The Michigan Senate has approved a four-year limit on cash assistance welfare benefits. The 48-month cap is part of Republican plans to balance the state budget.
Come October 1st, 12,600 families will likely lose benefits averaging a little more than $500 dollars a month. The measure is expected to win the approval of the state House and Governor Rick Snyder, who is relying in the $60 million dollars in savings to keep the budget balanced.
The vote on time limits broke along party lines.
Democratic state Senator Morris Hood: "What's going to happen to those folks? Where are those 12,000 people going to go the next day?"
"We can't do everything for everybody," says Republican state Senator Mark Jansen. "I think when we say to people, you have a four-year maximum that you can use these services, every month counts and so I think they will be motivated way before four years are over with to go out and start looking for other opportunities."
Michigan's welfare time limits would be among the strictest in the Midwest. Indiana limits benefits for adults to two years, with no limit on benefits for children.
Gilda Jacobs, president of the Michigan League for Human Services, says: "We really don't know what the unintended consequences are going to be. I do not believe that the faith community and the non-profit world has the ability to absorb folks who are going to need extra help."
Low-income families will still qualify for food assistance and Medicaid.
The measure will allow people on public assistance to earn more before losing benefits. It will also exempt parents and spouses caring for a handicapped person from the time limit.