Governor Creates Task Force Aimed at Poverty
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-19 in Detroit on Dec. 18 to create the Michigan Poverty Task Force within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. The task force will be comprised of directors or the directors’ designees from a number of state departments and agencies and will be charged with making recommendations to the governor on how to best coordinate and activate efforts within state government to lift Michigan families out of poverty and help them get on a path to opportunity.
According to the United Way’s ALICE Report, 43% of Michigan households struggle to afford necessities like housing, childcare, food, technology, health care and transportation. Another 2018 study has shown that one in five Michigan children live in poverty. The Michigan Poverty Task Force will work to identify and evaluate measures such as these to gain a full understanding of both the scope of poverty’s impact on Michigan families and communities, and the ways state government can best help those families and communities.
“No parent should have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table for their families,” said Whitmer. ”That’s why I’ve charged this task force with identifying more ways we can lift families up and ensure they can build a good life for themselves here in Michigan. I plan to work very closely with this team to ensure that every parent can feed their families with healthy, nutritious food, put a roof over their heads, and keep them warm in the winter.”
Executive Order 2019-19 requires that the chair of the task force establish an advisory council comprised of three Michigan state legislators, including two representing urban areas impacted by poverty and one representing a rural area represented by poverty, and three Michigan residents who have been impacted by poverty or are working with impacted communities.
“There’s no one solution to solve poverty; it’s going to take all of us, putting our shoulders to the wheel, to make real progress,” Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio said. “The Task Force gives us the chance to do collectively what none of us could accomplish on our own. Bringing together state departments, philanthropy, community organizations and local leaders, we’ll be better able to identify and tackle the root causes of poverty and bring opportunity to more Michiganders.”
The Michigan Poverty Task Force is charged with ensuring that state government is bringing the full force of its efforts and resources to the fight against poverty. That includes researching, identifying, recommending and implementing strategies for reducing poverty in Michigan; recommending changes in Michigan law and policy-related changes to fight poverty in Michigan; and connecting and collaborating with the public and key stakeholders in carrying out this important work. The task force will convene its first meeting in January and will report regularly to the governor on its findings and activities.
“For too long, ‘systemic poverty,’ has perpetuated unfavorable outcomes and barriers for families throughout Michigan, in both urban and rural communities. Our state is much better than that, and I see this as an opportunity to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to change the trajectory for all families!” said state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit. “Our governor has the ability to convene a meaningful commission that will advance optimal outcomes for our children, seniors and those facing disadvantages in education, housing, and public services. I applaud Governor Whitmer’s dedication to creating a framework that will help Detroit families thrive in their communities, and I’m ready to partner with her to ensure this process runs smoothly.”
Whitmer has taken a number of actions to help lift Michigan families out of poverty. In October, the governor took executive action to raise asset test limits so more Michigan families can afford necessities like food, rent, utilities, and warm clothing. The governor also took executive action to give more than 200,000 Michigan workers a raise by expanding the right to overtime pay.
“This is a big step for Michigan families who need real leadership in Lansing to help them get ahead,” said Sen. Marshall Bullock, D-Detroit. “It shows that this administration is serious about helping families in every community break the cycle of generational poverty. This is a great start, and I’m ready to help the Michigan Poverty Task Force in any way I can to ensure every family has the tangible support and resources they need.”