Across the country, millions of men and women in their mid-40s and older are finding it increasingly difficult to find work and start over. While many workers have lost retirement investments and savings and can’t retire as planned, others are unable to find work and start over after company layoffs and downsizing.
In October 1991, Michigan was the first state to eliminate General Assistance (GA)–a state assistance program that provided $160/month, plus medical care, and Food Stamps for unemployed and childless men and women. It was the last safety net that non-elderly, single people had.
Governor Engler eliminated GA as part of a political quest to make a national name for himself. He made other huge social service cuts to fix the state’s budget, such as pushing people onto federal aid (like SSI) and contracting with charity agencies to set up homeless shelters in attempts to privatize welfare.
A University of Michigan study (pdf) also found that half of those cut from GA were people primarily in Detroit and who had extensive barriers to employment. Only one-third of them were able to find work two years after being cut from GA. These cuts also occurred during another one of Michigan’s severe economic recessions.
Today, Michigan and Detroit lead the country in the highest unemployment with some of the worst safety net benefits. Many MWRO members are poor and low-income single men and women who lack the education and skills to compete for the same measly job offerings alongside college-educated people.
What are any of us to do when we can’t find work, can’t get hired, can’t get an education yet need a safe, warm place to sleep with some food on the table? In 1991, the public didn’t care that GA was being cut to low-income individuals. Today, millions more are in need of such benefits but there is nearly nowhere to turn.
We have a right to live, a right to a decent quality of life. How will we make that happen?
(Image courtesy of MLive Blog)