Jesse Jackson helms rally against welfare cutoff

By Chastity Pratt Dawsey

Detroit Free Press


Sept. 29–Activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich., led about 200 marchers at the state’s midtown Detroit offices today in a protest against a new law that will kick thousands of residents off welfare on Oct. 1.

Starting Saturday, cash assistance benefits will end for about 41,000 Michiganders — including an estimated 29,000 children — who have received it for four or more years.

“This is not just a Detroit issue,” Jackson said. “It’s all over the state. … This fight is not black and white, it’s wrong and right.”

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the law this month, capping benefits at a lifetime limit of four years. It will reduce the number of Michigan residents getting cash assistance from more than 221,000 to about 180,000. The four-year limit will save the state more than $60 million a year, according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis

Between chants of “tax the rich, not the poor” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, stop the war on the poor,” the protesters complained that the cuts come at the worst possible time for Michigan — at a time when the state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

“It’s easy to say get a job, but where are the jobs?” said protester Gwen Gaines, a member of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

Angela Nelson had a job working as a clerk for Wayne County for 15 years. She was laid off last September.

Nelson, 50, a mother of five, received cash welfare assistance “on and off” in her adulthood, amounting to about 10 years. When her $260 biweekly unemployment checks stop in about five weeks, she won’t have any income besides food stamps due to the new law.

With four of her children and three grandchildren living with her, the Wayne County Community College student doesn’t know how she’s going to pay bills.

“I’m not a drug user. I’m not an alcoholic. I’m a citizen,” Nelson said. “I got laid off.”

Jackson said he is going to Lansing today to meet with several lawmakers about putting an end to the new law.

Today was the second day in a row that protesters showed up at the Cadillac Place building. The crowd was primarily comprised of volunteers and members of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Rainbow Push Coalition and their supporters. They plan another protest at the building Friday at noon.

Contact CHASTITY PRATT DAWSEY: 313-223-4537 or or on Facebook. Follow @cprattdawsey on Twitter.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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