Michigan's Welfare to Work Program: Silver Linings and Storm Clouds

Donna Killingbeck, Western Michigan University

A major goal of welfare reform is to replace public assistance with earnings. However, lurking just below the surface of these programs are serious problems and structural impediments; low pay, job readiness and difficulties in securing supports like transportation and adequate child care. In Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine we are confronted with the story of a mother, who under Michigan's welfare to work program was forced to accept 2 part-time low wage jobs (both more than an hour bus ride from home) and left her son to be supervised by a relative. Her son later took a loaded handgun and killed one of his first grade classmates. In March 2002 Congress approved and President Bush signed into law the economic stimulus package. While much ado has been made about the extension of unemployment benefits, there has been an eerie silence surrounding the reauthorization of the Work Opportunity, Welfare to Work and Work First Tax Credits. The focus of this paper is to bring to light the (often destructive) relationship between social inequality, corporate, state and special interest entanglemenets of Michigan's welfare to work programs.

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Updated 05/20/2006