By DAVID EGGERT/Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said he will announce plans in his State of the State speech Tuesday night to “dramatically” reorganize two state agencies in an effort to better help people in poverty by focusing less on programs and more on recipients of public assistance themselves.READ MORE: Meet These Two Bear Cubs Who Have Become Inseparable At The Detroit Zoo
The Republican governor told The Associated Press ahead of his address that he will soon issue an executive order to order to merge Michigan’s social services agencies. The Community Health and the Human Services departments would become the Department of Health and Human Services. The two departments are among the state’s largest agencies, together employing more than 14,000 workers.
“There’s a dramatic increase in how many people are falling outside the mainstream and remaining there. We need to do something about that,” Snyder, who is weeks into his second four-year term, said in an interview. “So now is the time. Now’s the time to dramatically reorganize government to be much more people-centric, not program-centric.”
Snyder said the move is part of a larger plan that will also include new education initiatives to ensure more residents enjoy a “river of opportunity.” In arguing for the reorganization, he cited more than 145 government assistance programs that are focused on workforce development, children and health, which he said represent a “failing” model of bureaucracy that has grown over decades.
The governor said that realigning some programs would allow caseworkers to more clearly understand the circumstances of the person they are trying to help.READ MORE: Delta Wants Other Airlines To Share ‘No-Fly’ Lists To Help Stop Unruly Passengers
As examples, Snyder said he will propose bolstering programs that he said have worked – including Pathways to Potential, which embeds social workers in 219 schools in 22 counties, and Community Ventures, which has connected nearly 3,000 unemployed residents of Detroit, Flint, Saginaw and Pontiac with more than 100 companies willing to hire for long-term positions. The retention rate after a year on the job is 70 percent, he said.
On education, Snyder said he will call for the GOP-controlled Legislature to authorize spending for a commission to focus on third-grade reading – considered a critical benchmark – and other prenatal-to-third grade issues to improve children’s outcomes.
He also wants to ramp up efforts to make the transition from high school to higher education more seamless, with a focus on career counseling, technical training in the skilled trades, and dual-enrollment and online learning.
Asked about legislation introduced in the last session that would hold back all third-graders who are behind in reading, he said it should be “looked at” when kids are not successful. But his initiative is focused on approaching the problem earlier.
Snyder signaled his interest in merging the two social services departments last month, when he named Community Health Director Nick Lyon as interim director of Human Services upon Maura Corrigan’s retirement.MORE NEWS: Veteran Needs Help With Home Repairs
Restructuring or combining programs will be a complicated project, in part because many are federal or rely on federal funding. Food stamps, for instance, are paid for by the U.S. government but administered by the state. So is cash assistance for welfare recipients.