Dear Governor Snyder:
The purpose of this letter is to bring attention to House Bill 4609. I am on the steering committee for Shiawassee HoPE (Homeless & Poverty Elimination) for Shiawassee County. The ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Restrained, Employed) was a research project done in collaboration with Rutgers University and the United Way. Michigan was one of five states chosen for the project.
This was a study about the financial hardships facing the residents in those chosen states. The report shows that 1.54 million or 40 percent of Michigan households earn too little to meet basic needs. Nearly 2/3 of the jobs in the state pay less than $20 an hour. The report states: “The cost of basic household expenses in Michigan is more than most jobs can support. Even though the cost of living in Michigan is among the most affordable in the U.S., a basic household budget is beyond what most jobs in the state can provide to working households.
“The annual Household Survival Budget for the average Michigan family of four is $50,345 and for a single adult is $16,818. These numbers highlight how inadequate the U.S. poverty designation is as a measure of economic viability, at $23,050 for a family and $11,170 for a single adult. The annual Household Stability Budget – one that enables not just ‘All counties in Michigan have more than 27 percent of households living below the ALICE Threshold. Michigan became less affordable from 2007 to 2012. Despite the Great Recession and the low rate of inflation, the cost of basic housing, child care, transportation, food, and health care in Michigan increased by 9 percent during this five-year period.’”
The entire report can be found at the United Way website: www.shiawasseeunitedway.org. Please take the time to read this and become informed about the poverty issues facing Michigan. The report is broken down by each county and township. Shiawassee County is page 221.
I can only speak about Shiawassee County. I was a case manager and worked with participants in the Work First and JET programs in Shiawassee County for many years. This is now the PATH program and all were TANF – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The names of the program have changed over the years but the problems facing the participants have not.
I saw people having to make difficult decisions daily, weekly and monthly. Choices were made to pay housing, utilities, childcare, food, transportation and medical monthly because the reality was there was not enough money to cover the basic needs. Food stamps can only be used for food and not for things we take for granted like toilet paper, feminine products, toothpaste and diapers.
HoPE is a mentorship program where a person in poverty (a neighbor) is paired with a mentor (a navigator). The goal this year is to work with adults 18-25. We just had a community conversation with teachers, principals, court system workers, human service agencies and other interested citizens regarding this targeted age group. Please look at the HoPE website about how you may be able to help us bring change to our residents. Website: www.shiawasseehope.com.
Students at the alternative high school in Owosso – Lincoln High School – were invited to be part of the meeting. There are many issues facing this population but transportation was one of topics discussed. The students explained that many of them cannot afford to even take drivers education let alone buy a car and afford the insurance cost. This is a large issue in rural counties such as Shiawassee. SATA (Shiawassee Area Transportation Agency) does provide limited service. The cost for a one-way ride is $3; $6 for round trip. Rides are based upon residency. Not all townships support SATA as there is no county millage. If I live in one of the outlying townships, rides cost $9 each way. We also have many homeless individuals, which is another large problem not to be addressed in this letter.
Most of the jobs in Shiawassee County are low paying and slightly above minimum wage of $8.15. We only have one factory that will hire people without a diploma or GED. The vast majority of people in poverty do not have enough skills to take the higher paying positions such as welders or machinists.
Scenario: Family of 4. You earn $8.50 an hour, 40 hours a week or $340 a week or $1360 a month before taxes. Rent is almost half of your net income monthly. The choices come into play as to whether to pay utilities, childcare, gas to get to work or buy diapers. These people are barely surviving let alone getting ahead. They have no extra money for emergencies. Evictions are very common. A phone is essential in today’s society and that cost was not even mentioned.
I challenge every House of Representative member and Senator in Michigan to live on a wage of $8.50 an hour even for one week! Get a taste of the reality of what 40 percent of Michigan residents face daily. Michigan’s roads are in need of repair. Find a better solution to the problem.
Do not pass the House Bill 4609! Let the low-income workers keep more of what they earn. Governor, please share this letter with your colleagues and other constituents.
Susan Alpert, Shiawassee HoPE