There are ways to better utilize the Family Independence Program to help welfare recipients build skills and become career ready according to a new paper from the Michigan League for Public Policy, From Safety Net to Springboard: Using the Family Independence Program to Help More Parents Build Their Skills.
Michigan gets $775 million per year from the federal government to run the Family Independence Program and other poverty-fighting programs, while matching that with state funds. Yet, despite the fact that skill building helps diminish the need for public assistance in the future, very little of the money spent is used for either cash benefits or skill building.
While 10% of Michigan’s adult population below 65 years of age has not finished high school, 25% of the heads of households receiving FIP have not finished high school. Twenty eight percent of adults have a high school diploma or equivalent but no postsecondary education. That number is almost triple (72%) for FIP recipients. Due to the growing demand for workers with occupational skills, neither group is likely to get a job with wages that can support a family.
The League makes several recommendations on how Michigan can use its FIP program and federal dollars to maximize opportunities for skills training leading to an in-demand postsecondary credential. These recommendations focus on using the money saved from the state’s low welfare caseload and high workforce participation rate (the percentage of households on FIP who are meeting federal work requirements) to strengthen high school completion and vocational postsecondary education opportunities for recipients.
Such changes include providing access to programs to recipients who normally would not be able to participate due to FIP requirements, reducing work requirements for more people in vocational education in order to facilitate successful completion, and allowing individuals to count English as a Second Language training toward their work requirements.
Wisely using Michigan’s resources to help low-income adults build their skills will benefit Michigan workers and the Michigan economy.