Michigan to Require Work for Food Assistance + Welfare Drug Test Results Are In
Michigan is beginning to require minimum work requirements for able-bodied recipients of food assistance, and the results of the welfare drug testing pilot program are in.
Beginning January 1st, 2017, recipients of food assistance in four Michigan counties (Kent, Oakland, Ottawa, and Washtenaw) will have to meet minimum work requirements to continue to receive benefits. People 18-49 will need to work an average of at least 20 hours/week in "un-subsidized employment, job training, or volunteering at a nonprofit," to be eligible according to NBC 25.
Minimum work requirements have not been enforced by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services since 2002, when a waiver was put on them due to high unemployment rates. Now that the employment rates are back up -- Michigan is no longer eligible for the waiver, and the requirements will have been re-instated statewide by October 2018.
Welfare Drug Testing
The highly divisive year-long pilot program that required drug testing for new applicants for government assistance was completed as of September 30th. Now we have the results, and there is more information on the process, but the same amount of positive test results we reported a few months back -- zero.
While MLive reports that 27 applicants were suspected of drug/substance abuse, 10 of them were already in treatment for those issues, 3 were not eligible for other reasons, and the remaining 14 were screened. Of that 14, only one person was found to have a potential substance abuse issue, but was found ineligible for assistance for unrelated reasons prior to taking the actual drug test.
The methods do seem quite flawed, and there is debate that Allegan, Clinton, and Marquette counties were odd choices for a pilot program like this -- but it is what it is. This is the law that was signed by Governor Snyder, who is expected to make a decision on whether it will be implemented statewide by the end of the year. One would think the lack of results might spell doom for the program, but that is often not how things work in our government.
So What Does This Mean?
It means that, one way or another, it will be harder for certain types of people to receive certain types government assistance moving forward, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't think people that use drugs should be eligible for cash assistance, and I know for a fact that people abuse the food assistance programs, and that sucks. However, fixing this isn't going to be the "cure-all" that some make it out to be.
Abuse of government assistance programs is a real thing, but it's a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. There are so many other problems with much more dire consequences that could've used the time and energy wasted on things like the pilot program. Baby steps, I suppose.