BENTON HARBOR- In just a few weeks, welfare benefits for thousands in Michigan will run out. Last week, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed a bill capping those benefits to people who qualify at 48 months.
“I could see this happening 20 years ago when there was more opportunity,” says Dennis Knowles, Benton Harbor’s 4th ward commissioner. He isn’t happy with the state’s decision to cut welfare benefits.
There are plenty in Knowles' district who’ve been notified by the state. “They received those letters in august saying they would be cut off October 1st,” he says.
According to the Michigan Department of Human Services, 112 families in Berrien County and 11 in Cass County won’t get any more cash assistance from the state. Some will be looking for other means.
“We will see some of that influx,” says Art Fenrick, Executive Director of The Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency. He says they’ll be coming to his Benton Harbor office and other non-profits who provide benefits.
The agency provides food, rent and emergency assistance to 3,500 families a month in need. “It becomes more and more challenging as years go on,” says Fenrick.
The Southwest Community Action Agency are already stretched thin because fewer jobs are available in the tough economy. “We’re seeing more families that have not utilized our services or human services come to us for the first time,” says Fenrick.
Knowles says it's more difficult than ever for people in Benton Harbor to get a job. “Now you’re talking about a cut-off with no leg to stand on, in other words, there are no job opportunities.”
Food stamps will still be available and the cuts wont affect people with disabilities.