Rick Snyder this week signed a bill that ties Family Independence Program benefits to school attendance. Students with poor attendance put food and cash assistance benefits at risk for the entire family. Children aged 6 to 15 who don’t attend school regularly will jeopardize FIP for the family, if the child is 16 and older, assistance benefits will be terminated for them alone.
Snyder insists this law protects families and helps with eliminating poverty, but the truth is the bill punishes the poor by threatening to take away their food and cash assistance with no regard to addressing why the child is missing school. The parents may not have reliable transportation, or are unable to afford fuel for a vehicle. With most jobs in the state now temporary part time jobs, families rely on one parent working two jobs or more struggling to make enough money to support them. Parents work longer hours, get less sleep, or don’t have time to help students with homework.
Cash-strapped schools are required with parents to overcome “obstacles that keep students from being in school.” The problem with this law is it does nothing to help poor families get out of poverty, but rather entrenches them in poverty even longer.
Other states have passed similar bills. Tennessee, Rhode Island, and Missouri also require poor families to find a way to get their kids to school or lose benefits. The fact that multiple states have passed the same bill or similar to Michigan’s law makes it obvious this bill came from a corporate sponsor.
Punishing the poor will not make people less poor. Real, permanent, full time jobs, access to affordable housing and adequate health care do contribute to helping people rise out of poverty. Michigan Republicans have done nothing but ensure that the poor will remain poor with this law.