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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

A rough season ahead for those receiving state assistance

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, Sept. 19 — It’s going to be a rough fall and winter for those scheduled to lose cash assistance from the state starting Oct. 1, the director of Lansing’s Human Relations and Community Services Department told the City Council tonight.

As the new state budget takes effect, Dr. Joan Jackson Johnson — who oversees the city’s department that deals with housing assistance and homeless issues — said cash assistance typically used to pay for rent by the financially stressed will run out under new state-mandated limits.

Jackson Johnson said figures from Ingham County show that about 80 Lansing households on Oct. 1 will be cut off from state assistance, which is now capped at 48 months under a law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Sept. 6.

“It’s a sad time from my perspective,” she said. “D-Day is here Oct. 1. It’s going to be a long Christmas and a long winter as we struggle to stay above water.”

MLive.com has reported that roughly 11,000 households will lose their $500 a month assistance come Oct. 1. MLive also reported that exemptions under the new law include those with disabilities and who are unable to work, those who take care of a disabled spouse or child and those who are 65 and older and receive little to no Social Security benefits.

Jackson Johnson said the number of those losing assistance will increase on the first of each month. Further, she said city shelters have been full “since early summer, which is really unusual for us.”

“Oct. 1 is just the beginning,” she said. “On Nov. 1 and Dec. 1 and every first of the month, a new set of individuals will have maximized the use of services through the Department of Human Services for housing assistance.”

Jackson Johnson addressed Council members during a Committee of the Whole session following the Council’s regular meeting. Two committee agenda items — a resolution expressing Council support for the Nov. 8 millage proposal and committee updates regarding the fiscal year 2013 budget priorities — were pulled because they were not ready for discussion.

During the Council’s regular meeting, three community leaders expressed opposition to the way the city handled the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Derrinesha Clay on March 14 by Lansing Police officer Brian Rendon. Clay was shot in the Bank of America at 3215 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at around 3:30 a.m. Clay’s mother filed suit against the city in federal court earlier this month, alleging gross negligence, battery and civil rights violations, the Lansing State Journal reported. An LPD internal investigation found that Rendon acted in justifiable self-defense.

Carolyn Logan, president of the Lansing branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said her organization is concerned about three findings from the internal investigation of Rendon: the length of time between when Rendon arrived on scene and when Clay was shot; the decision to not send a K-9 into the bank; and the “failure to use less violent tactics.”

“We really feel the shooting was unnecessary,” Logan said. “The first bullet we would like to have seen never happened. The second bullet to the torso was a bitter pill to swallow. … We would ask that officer Brian Rendon be reassigned. We feel that he is a risk to the community. It impairs the trust of the community in the police department.”

The Rev. Fred Thelen of the Cristo Rey Church and Pastor Melvin Jones, president of the Clergy Forum of Greater Lansing, also spoke against the city's handling of the situation. Jones criticized the Board of Police Commissioners for not representing “the community on an issue of this nature.”

In scheduled business, the Council unanimously adopted two tribute resolutions. The first recognizes Wednesday as International Day of Peace; the second recognizes the Hmong Family Association of Lansing’s New Year Celebration.


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