Tuesday, January 27, 1998
Governor Engler announced today a new welfare reform initiative designed to increase child support payments to children with a parent on welfare. The Governor will utilize increased federal spending on welfare, matched with new state funds. Next year, an additional $30 million in state and federal funds will be used to move people from welfare to work, half of which will be used to find work for non-custodial parents who are behind on child support because of lack of employment when the parent with custody is on welfare. Under the new program, judges in child support collection cases will be able to compel these parents to enter the state's welfare-to-work program--Work First. The jobs program will be delivered by local workforce boards and be a pilot for one year. It would be extended for the full four years if proven successful."In today's robust economy, we can find people work," Engler said. "If a non-custodial parent can't pay their child support because they don't have a job, we'll find them a job so they can support their children. Kids need clothes. Kids need food and haircuts, and housing and if a job is the barrier to supporting their kids, we'll knock down that barrier."Engler described the plan as a partnership between state agencies, local Michigan Works! agencies, the Friend of the Court system and judges."We've run pilot programs on this type of effort and found that, in areas where everyone worked together, we found success. It's a creative solution to a difficult problem and that's making sure non-custodial parents are supporting their children as the Court has directed. It gives the Courts another tool to help children," Engler said.The other half of the monies will be divided among the state's 26 Michigan Works! agencies, also known as local workforce development boards (WDBs). The boards will be able to use the additional funding for services, within the welfare reform context, that are relative to their service area. "Letting local communities decide what to do with this additional money shows the Governor's commitment to local control and local solutions," said Doug Rothwell, CEO and department director of the Michigan Jobs Commission, which oversees the Work First program. "We have said all along that the employment problems that face Southeast Michigan may not be the problems that face the Northern U.P. Giving the boards the control to choose how they provide services is what has made our system so successful."Michigan was among the first five states to apply for the additional funding.