DETROIT (WWJ) - In a call to action Monday, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing rallied the troops at Cobo Center in an effort to build a safety net for 5000 city residents who lost their cash assistance welfare benefits on Saturday. That was the date set by the state to end payments to 41,000 people across Michigan who exceed the new lifetime cap of 48 months of assistance. Observers said children are the overwhelming majority of those losing benefits.
Bing, flanked by key department heads said, "We're here to talk about the kind of support that the city is going to attempt to provide for so many of our citizens who are now, as of October 1st no longer on assistance." As it relates to the timing of the cuts, the mayor said, "I personally think this is really the wrong time to do this. We have a lot of people that are in need, a lot of people that are hurting and I wish that this didn't happen."
The mayor also expressed concern about the time of year the cuts are taking effect with the cold, winter months right around the corner. Many residents struggle to pay home heating bills and now they'll be forced to do so with less cash on hand.
Bing charged three department heads with the task of working to lessen the blow to families. Workforce development, health and wellness along with human services are the departments that will collaborate to bring existing resources to the table to help those who lost hundreds of dollars a month to pay for housing and other essentials.
Ursula Holland, the Director of the city's Health and Human Services Department said services are available for those who need help with home heating costs. "Some of the services that we offer are utility assistance for customers who are in arrearage. We also offer rental assistance along with foreclosure prevention."
Workforce development provides employment and training services to city residents. It is also one of 25 Michigan Works agencies in the state. Director Pamela Moore said, "We're in partnership with the Michigan Department of Human Services in providing some activities for these families that will qualify them for ninety days of housing assistance." She stresses that certain requirements have to be met, "And, those activities include attending the orientation that we have today, tomorrow and Wednesday." All the sessions take place at Cobo.
Health and Wellness Department Director Loretta Davis talked about a number of programs that can help those who are no longer eligible for state assistance. "Three of those programs include our Women, Infant and Children program (WIC). It is a nutritional supplement program which not only provides nutritional counseling but also provides access to food, including fresh fruits and vegetables."
Bing says he will meet with Governor Rick Snyder this week to discuss the fallout from the cuts. The mayor noted that Snyder was out of the country when the cuts kicked in on Saturday.
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