In September, 2013, Michigan lawmakers imposed three mandatory requirements for welfare beneficiaries:
1) Perform free community service or lose welfare benefits.
2) Deny unemployment benefits for people refusing drug test required by employers.
3) Denial of benefits for recipients whose children are school truants.
The community service bill, which passed the state Senate on a 27-9 vote. Benefactors who receive food stamps and other welfare benefits are required to perform unpaid community service in order to continue in the assistance program.
The drug testing bill, which passed the House Commerce Committee on a 12-4 vote with three Democrats passing on the issue, would deny unemployment benefits for people who either refused to take a drug test as a condition of employment or tested positive.
I recently interviewed a young Mother for Java Hope who was totally devastated by this law because she had no transportation and no childcare. If she failed to participate in the community service program, she would lose her benefits. Arguably, if she left her children home alone, she could face serious consequences if something catastrophic happened to them.
While mandatory drug testing and school truancy is an issue, community service for Mothers with children is a heavy handed tactic used by lawmakers to terminate women on welfare. They are aware she has children. Yet they ignore it and impose the requirement of community service. This Mother told me she was willing to perform the service, but she needed a bus voucher and someone to watch her children.
Ironically, the legalization of medical marijuana is okay if it shows up in the test. But a woman with no income, food, childcare or transportation is a definite ‘No-No!’ How can a civic minded individual justify this? We must be sensitive to the needs of this sector if we truly wish to help them transition from poverty to work. I’m sure if this Mother was their daughter, every amenity would be available to help her become self-sufficient. How odd!
Laws must be equitable and fair. Beneficiaries who receive medical marijuana are not penalized during employment drug test. But Mothers on welfare have no safety net. How they get to work, who cares for the children, and other job related problems should be addressed under the same conditions as medical marijuana. Tossing her location for community service without providing her with resources to perform the service is criminal. There is a problem here. Michigan lawmakers should re-visit their position regarding this law.