At a time when economic stress is moving state and local governments to reduce spending, the Michigan Catholic Conference has criticized state legislators’ budget balancing proposals which cut social programs. The Conference argues such cuts will hurt the most vulnerable Michigan residents.
“Our message to the public and the Legislature is ‘enough is enough’, the state can no longer continue to tear apart the state’s social safety net to resolve the budget deficit,” Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) Vice President for Public Policy Paul A. Long said in a statement. “It is our common understanding that the moral strength of a society depends on the assistance it provides its most vulnerable population, and we hope the Legislature would share that position as well.”
The MCC was one of 27 social service advocacy organizations that sent a letter to the governor and all legislators, saying a “shared pain” approach to balancing the state’s $1.8 billion budget deficit was a moral and legislative failure.
According to the coalition of social service advocates, over half of the $304 million budget cuts included in an executive order came from the Department of Community Health and the Department of Human Services, two departments primarily responsible for ensuring “critical human services” to Michigan’s low-income children and families.
Michigan League for Human Services President and C.E.O. Sharon Parks said the proposed cuts were “simply too harmful” to low-income families. “We cannot balance Michigan’s budget on the backs of poor families – we need to paint a brighter future for our kids.”
The coalition noted that other proposals would freeze the full implementation of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which affects the working poor. Another budget cut under consideration would cut $330 million from the Department of Human Services budget, 29.4 percent of its total.
The MCC said some of the “more alarming” cuts included reductions in grants to poor families, a reduction for children’s clothing allowance from $88 to $43 per child, cuts in child day care programs, and cuts to Supplemental Security Income.
According to a statement from the MCC, about 10 percent of all families in Michigan and nearly one in five children are in poverty, while many other families are in an “economically precarious” position.