Category: Public Policy
So, why do we look at the numbers? We do not review the numbers simply to gauge the rates of criminality, initial incarceration, and relapse. But the numbers also give us a sense of urgency about the need to appropriately reengage former offenders and an idea about the window of opportunity to do so. Furthermore, the numbers reveal the need for more opportunities, fair chance laws, and supportive services for individuals with criminal backgrounds.
The subject of fair chance laws lends to the issue of a little-known concept called “Ban-the-Box.” As people return to society with criminal records they are likely aware of most challenges they will face. The range of challenges can go as far as gaining employment, establishing independent living, acquiring a driver license or student loan, or having access to healthcare and other social service benefits. These factors can be a set-up for failure even for those with the best intentions causing them to reoffend and reenter the criminal justice system. Under these difficult circumstances, there is a law that you should know about that may increase your chances of obtaining new employment for those on a quest to reenter the workforce.
The “Ban-the-Box” or “Fair Chance” law addresses the issue of whether, or not an employer can include questions about an individual’s criminal background or convictions on employment applications. Currently, there are seventeen (17) states who have adopted “Ban-the-Box” laws including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
With over 100,000 (about 15%) of adult African American Detroiters (ages 25 - 54) with felony records in 2010, Detroit adopted a "Ban-the-Box" ordinance and further required contractors and vendors with the City to completely remove criminal history questions from applications. However, adopting a form of the fair chance ordinance for employment and housing vendors who receive grants from the City still did not apply to private employers and landlords. But, although the law was gaining ground, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder opposed legislation that would require government or private employers to remove questions about criminal or credit histories from applications. Instead, the "Local Government Regulatory Limitation Act" was signed into law on March 26, 2018. The law states that employers located in cities and counties in the State of Michigan are, in fact, prohibited from adopting "ban-the-box" ordinances for felony convictions, in effect, reversing the menial progress made.
It should also be noted that “Ban-the-Box” laws only prohibit employers from asking about your criminal history until after you have been identified as a viable candidate for a job. Know the law in your state and check the links below for more information.
RESOURCES FOR RETURNING CITIZENS SECTION
Bureau of Justice Statistics
CBS News Article: “Once a criminal, always a criminal?” (April 2014)
Business Insider: “Why is Norway’s prison system so successful?” (December 2014)
Jobs for Felons Hub: “Will a felony show up after seven years?”
Federal Trade Commission: Fair Credit Reporting Act
Goodwill Industries: “Understand your employment rights as a person with a criminal background”
Employment Law Lookout: "Michigan Bans Local Ban-the-box Laws"
ACLU: Request for Fair Chance in Detroit Ordinance Overview
Category: Government Benefits and Programs
On October 24, 2017, the Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced the ten (10) community agencies who will share in the $45.5 million dollars in energy grants provided by the State of Michigan. The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) allows low-income residents who fall behind on their gas and electric bills to stay safely in their homes and become energy self-sufficient through utility bill payment assistance and an array of other support programs.
The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) is sustained by two funding sources: the state-funded Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund (LIEAF) and the federally-funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund (LIEAF) was signed into law on July 13, 2013 by Michigan Public Act 95 which created the program. On July 31, 2017, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) established a monthly .93 cents per meter surcharge on all participating electric utilities who have opted-in to fund the program. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is the regulatory authority for all utility providers in the State of Michigan.
Michigan Public Act 95 allows the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to approve a low-income energy assistance “funding factor” (a surcharge on utilities), not to exceed $50 million dollars, every year to fund the program. The Act also designates the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to administer the program. Michigan Public Act 615, established on March 28, 2013, set forth the purpose for MDHHS to administer MEAP funds to community organizations across the state who will provide energy assistance and self-sufficiency programs to eligible low-income households.
Michigan Public Act 147, signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder on July 8, 2016 extended the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) for three (3) years to expire on September 30, 2019.
Michigan Energy Assistance Grants
Community Resources - Utility Assistance
Click the links below to view Michigan legislation for MEAP funds, the history of the program, and outcome reports.
Michigan Agency for Energy
Michigan Energy Assistance Program
Michigan Public Act 615
Michigan Public Act 95
Michigan Public Act 147
Michigan Public Service Commission – Case #U-17377
Category: Consumer Services
The State of Michigan requires all vehicle owners to purchase and maintain minimum basic coverage insurance known as No Fault Insurance. This basic coverage allows you to operate and properly license a vehicle. But, when it comes to car accidents there are things you should know about how your car repairs, medical care, and financial entitlements will be handled depending on the type of policy you purchase.
Because Michigan is one of twelve No Fault states in the country, certain criteria applies to your personal injury benefits and car repairs. Currently, No Fault laws in Michigan, which are said to be the most generous allows for certain unlimited lifetime benefits regardless of fault or injury. But, it does not pay for the repairs to your car or the other vehicle. In fact, not all benefits are covered for a lifetime usually lifetime benefits only apply to your medical care.
So, here’s some basic tips you should know. Basic coverage (No Fault) does provide for you medically, for the rest of your life without a cap on the cost of your care. The only way that you can lose that benefit is if you, through your lawyer, negotiate or waive your features at the settlement of the claim.
If you experience wage or employment loss due to your injuries, No Fault insurance will pay 85% of your earned income up to a maximum benefit of $5541 per month for three (3) years. If you are killed in an accident, your survivor’s will receive that benefit based on the earnings and fringe benefits you would have received. This is known as the Work-loss Benefit. Work loss benefits may also be paid if you are unemployed but in the process of looking for a new job. Consult your attorney for more information.
You are also entitled to other benefits besides your medical care, medical equipment, home safety accommodations, or other rehabilitative expenses such as transportation and home care. The formal name for home care is Household Replacement Services that is usually paid to the primary caregiver in the home. The benefit allows $20/day for your care, assistance with daily living activities, and routine household maintenance. Attendant Care is another entitlement typically provided by a professional medical company and the benefit paid is a negotiated hourly rate. In some cases, your lawyer negotiates that rate and receives 30% of the benefit for Attendant Care over and above the legal fees assessed for handling the case.
No Fault insurance provides for Residual Liability Insurance referring to bodily injury and property damage. This means that No Fault will pay up to $1 million dollars if you damage someone's property with your vehicle (i.e a building or parked car). But, the No Fault Law protects you from being personally sued except under special circumstances. You can be sued in Michigan if you cause an accident where someone is seriously injured, permanently disfigured, or killed. You can be sued if you are in an accident in another state or in-state if the other vehicle is registered to another state and the occupant is a non-resident. You can also be sued up to $1,000 if you are at least 50% or more at fault and cause damage to another vehicle that is not covered by insurance. You can normally purchase additional Limited Property Damage Liability Insurance called a “mini tort” to cover that $1000 expense for added protection in case of this circumstance.
In the case of residual liability where you are found legally responsible (50% or more at fault) for causing bodily injury or property damage No Fault insurance will pay certain benefits. No Fault will pay up to $20,000 for claimants hurt or killed in an accident, up to $40,000 per accident if several people are hurt or killed, and up to $10,000 for property damage in another state.
Finally, it is important to remember that No Fault insurance covers every member of the household even when you or a family member are passengers in another car or pedestrian That means, if you are involved in an accident the law requires that claims must be filed against the policy registered to you or in your home. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits also extends entitlement benefits to individuals without No Fault coverage and are injured as a passenger or pedestrian by your car. This is basic information about No Fault benefits. Note that certain criteria and structures change annually. Follow the link below for more information about No Fault insurance and how to purchase additional coverage.
CASE MANAGEMENT SERVICES
Category: Social Topics
Historically, social welfare was synonymous with the human condition of well-being characterized by socioeconomic security against major life risks, contentment in meeting one’s basic needs, and the ability to manage problems and achieve goals. But thanks to revisionists, the term has been reduced to the services provided to the poor by public welfare departments and charity organizations. When members of society have a fundamental, tangible model of social welfare they experience a reasonable standard of health, extended life expectancy, quality housing, higher incomes, and minimal social problems. A society with poor social welfare is marked by poverty, low living standards, and high rates of violence.
The historical context of social welfare also includes self-preservation as a matter of personal diligence. Inasmuch as society accepted social responsibility for the needy, well-being was also thought of as a matter of individual effort and family support. The involvement of external agents such as government and charitable organizations was considered a “safety net” that was operationalized when individuals and families lacked the ability to manage their life challenges. But, it was understood that life, oftentimes, presents an array of unexpected, complex events beyond the individual’s control.
Unemployment, for example, resulting from the lack of economic growth directly affects the welfare of individuals and their families in the form of decreased employment opportunities and income. The death of a spouse or debilitating medical condition of a person who is the primary provider of the household will cause a family to be economically vulnerable and at-risk for poverty. Any number of problems can arise that affects an individual or family’s ability to cope with their problems and has grave consequences for social welfare.
Because we live in a market society, social welfare programs were meant to protect individuals, spouses, and dependent children from poverty because of the loss of income due to unemployment, injury, disability, retirement, and death. How a country responds to the needs of its people answers questions about its values and social goals regarding equity, efficiency, and assumptions about social norms such as gender roles and family responsibility. It is these kinds of factors that interact to shape and form Public Policy which determines the size, structure, generosity, and administration of a nation’s social welfare system.
Societies that provide universal welfare gives us an idea about their values for the collective good of their citizenry. In American society, a target approach to program delivery supposedly intended to fish-out the poor and specifically direct benefits to those who need it most is the standard. But with our skewed sense of equity, the idea of the deserving poor has a deleterious effect and neglects many groups of people who have legitimate needs.
The process of targeting benefits also impedes system efficacy and imposes stigma on recipients. Administrative costs associated with means-tested programs for fact-finding purposes regarding assets and income creates enormous, and, oftentimes, exploitative financial burdens on the system by service providers. Income-testing also may deter potential recipients from pursuing benefits and causes adverse work incentives. Because the system requires a reduction in benefits when earnings rise even slightly above the so-called “poverty line”, individuals and families are conversely incentivized to keep their earnings low or work “under-the-table.” Not considering the inadequacy of federal standards of poverty, costs associated with new employment, or deteriorating living wages creates the “poverty trap” that affects the efficiency of the system and lowers the well-being of recipients.
In sum, as we briefly review the original purpose and design of welfare it is time to put aside assumptions about its goals and the people who need it. We do that when we consider all the ineffective variables of the system and the systemic forces that promote and maintain poverty which are too many to name here. The beginning of that process is to understand that people are not always poor because they are inherent social derelicts, make bad choices, live high-risk lifestyles, and the like. More often, than not, people are victims of market forces and life circumstances beyond their control. But, as times are changing, and new social values emerge we should, at least, maintain a basic decency and dignity toward the less fortunate.
Welcome to The Community Advocate Network. My name is Deborah Mitchell, I am a graduate in Social Work and Registered Social Work Technician. My human service background began in 2007 which includes medical case management and service navigation for the indigent population, outpatient mental health counseling with substance use and abuse disorders, supportive employment and job development for mental health consumers, and structured living domicile management.