Michigan judge temporarily halts state welfare cutoffs

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 04, 2011 8:08 PM

DETROIT (Reuters) - A Michigan judge on Tuesday temporarily halted a new law signed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder that would end welfare cash assistance to a poor family after four or more years of receiving the assistance.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman ruled that notices sent to welfare recipients who were about to lose benefits under the new law, which went into effect on October 1, did not adequately inform them about the change in the program and their rights to appeal.

Borman wrote that the notices "do not provide sufficient information for a recipient to calculate his or her chances of succeeding at a challenge to the termination." He found that the notices violated the right to due process.

The order was in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of low-income families by the Saginaw-based Center for Civil Justice. The suit alleged that the law affects more than 25,000 parents and children. Borman Tuesday also granted the suit class-action status.

One of the recipients named in the suit, Michelle Case, is not able to seek work because her 8-year-old son has severe disabilities. The suit said that Case, who receives $306 a month in state Family Independence Program benefits, was "unable to make an informed decision" about whether she had a defense to the termination of her benefits before a deadline for requesting a hearing.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Human Services was not immediately available for comment.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by James Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune)