Michigan Poverty Task Force celebrates movement on recommendations to help families

 With nearly four million households struggling to make ends meet in Michigan, the Michigan Poverty Task Force celebrates movement on recommendations and more than $220 million in additional resources coming together to lift Michigan families out of poverty.

“The Michigan Poverty Task Force has helped us put Michiganders first by leading with data and experts to make recommendations on policy issues that make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I am grateful to the task force for working together across state government to help us deliver $220 million in investments and critical programs to help more kids get access to preschool, ensure families can keep the heat on in the winter, expand childcare programs, and so much more. I look forward to further collaboration as we continue finding ways to make bold investments in our people.”

“The Michigan Poverty Task Force made significant progress this year helping low-income Michigan families escape poverty,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “Governor Whitmer and I were proud to work with the legislature to pass a state budget that puts Michiganders first and implements policies based on key recommendations from the Task Force. Our investments to expand the Great Start Readiness Program, help low-income families pay water bills, and boost access to childcare will help low-income families escape devastating cycles of poverty. Governor Whitmer and I are grateful for the partnership of the Task Force and its continued work to make a difference in the lives of low-income Michiganders.”

In February 2021, the Task Force presented 35 recommendations to create an anti-poverty agenda to support struggling families in Michigan. The recommendations focused on short, medium and long-term strategies that included expansion of existing, effective anti-poverty policies and bold new initiatives to help low-income Michiganders navigate and transcend poverty.

“Michigan Poverty Task Force has made significant progress in accomplishing our recommendations to ensure every Michigander has access to economic opportunity and prosperity,” said Kim Trent, deputy director of prosperity, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO). “This team has been focused on the key issues that will have the most impact on struggling families, and working hard together to move the recommendations and Michiganders forward.”

Significant investments for Michigan families were included in Whitmer’s FY22 budget based on Task Force recommendations: 

• Investing $168M to Expand the Great Start Readiness Program: Whitmer signed a historic school aid budget increasing the early education program with an investment of roughly $168M into the Great Start Readiness program. The program helps four-year-old children at risk of school failure to reach a statewide target enrollment rate of 90% when combined with the children served by the federally funded Head Start Program.

• Investing $47M to Establish a LIHEAP Program for Water: Energy assistance for Michiganders struggling to pay their water bills and have faced losing this vital resource that focuses on reconnects and arrearages, not those facing shutoffs.

• Investing $2.5M to further the MI Tri-Share Child Care program: Through Tri-Share, the cost of child care is shared equally by an eligible employee, their employer and the State of Michigan, with coordination being provided regionally by a facilitator hub.

• Investing $2M to Support and Incubate Children’s Savings Accounts: Children’s Savings Accounts offer a highly effective asset-building strategy to improve financial literacy, boost educational achievement for low-income children and build wealth in low-income families.

• Investing $1M for Poverty Task Force Research and Planning: FY22 budget funding for recommendations made by the Michigan Poverty Task Force to conduct research on the state’s use of federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding and evaluate barriers to state assistance programs. Funding is also provided to develop a coordinated plan to address the digital divide, which acts as a barrier for families accessing available economic, educational, health, housing, and safety services.

In addition, the Michigan Poverty Task Force was able to:

• Expand Apprenticeship Opportunities to Incarcerated Individuals: Career and Technical Education programs have restarted within the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) with new programs launched earlier this year at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility and the Schoolhouse and Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility (WHV) Vocational Village. MDOC is exploring the future expansion of the Vocational Village concept.

• Establish Community Land Trusts: A Community Land Trust shared equity model increases homeownership opportunities for lower-income households by removing the cost of land from the transaction and subsidizing the sale cost down to just 75% of the appraised value of the land and improvements. Currently, there is a pilot operating in Grand Rapids, with plans to expand pilot regions early next year.

• Increase Eligibility for Child Care Services: Increase Michigan’s income eligibility to 185% Federal Poverty Level (FPL) until 2023 for child care services.

• Expand Availability of School Breakfast and After the Bell Programs: USDA provided waivers for the National Child Nutrition Programs that allowed parents and guardians to pick up meals for students learning at a distance due to COVID. As a result, more than 222.7 million meals were provided to children regardless of where they were learning – in school, at home, or in a hybrid setting. These waivers will continue through the 2021-2022 school year, allowing parents and schools the flexibility to continue addressing the pandemic.

The Task Force, led by LEO, consists of leaders from 14 state departments, with input from the legislature, philanthropy and community organizations working together throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to develop a comprehensive anti-poverty plan for Michigan and will continue to move the needle forward on the remaining recommendations as well as look forward to additional recommendations coming in early 2022.

More information is available at Michigan.gov/PovertyTaskForce.