator Scott’s third statement is as follows:
My amendment would restore the FIP grant cut. Michigan’s cash grant is paltry. We already supply the neediest of our people with a grant that is only a fraction of the poverty level. Could you live on an average of $490 per month? How about if we cut that grant to just $460? Could you even find a place to live?
Again, at a time when our population in Michigan is hurting and when they need help to get through this very difficult economic climate, we should not look to save money on the backs of those who have none. So I ask you to support my amendment, restore the $24 million, and make this a priority for this Legislature that we will not stand by and watch our neediest citizens be cast aside because we cannot make other tough cuts or other tough choices to balance our budget.
So I ask you to vote “yes” and restore the FIP cash grant to the level that we currently provide.
Senator Hardiman’s fifth statement is as follows:
I rise in opposition to this amendment. We wish that we had lots of money to give for lots of good causes, but we simply don’t have that in this state. This was a tough decision, but it is part of the balance between immediate needs and looking to address longer-term prosperity. The $10 reduction of the FIP grant is difficult, and it is painful, but it does not reduce that grant. I think that grant is still in the neighborhood of grants for surrounding communities. Housing assistance is separate, and I believe we need to make the cut.
Many people across the state are dealing with less money in their household budgets, and they have to cope with it. While this is difficult, I believe the FIP grantees will have to do the same. I ask that we turn down the amendment.
Senator Scott’s fourth statement is as follows:
I just want clarification. The chair of the committee indicated it was just $10. From the statistics that I have, the average is $490 and they are cutting it to $460. It seems like it is $30 to me, and I just wanted to see if it was $10 or $30.
Senator Hardiman’s sixth statement is as follows:
My figures say that it is $10 per month.
Senator Scott’s fifth statement is as follows:
See, that is what happens when we only get this budget a few hours before we are to debate it. I would hope that in the future that we would at least get these in a timely manner so that we would be able to research them ourselves.
Senator Hardiman’s seventh statement is as follows:
Senator, I apologize that you did not get these budgets earlier. The budgets were being worked on, and I’d asked staff to get that to your side of the aisle last night. It was after five, but that is when we had our final numbers. Perhaps you didn’t get it until today and I would, certainly, want you to have enough time to review the budget so that you could make all the amendments and comments that she would like to.
Senator Scott’s sixth statement is as follows:
This amendment would restore the cuts to the local office emergency funds. For all the reasons that were argued earlier to save DHS workers, we should also save this pool of emergency needs fund. Unemployment is high and unemployment benefits will be running out for thousands. Many will be in need of emergency funds to pay water bills or to keep a roof over their heads. This is a small amount of money that can keep children in their homes.
So please support this amendment. It will restore $2.3 million for the local office emergency fund.
Senator Hardiman’s eighth statement is as follows:
I rise in opposition to this amendment. While these dollars are important, I would point out that this is a continuation of the Governor’s executive order. The fact is that we can’t afford as much, and I believe there was some lapse in these dollars from a previous year. So I ask that this amendment be turned down as well.
Senator Scott’s seventh statement is as follows:
This restores the employment and training services which have been cut. This funds JET to train those laid off for the new economy jobs. It also funds clothing, transportation, and miscellaneous items for people looking for jobs. So, again, if we want to truly help people off assistance and back into the workforce, this is the last place we should be cutting.
So I would certainly hope that you would support this amendment to restore $13.4 million for this vital service. There are some things which we can’t afford not to do. So I ask you all for your support on this.
Senator Hardiman’s ninth statement is as follows:
Mr. Chair, I said under the last amendment, I think I mentioned employment and training. I was in error; it was on a different item. But the issue was it was a continuation of the Governor’s recommendation or the EO.
On this item, the Senator spoke to employment training funds. Certainly, I understand the use of those dollars for people who are looking for jobs. They might need some new clothes or some other help in obtaining those jobs. I think fewer jobs may be less need for the dollars, but also we need to find better ways to get the things that we need. This is a necessary reduction because of the lack of dollars.
I rise in opposition to the amendment
Senator Scott’s second statement is as follows:
This is to restore the 100 FTES cut. DHS caseloads have overwhelmingly gone from just over 300 per worker to almost 600 per worker in the current year. More than 20 percent of Michigan’s population now gets some form of assistance from DHS.
The children’s rights lawsuit settlement requires that DHS add staff. The Budget Office has just issued a request for funding 200 more staff in DHS with federal stimulus funds. We know that unemployment levels continue to rise, reaching over 14 percent. We know that the combined unemployed and underemployed rate is over 20 percent in Michigan. We know that thousands of people in Michigan will be losing their unemployment benefits this year, peaking at about 90,000 people losing unemployment benefits by the end of this year.
DHS staff is clearly already overloaded. Now is not the time to reduce their capability to help our citizens weather this economic storm, so please support my amendment, and restore the relatively small amount of $4 million to avoid the laying off of 100 DHS workers.
Senator Hardiman’s fourth statement is as follows:
The Senator from the 2nd District is correct. DHS staff is very important. I do want to clarify a couple of things. I believe she mentioned that 200 staffers are being requested. That was a request for temporary staff funded with stimulus money to deal with some of the increased caseloads relative to, I think, food assistance, but that’s not what we’re referring to here in the budget. The 100 FTE reductions in the budget are specifically for administrative clerical staff. While these positions are very important, the reduction is necessary because of the lack of funds, and this is about 2 percent of the total staff.
It’s a necessary change, and I ask that this amendment be turned down.