Lansing Update: Help for the Poor, Funding Cuts for Nonpublic Schools Among MCC’s Takeaways on Governor’s Budget
Posted February 9, 2024
MCC Set to Advocate for the Poor Following Governor’s Budget Proposal
Several state programs that serve the poorest and most vulnerable Michiganders would see increased funding in the budget that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed this week. However, nonpublic schools did not fare as well when it came to services and funding the schools had received in previous budget cycles.
The Governor formally presented her spending recommendations for the state budget that would take effect October 1. Later this year, both the House and Senate will pass their own budget recommendations, after which the three parties will meet to agree to a final product.
Here is a rundown on what the Governor proposed—or did not propose—for spending next year that is of interest to Michigan Catholic Conference. MCC staff will continue to analyze the spending items to determine what MCC may support or oppose in the budget process.
Helping the Poor
The Governor described her budget recommendations as a “substantial increase in new state and federal funds for low-income households.”
This includes $15 million to the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, which supports low-income households struggling to pay energy bills. The 30% increase would be the first in this program since 2012, according to the Governor’s office.
The Governor also put forth $46 million for changes in the Family Independence Program (FIP), a temporary cash assistance program for needy families. The proposal includes $34.8 million to increase the monthly payment to families receiving assistance through FIP by 35%. If implemented, this would be the first meaningful increase in the base monthly FIP grant since 1990, the Governor said.
The proposal also calls for increasing the young child support payments made to FIP-enrolled children under the age of 6 from $50 to $150 per month, and increasing the time limits a family is eligible for FIP from 48 months to 60 months.
There’s also $30 million in additional funding proposed for State Emergency Relief, which provides emergency cash assistance for relocation, homeownership, utilities, and home repairs.
Another $7.3 million in one-time funds is being proposed for services to support homeless families and families at risk of becoming homeless. The Governor’s budget maintains other existing programs for the poor, such as the heat and eat program that grants additional food assistance to the needy, the homeless shelter rate paid to agencies that help the homeless, as well as last year’s increase to $10 million for the annual back-to-school clothing allowance for eligible children in the FIP program.
Families and Children
The Governor is proposing $24 million for the state’s Prenatal and Infant Support Program, which she described as providing funding for programs that improve the economic stability of households with very young children. MCC is interested in learning what types of organizations would be eligible to receive this funding.
Another proposal included a new tax credit policy that would offer a $5,000 credit to caregivers for expenses associated with providing care to disabled or elderly individuals, which the Governor had highlighted in her State of the State and a concept MCC had offered support for.
The Governor’s budget would also continue $4.4 million in diaper assistance grants for diaper assistance programs, maternity homes and other nonprofit agencies that distribute diapers free of charge.
The proposal also maintains the state’s rate for reimbursing agencies that help place foster children, funding for the foster care closet program that provides access to clothes and other items for foster children and families, as well as immediate assistance to kids removed from dangerous environments, including victims of human trafficking.
The Governor’s initial recommendations cut nonpublic schools out of funding they received in the budget for the current year, including for robotics programs, reimbursements for complying with state mandates, and school safety-related funds.
Potential nonpublic school teachers were also left out of programs intended to grow the teaching profession ranks, and nonpublic schools were again left out of an expanded school meal program designed to ensure all school children have access to meals.
MCC also has concerns with a proposal to begin phasing out the Tuition Grant Program, which assists low-income students attend private colleges by offering up to $3,000 in assistance per year.
The Governor’s budget continues several important programs that fund assistance to victims of human trafficking, including an additional three months of food assistance for domestic violence or human trafficking victims, as well as the continuation of $200,000 in human trafficking intervention services.
Gun Violence Prevention
The proposed budget includes $5 million to support violence intervention services, including gun prevention programs, as well as $1 million to contract for training for Michigan schools to reduce firearm injuries.
The Governor announced $50 million toward addressing affordable housing needs.
Bills Would Improve Student Reading by Screening for Dyslexia in School
MCC this week offered support for legislation to ensure public school students are screened for dyslexia, which can affect students’ reading and thus their ability to learn.
Senate Bills 567 and 568, sponsored by Sens. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), respectively, would require public schools to screen students in grades K-3, as well as older students who demonstrate difficulty reading. The legislation calls for providing students who exhibit dyslexia with a reading improvement plan.
The bills, which have bipartisan support, also require that public schools ensure staff who provide reading intervention or reading instruction receive professional learning about dyslexia and instructional accommodations. MCC will look to advocate to ensure nonpublic school teachers have access to this training and resources, as well.
Focus Friday: Increase Your Awareness of This Modern-Day Slavery
Recently, MCC started a new initiative on its social media channels known as “FOCUS Friday,” by featuring a relevant past issue of MCC’s FOCUS publication. FOCUS is MCC’s quarterly publication that provides an in-depth look at public policy through the lens of Catholic social teaching.
This past Thursday was recognized as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, which aligns with the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was sold into slavery as a young girl and later gained her freedom and joined the religious life.
In 2014, MCC published a FOCUS dedicated to human trafficking, which discussed how the issue had been addressed in Michigan up to that point and detailed efforts undertaken by the Church to combat the evil of human trafficking.
To grow in awareness of and solidarity with the victims of this modern-day slave trade, we encourage you to read MCC’s FOCUS on human trafficking by clicking or tapping here. Print copies are always available to order for free by contacting the MCC office.