August 5, 2019

Monday, August 5, 2019

Changes Proposed for SNAP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently accepting public comments on a proposed rule change for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Currently those who receive assistance through a state program funded through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants may be automatically enrolled in SNAP.

The USDA is proposing that the eligibility requirements be refined by moving away from the automatic enrollment process. The department shares that this would “address program integrity issues.” The department says the current system enables people who receive minimal benefits from TANF to be eligible for SNAP without any further checks into their income or assets.

The USDA estimates this change could lead to 3.1 million Americans losing SNAP benefits.

In Michigan, nearly one in seven Michigan residents receives SNAP benefits but state officials say it’s too early to know how many recipients could be affected by the proposed change.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) told WILX-TV that there are already safeguards in place to prevent fraud through what some say is a “loophole” in the system.

"I don't think I would call this a loophole. We do have programs in place to find fraud when there's any fraud occurring with the food assistance program or other programs," Bob Wheaton, public information officer, MDHHS said.

Wheaton told CMF that of the more than 1.2 million people who receive food assistance in Michigan, 2018 investigations showed approximately .3 percent of recipients were linked to fraud.

“Instead of supporting work, this proposal punishes full-time earners. Instead of targeting fraud and abuse, this proposal goes after families playing by all the rules. It is a radical break from a long-standing, bipartisan approach to food assistance,” Robert Gordon, director of MDHHS said.

The Food Bank Council of Michigan has spoken out against the proposed change.

"Based on available data, we believe individuals and families with incomes very close to the poverty threshold, a measure that is already inaccurate and outdated, would be particularly hard hit by this proposed rule,” Kait Skwir, deputy director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan told CMF. “The proposed rule would impact their ability to save and work towards self-sufficiency; the rule is essentially a disincentive for work. This rule would make it harder for families with children to access the school meal program, a program that can have lasting, positive impacts on a child’s lifetime achievements."

The USDA is accepting comments online through September 23.







Racial Differences on the Future of Work

A new report funded by the Ford Foundation takes a closer look at the demands of our evolving workforce and why the perspectives of people of color about the future of work are particularly critical.

With the majority of the U.S. expected to be people of color sometime between 2040 and 2050, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ report examines the needs, challenges and interests among different racial and ethnic groups when it comes to training and preparing for the workforce of the future.

We’re digging into the data from the Joint Center’s 2018 survey of 2,000 African American, Latinx, Asian American, and white workers to learn what employees are seeing in the workplace when it comes to technology and what they say is needed to prepare our workforce.

In the workplace

  • Approximately 38 percent of American workers reported an increased use of technology at their job while only 12 percent reported “more automation.” However more white and Asian American respondents saw technological change at work than Latinx and African Americans.

  • While 24 percent of African American workers who were surveyed believe technology has increased workplace opportunities, 9 percent believe it has taken away opportunities.

  • When asked which workplace benefits are valued most, Latinx workers were more likely to identify retirement benefits and pathways to new opportunities more than workers of other racial groups, while African American respondents identified job security and stability more than other racial groups.

Training for the future

  • Most workers from all racial backgrounds said they were interested in employer-provided training, though Asian American interest was considerably higher at 85 percent.

  • Regardless of race, financial constraints were the most cited barrier to obtaining additional job training. Roughly 50 percent of the respondents from each racial group reported that financial constraints stood in the way of obtaining additional job training.

  • American workers across racial groups say they generally see the federal government, individuals, families and employers as bearing greater responsibility for preparing the workforce for a changing economy rather than schools and state governments.

  • A significant majority of the 2,000 respondents support free college or training as a response to job displacement. African Americans (85 percent) expressed the highest support of this policy, followed by Asian Americans (78 percent), Latinx respondents (75 percent), and whites (70 percent).

  • Data from people of color showed a significant interest in education and training. Asian Americans, African Americans and Latinx were all more likely than whites to be interested in obtaining education or training from all the provided options, including a college degree program, online college, community college, online training, a trade union and a GED.

  • When it comes to preparing children for our future economy, there were differences among racial groups as to how schools should approach this work. Latinx and white survey respondents said they value vocational training as an important strategy for workforce preparation, while about 27 percent of African Americans said proficiency in core education subjects would be most impactful followed by requiring schools to teach computer programming.

“These perceptions by people of color are important in developing solutions to ensure that Americans from all backgrounds are prepared to participate in the economy in the future and that the U.S. economy remains competitive,” the report states. “Considering racial perceptions about the future of work is also essential in addressing long-standing challenges that have plagued America since its founding and ensuring that well-intentioned proposals do not exacerbate existing disparities over the next 50 to 75 years.”

Want more?

Read the full report.






Coalition Announces Great Lakes Presidential Agenda

The buzz of the 2020 presidential campaign trail has left the Motor City following last week’s debates featuring the Democratic contenders.

While the national spotlight of the 2020 presidential campaign has left Detroit, Michigan is one of several states asking all presidential candidates to consider a Great Lakes 2020 Presidential Agenda.

Last week Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined a coalition of Great Lakes governors to announce the agenda and encourage candidates to “adopt the strategic plan which combats the critical factors that are currently threatening our water and public health.”

"Preserving our Great Lakes, protecting public health and cleaning up drinking water is a top priority for our region. The health of our families, our economy, and 51 million jobs depend on our immediate action," Whitmer said in a statement. "This agenda requires bold action. We must partner with the federal government to ensure we're doing everything we can to protect our freshwater, which is why I'm encouraging all 2020 presidential candidates from both parties to sign on to this agenda. The shared priorities of the Great Lakes region should be the shared priorities of all Americans."     

The Great Lakes 2020 Presidential Agenda outlines six policies to protect and preserve the ecology, economy and health of the Great Lakes:

  • Address the extensive water infrastructure crisis that the Great Lakes region is facing by tripling the federal investment into the Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds to address our region’s $179 billion backlog in drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure so all of our residents have access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water. 

  • Incrementally ramp up funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to $475 million per year to boost the region’s work of increasing coastal resiliency, cleaning up toxic contamination, reducing runoff pollution, stopping invasive species, and restoring wetlands and other habitats.  

  • Support, fully fund, and expedite the plan to build new prevention measures at Brandon Road Lock and Dam and support strong ballast water rules for every Great Lakes vessel to help stop and control the introduction and spread of invasive species in the region.

  • Commit to assisting states in meeting their goals of reducing nutrient pollution in the Western Lake Erie basin by 40 percent by 2025 through federal funding, resources, and new technologies while continuing to monitor, report, and reduce nutrient pollution in the other Great Lakes and regional water bodies.

  • Support federal funding for ports, harbors, and critical marine infrastructure including the Soo Locks reconstruction project at Sault Ste. Marie. In addition to $52 million provided by the state of Michigan, $900 million is needed to modernize the Soo Locks and ensure they remain operational through reconstruction. A six-month unplanned closure at the Soo Locks would devastate the production of integrated steel, automobiles, and other heavy equipment throughout North America, decreasing U.S. gross domestic product by $1.3 trillion, costing the U.S. more than 11 million jobs.  

  • Push for increased federal action of both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense to address PFAS contamination. Across the Great Lakes region, states are tackling the challenge of addressing toxic contaminants like PFAS chemicals. States are looking to the federal government for financial resources and leadership in establishing drinking water standards. 

When it comes to philanthropy addressing issues facing our Great Lakes, as CMF has reported, more than a dozen CMF member community foundations are working in regional teams as part of the Great Lakes One Water (GLOW) Partnership, supported by CMF and the Great Lakes Protection Fund.

The GLOW Partnership is a multi-year, basin-wide initiative focused on engaging shoreline community foundations as a force multiplier to advance a new era of water management to benefit people and businesses in the Great Lakes Basin.

As GLOW shared in a newsletter last week, the regional teams are beginning the implementation phases of their three-year plans. For some of the teams, this means researching best practices, community outreach and team organization. CMF looks forward to sharing more details on the plans as they emerge.

Want more?

Check out the Great Lakes 2020 Presidential Agenda.

Learn more about GLOW.

Join your colleagues and the Green and Blue Network (GBN) for Leveraging Partnerships to Address PFAS in Our Water, a breakout session at CMF’s Annual Conference happening this October. The GBN will take a closer look at the impact PFAS has on public health and the role that government and philanthropy can play in addressing these issues.








Michigan State Bar Foundation supports traveling expungement clinics in rural Michigan

Content excerpted and adapted from a Michigan Advance article. Read the full article.

The Michigan Supreme Court recently announced the launch of five traveling clinics to help those seeking to clear their criminal records, through the support of the Michigan State Bar Foundation.

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law received a grant from the Michigan State Bar Foundation to fund the clinics. The clinic will take eight law students to rural counties — Gratiot, Wexford, Missaukee, Kalkaska, Crawford and Otsego — to provide a one-stop shop clinic for each of those jurisdictions.

A recent study conducted at the University of Michigan Law School found that people who received expungements saw their wages increase by an average of 25 percent within two years.

“We are a nation of laws, and our expungement laws support giving people second chances,” Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said. “With a clean record, people can better provide for their families and achieve their dreams.”

Local judges, law enforcement, volunteer attorneys and students will help screen eligible applicants and assist them in completing applications for expungements.

The clinic also helps to secure hearing dates and filing applications with the court.

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