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Child Advocates to State: Do Kids Really Count in MI?



August 19, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - Michigan's jobless rate is on the rise again, just as a new report finds unemployment taking an even larger toll on the state's children.

After a few months of progress, state unemployment rose in July to its highest level of the year at 10.9 percent, according to newly released data. In addition, the annual KIDS COUNT report released this week shows that Michigan now has more children living without a parent working full-time, year-round than do 46 other states.

As alarming as that number is, says Gilda Jacobs, chief executive officer of the Michigan League for Human Services, the even larger fear is that legislative changes could send those children deeper into poverty, which results in an even bigger burden to the state.

"They're going to not finish school, they're not going to get the right training, they may end up needing mental-health services and they often find themselves in the corrections system."

Jacobs points to the decision to dramatically cut the state's business tax while also cutting the earned-income tax credit for working families. If lawmakers don't act on proposed legislation that would create a 48-month limit for welfare, she says, tens of thousands of children could end up even more impoverished.

While Gov. Rick Snyder's office says the unemployment numbers and the KIDS COUNT data highlight the importance of job creation, Jacobs sees them as a wake-up call to put the state's budget in line with its priorities.

"If we want to be an attractive state for businesses, this is not going to attract people to our state. When you have one-in-four kids that are in poverty in our state, that is not something that's going to attract businesses."

Michigan was 30th overall in state-by-state rankings in the annual KIDS COUNT report, which is based primarily on data from 2007 to 2009.

Michigan unemployment data is online at milmi.org. The 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book is at datacenter.kidscount.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI