Just as the U.S. Census Bureau prepares to release poverty, income, and health insurance data for 2009, which may show a record one-year jump in poverty, a USA Today article in the Detroit Free Press sheds new light on just how many Americans are being caught by the frayed safety net.
The numbers are deeply troubling. One in six Americans, or roughly 16 percent of the population, receive assistance from programs designed to help people in tough economic times. Additionally:
- Over 50 million people are on Medicaid (1.9 million recipients in Michigan).
- Over 40 million people receive food assistance (1.8 million in Michigan).
- Nearly 10 million receive unemployment insurance benefits (387,000 in Michigan).
- Over 4 million receive cash assistance (225,000 in Michigan).
These numbers are most certainly dismal but, unfortunately, in the face of all of this, Michigan continues to hack away at funding for programs at a time when people need them most. Since the official start of the national recession in December 2007, Michigan has reduced General Fund spending in the Department of Human Services by 35 percent and in the Department of Community Health by nearly 27 percent.
Meanwhile, unemployment has increased, and caseloads for all safety net programs have increased with approximately one in four Michigan residents receiving some sort of assistance (food assistance, cash assistance, child day care subsidy, state disability assistance or Medicaid). Even still, the governor has stated in her revised budget plan that each department must reduce spending by 3 percent across the board with an additional $50 million in reductions in the Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health.
Now is not the time to eliminate or further reduce spending on programs that so many families rely on just to get by day to day.