With Michigan’s economy sluggish, record numbers of people need to receive some form of public assistance.
But negative myths about Welfare may be keeping even more people who could use the help from getting it.
So the head of Michigan’s Department of Human Services visited Bay College in Escanaba today to try to bust those myths.
He got some help from an Escanaba woman who says she wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for public assistance.
Rebecca Ettenhofer says raising her kids and battling health issues placed a financial squeeze on her.
Several years ago, she received gastric bypass surgery and lost nearly 200 pounds, which helped her immensely in all sorts of ways.
Ettenhofer says she also received food assistance and energy assistance to deal with utility shut-off notices.
She’s an example of one of the myths about assistance programs — that it’s mainly people in heavily urban areas who need the help.
DHS Director Ismael Ahmed says about 2.5 million people are receiving some form of aid — 1 out of every 4 people in the state.
He says more and more often, our relatives, co-workers and friends who’ve been left behind by the eroding economy are needing help — maybe even ourselves.
Detractors of the Welfare system say the benefits drain from the Michigan economy.
Ahmed says every dollar in assistance benefits actually generates about $1.85 of economic activity.
The average person receiving benefits receives them for less than 2 years — long enough to help get through a difficult economic period and into better times.
Ettenhofer says it doesn’t hurt to ask for help, because lots of people in Michigan are eligible for aid and don’t know it.
One more myth — that Welfare fraud is widespread in Michigan.
DHS says out of every dollar in benefits, 1 cent is obtained through fraud.