Michigan — October 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Federal judge puts new Michigan law throwing tens of thousands off welfare rolls on ice


A federal judge in Michigan today smacked down a new Republican-passed law that will throw tens of thousands of Michiganders off the welfare rolls with little notice, temporarily halting its implementation.

A federal judge today accused the state of “sleight of hand,” and halted plans to end welfare benefits to nearly 41,000 Michigan residents.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman determined after a hearing today that the state failed to give proper notice to those it planned to cut off, and although the issue was brought to the federal court in a lawsuit filed by just three plaintiffs, the judge also granted class status to include everyone affected by the state’s decision.

Lawyers for the government declined to discuss after the hearing how the state will respond.

The judge’s order requires the state to send new notices to all those affected — and this time the state must include a copy of a new policy that dictates the changes.

Borman said it was unfair that the new policy wasn’t made public until Oct. 1, long after those effected were required to file protests.

The smack-down continued:

Borman said the state didn’t come close to meeting the federal requirements of giving the welfare recipients appropriate notice of the change in the program, their rights of appeal or an adequate reason for the changes in the program

“They do not provide sufficient information for a recipient to calculate his or her chances of succeeding at a challenge to the termination,” he wrote. “None of the notices mentions or refers to any statutory authority or policy directives, or even mentions that the terminations are a result of change in the law.”

Borman also ruled that the lawsuit can go forward as a class action case and ordered the state Department of Human Services to mail another notice to cash recipients that complies with federal requirments.

This is good news, at least for now. If nothing else, it will give those folks who are affected a chance to find other ways of staying afloat and for aid agencies to deal with the massive influx of people in Michigan with no source of income. The reality is that, unless something is done to compensate for the change in the law, thousands, if not tens of thousands of Michiganders will find themselves homeless, putting even more strain on our already-stressed social welfare system.