Michigans apple crop improved this season

By Amanda Harrison

Michigan’s apple crop improved 78 percent from 2010.

Denise Donohue is with the Michigan Apple Committee. She said the 2010 season was difficult for farmers.

She said after tress began to blossom last year, crops were hit by frost eleven times. The bad weather killed an estimated 40 percent of the crop.

She said this year we had one of the coolest springs on record and the late warm up actually helped the crops.

“We like that because it holds off the blossoming and then we don’t have a lot of risk from a late frost. So we were behind, we started this year two weeks behind.

Donohue said starting late this year helped produce an overall larger crop, and that she said that should help make up for the 2010 season.

She said the price for Michigan apples is projected to stay the same.

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Awareness about hazing seminar held at Ferris State University

By Amanda Harrison

Ferris State University hosted a seminar last night in an effort to spread awareness about hazing.

Danielle Leisner is a student leadership worker at FSU. She said hazing is not a serious issue on their campus, but…

“There are things that can go unreported whether or not people are aware of them or even aware that what they’re doing is hazing. So it’s really important that everything gets laid on the table so if it is happening it stops.”

Leisner said she hopes the seminar will encourage students to come forward if they know of hazing incidences.

The seminar was scheduled for 7:30 last night on the campus of FSU.

New welfare limits take effect this weekend

By Rick Pluta

This weekend, thousands of Michigan families will lose state cash assistance welfare payments. They will be the first people to hit the state’s new 48-month limit on benefits. It will also become harder for people to qualify for food assistance. This is the start of a sweeping makeover of public assistance for people in Michigan who have fallen on hard times.

October first marks the beginning of the state’s fiscal year and, with it, the state Department of Human Services will immediately close the files on 12-thousand-300 cash assistance cases. The program helps families with children or pregnant women with living expenses such as rent, utilities, food and clothing.

A total of 41 thousand people will lose benefits. About 30 thousand are children.
The only exceptions to the four-year limit are for people who are disabled and their caretakers.

“We’re really trying to get back to old-fashioned social work to help people in difficult parts of their lives get to a point where they can be self-sufficient.”

That’s Brian Rooney, a deputy director at the state Department of Human Services. He said families who lose benefits may still qualify for help with their rent, and the state is trying to connect as many as possible with private agencies and help finding jobs.

“The outreach that we have done with our community partners, different faith-based organizations, volunteers to try to provide as soft a landing as we can for people coming off of long-term cash assistance is unprecedented, really.”

But Gilda Jacobs said the state’s timing could not be worse. She is the president of the Michigan League for Human Services.

“It’s been one assault after another on low-income and unemployed people in the state.” 

More than one in 10 Michiganders is officially unemployed. Twice that many are not counted in that number because they are under-employed or have given up looking for work. Half of the unemployed in Michigan have been looking for a job for six months or more.

In addition to the new limits on cash assistance, the state will require people who receive food assistance, Bridge cards, to list their assets. People with five thousand dollars or more in savings or non-retirement investments, or a personal car with a market value of 15 thousand dollars or more will be cut off. 

“Sounding like it should.”

Jim Alfredson is a self-employed musician, music teacher, and piano tuner. Married. Father of three young daughters. He said every part of his business has slowed down as the economy’s grown worse. Alfredson said he’s grateful for food assistance, which some months is a quarter of his household income.

“We appreciate it because it’s the one thing that’s constant in what I do. Every month is different. Some months are great. Some months are really bad. But we know that at the very least we can afford groceries.”

But his family was told that, as of October first, they are no longer eligible for benefits based on the value of two cars. Both are used as family and business vehicles. Alfredson said food assistance helps to keep families like his in the middle class.

“It seems like a lot of the families that we know are in the same situation. The situation looks good on the outside, but they’re just one transmission failure away from bankruptcy.”

“There is a big storm coming…”

Scott Dzurka is with the United Way of Michigan. He said the state and not-for-profit groups are trying to plot a new course for public assistance in Michigan. But Dzurka said that’s a big job. The people losing benefits this weekend, he says, are just the first wave of people who will be looking elsewhere for help when the state cuts them off.
   
“This population that rolls off in October, while significant, we’re also going to continue to also continue see month by month more of that population roll off of their benefits, so we’re going to continue to see this for some time.”

He said the next big challenge will come in January, when a new wave of thousands of long-term unemployed people will need help after they lose their extended jobless benefits.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

Gov’s administration doles out furlough days to state workers

By Laura Weber

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration said 367 unfilled jobs with the state will remain vacant. The announcement comes as a result of no bargaining agreement with state worker unions to cut costs.

The governor’s administration said state workers will take four unpaid vacation days in the coming fiscal year.

Ray Holman is with the U-A-W Local 6-thousand, which represents workers in the state Department of Human Services. He said furlough days won’t save the state as much money as expected.

“If you shut down a DHS office that just means that thousands of people aren’t getting service that they need, and that just means that things are going to pile up the next day.”

A representative from the state budget office said state officials would have preferred to reach a deal with unions at the bargaining table. Union representatives and state officials will continue to negotiate a deal for 2013. That deal must be reached in two weeks.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

Dow Diamond to house a blood donation facility

By Ginny Beauchamp

Midland’s Dow Diamond will soon open its doors not only to baseball fans, but to blood donors. The Michigan stadium is the first in the country to house a blood donation facility.

Nick Wasmiller is the PR manager at Michigan Blood. He said he is pleased to partner with Dow Chemical and the Great Lakes Loons baseball team to encourage people to become donors.

“We hope that it keeps Michigan Blood and the need for blood in general top of mind, and that it improves the ability of the community to come out and donate. We’re really in a constant need to be able to connect with the really great donors of the Great Lakes Bay region, and I think a top mind location like Dow Diamond is one great way that we’re going to be able to do that.”

Wasmiller said Michigan Blood hasn’t yet decided on what the donation process will entail, but whole blood will definitely be taken. From those samples, technicians will extract certain elements of the blood, like red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Wasmiller said Michigan Blood’s commitment to its donors states every drop of blood donated at the facility stays in Michigan. He Said the organization has exclusive relationships with 32 hospitals across the state where Michigan Blood provides their entire supply.

Department of Justice Awards Six Grants Totaling in 2.7 Million Dollars

By Amanda Harrison

There are fewer resources in rural parts of the country for sexual assault victims but experts said sexual violence is just as prevalent.

The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women is working to address the problem by awarding six grants totaling 2.7 million dollars.

Shelter Inc. in Alpena will be awarded a 450-thousand dollar, three-year grant. The shelter will use the funding to launch a project known as the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative.

Sandra Pilgrim-Lewis is the director of Shelter Inc. She said the main goals of the initiative are to increase outreach and prioritize the needs of survivors.

She said, per capita, sexual violence is just as common in rural communities as it is in urban areas.

“In rural areas it is very difficult sometimes to reach those sexual assault survivors because the person who perpetrated the crime may be very involved with someone within the very system that should cause protection.”

Pilgrim-Lewis said in urban areas it’s easier for a survivor to remain anonymous.

She said the program will help communities open the dialog for survivors to come forward and get the treatment they need.

Students join Dow Chemical at Solar Decathlon

By Amanda Harrison

Dow Chemical executives and colleges students and faculty have spent the weekend in Washington D.C. for the first U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon.

Public Radio spoke with Pat Nugent, director of business for Dow Solar, via phone from the event.  

She said Dow is proud to support several key events and two student teams.

She said 20 high school teams built and designed their own energy-efficient model homes.

“And they are going to start next week giving awards for different levels of energy efficiency, or how they met the architecture, market appeal, engineering, affordability, so there are at least ten different areas that they are going to get awards on and scores.”

Dow Solar’s managing director will announce the winning homes October 1.

She said the Decathlon is designed to help educate everyone from Congress to students on the value of solar energy.