Senate OKs bill requiring community service for welfare recipients

LANSING—The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow the state to require some of those receiving public assistance to do “volunteer” work in their communities, said Sen. Darwin Booher, who supported the bill.

“This reform is about personal and fiscal responsibility,” said Booher R-Evart. “This aid is there to help those in need make ends meet during tough times. Empowering state officials to require those receiving help to give back to the community that is providing them with a helping hand builds responsibility and ensures people understand the cost of this benefit.

“The community service requirement would be determined by the state on a case-by-case basis, since it would be unfair to treat someone working 30 hours a week the same as someone sitting at home.”

Senate Bill 276 would enact into law the ability of the Department of Human Services (DHS) to require certain Family Independence Program recipients to perform some community service to receive benefits.

The Family Independence Program assistance program has a number of requirements to receive benefits, such as job training, job search activities, GED preparation courses and other requirements that DHS determines to be necessary conditions.

Community service is an activity that DHS requires through policy, but it is not required in law.

“The idea for this bill came from a mid-Michigan resident who began volunteering while on welfare, and saw that community service evolve into a paid job,” Booher said. “I supported it to ensure that we never lose sight of the fact that public assistance isn’t free. The people sacrifice part of their hard-earned dollars to help the less fortunate. Doing some kind of community service is a way for recipients to show their appreciation.”

This bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.