New county data can help inform advocacy, budget decisions

The Michigan League for Public Policy has recently published its latest annual Census Fact Sheets, based on the 2020 American Community Survey five-year estimates, which are available at mlpp.org/geographic-fact-sheets.

There is a fact sheet for Michigan as a whole and one for each county, state legislative district, and congressional district within the state.

There are also fact sheets for selected Michigan cities.

The fact sheets include figures in the following general categories:

∫ Population, age and race;

∫ Housing;

∫ Income, earnings and poverty;

∫ Health insurance;

∫ Disability status by age;

∫ Educational attainment;

∫ Limited English proficiency;

∫ Transportation; and

∫ Computer and broadband access.

We encourage you to use those fact sheets to better understand the needs of your communities and help communicate them to your elected officials.

If you advocate for financial aid or other education items in the state budget, for example, it will help to have the educational attainment breakdown of your legislator’s district for reference. Likewise, if you advocate for affordable housing policy, you can cite your community’s median rent and mortgage costs and unaffordable housing statistics to your state legislator, your city commission, or your township board. You can use the health insurance coverage data to communicate about the importance of Medicaid.

If any readers are wondering what the data might indicate about the policy interests of this newspaper’s community, a couple figures stand out.

Montmorency, Alpena, and Alcona counties are in the bottom 10 counties (out of 83 in Michigan) for median household income, and Montmorency and Alcona counties have the fourth- and sixth-highest child poverty rates in the state. That data suggests that state legislators representing this area should work to ensure there is a robust and adequate safety net for those who fall upon difficult financial times.

Montmorency and Alcona counties also have among the highest percentage of persons with disabilities in the state, with nearly a quarter of residents disabled. That is useful to know when advocating with local leaders for greater accessibility in infrastructure and public buildings.

And, while Alpena and Alcona counties are among the counties with the lowest percentage of children without health insurance in the state (1.5% or less), Presque Isle County has among the highest, with nearly 10% of children in that county not having insurance coverage. Those statistics would be helpful when advocating for increasing the budget for greater public health outreach.

The Michigan League for Public Policy often says that our state budget is a statement of our values, and, right now, lawmakers in Lansing are working on budget bills that will help address the needs of Alpena-area residents.

The data for Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties reinforces many of the policies and investments that the League is advocating for in the 2023 state budget and beyond, including increasing the state Earned Income Tax Credit, directing more funding to Michigan Reconnect and other efforts to help workers go back to school or pursue a skilled trade, increasing access to safe, affordable housing, and continuing to invest in the food, health and other assistance programs that help workers and families get through tough times and have been so essential during the coronavirus pandemic.

While our legislators make decisions for the good of the whole state, they are still most focused on what their constituents and districts need.

We hope that you will find the fact sheets useful and that they can help inform your advocacy efforts — and, ultimately, drive sound policy decisions in the 2023 state budget and beyond.

Peter Ruark is senior policy analyst at the Michigan League for Public Policy.


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