Home heating aid funds drop despite downturn

Capital News Service
LANSING – A new Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund in the Department of Human Services is temporarily replacing a decade-old state program to help low-income residents heat their homes this winter. The fund will provide $58 million to help consumers pay their gas and electric bills. That’s less than $87 million available last year and $89 million in 2010 when the program was under the public service commission, according to its reports. “With the cuts to the fund, many seniors and low-income residents will be paying more to keep their homes warm in the months ahead,” said Judy Putnam, the communications director of the Michigan League for Human Services, an advocacy group. “While the Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund is better than no assistance, it was a ‘fix’ to something that was never broken,” she said.

Child abuse rate among the highest in Cheboygan County

Capital News Service
LANSING – More children are facing abuse and neglect in the state due to unemployment and reduced incomes, with the situation worst in Cheboygan County, according to a social welfare advocacy group. More than 32,000 children statewide were reported as abused or neglected in 2010 — a 34 percent increase from a decade ago. Cheboygan is among the top three leading counties with abuse reports, with almost five out of every 100 children confirmed abused in 2010, according to the Michigan League for Human Services. “Substance abuse and limited resources would be the main reasons for child abuse and neglect in Cheboygan,” said Debra Turnbull, the coordinator of Cheboygan County Child Advocacy Council. “Cheboygan is a small rural community with limited resources,” she said.

Michigan weathers highest unemployment with lowest benefits

Capital News Service
LANSING- Michigan has the weakest jobless benefits system in the Midwest, even though its unemployment rate has been the highest in the region over the past five years, according to a recent report. The Michigan League for Human Services reports that in the Midwest Michigan:
• Pays the lowest maximum benefits
• Is least likely to insure an unemployed worker
• Offers the lowest unemployment insurance benefits
• Provides the fewest weeks of basic unemployment insurance
One factor contributing to the poor rating is that the maximum weekly benefit has only been raised twice since 1994, said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, policy director for the league. “In 1994 the maximum was $293 a week and now it is at $362 a week, ” she said. Other states have kept pace with inflation. The problems started before the recession.