Bill requires community service for welfare recipients

9:17 PM, Sep 24, 2013   |    comments
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HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- More than 100,000 Michiganders receiving welfare benefits may soon be forced to work for them.
Anyone on welfare would be required to do community service, under a new bill passed by the state senate.

With boxes up to the ceiling and clothes piled across the room, the Community Action House in Holland is in need of help.

"There's more work than we can handle," says Mark Tucker, executive director of the Community Action House.

A heavy workload with no pay is not an easy sell for the Community Action House. But soon, welfare recipients may be required to buy into it. Under new legislation, receiving cash assistance also means doing community service.

"If it's going to add a lot of extra stress to their lives, it's probably going to be a hindrance. If it's a person who can manage this, you get up in the morning you have something to do," says Tucker.

At the Michigan Avenue location, the Community Action House only has one court-ordered volunteer, so the organization relies on volunteers from the community for help.

"We're five volunteers short for getting our job done," says community volunteer, Steve Dorn.

State agencies already encourage welfare recipients to find jobs, but there is no official law.

"Everyone has to meet with a case worker to be tracked on what they're doing with work participation in some form, and so if they're not doing anything, that includes community service, they could stand to lose their benefits," says Dave Akerly, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Human Services.

Michael Puente was a court-ordered volunteer, now turned employee. "It was a transformation, it was a learning process as far as my recovery," says Puente. He's glad he was able to give back to the community and believes others should do the same.

The bill requires community service for cash assistance. Those only using bridge cards or food stamps would be exempt.

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