Whitmer announces policy changes aimed at increasing who can get food assistance

Oct 18, 2019

LANSING, MI (MPRN)--   The state wants to make it easier for people to apply for public assistance. 

Credit Cheyna Roth / Michigan Public Radio Network

This is all about the amount of assets a person can have and still qualify for food and cash assistance and State Emergency Relief. Starting November first, people can have up to $15,000 in assets and still be eligible for help. That’s thousands of dollars more than they could previously, and now the amount will be the same for all three programs.

Currently, the caps are: $500 for State Emergency Relief; $3,000 for the Family Independence Program and other cash assistance programs; and $5,000 for food assistance.

“Getting help from the department is really hard,” said Robert Gordon, Director of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “It is too hard for people. We ask too much of them.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the move is necessary because, “A family struggling to keep their head above water shouldn’t have to become completely destitute to get a little help.”

The department is also trying to make the application process easier for applicants and MDHHS employees. Instead of filling out an asset checklist and having department employees verify a persons’ assets, the department will take people’s word for what they own and how much money they have in most instances. The department will accept an applicant’s statements of assets instead of requiring applicants to fill out an assets verification checklist. There are some instances where the department will verify, for example, if the person or family has more than $10,000 in assets.

Gordon said the risk of fraud is low.

“We should not visit the sins of a very few people on hundreds of thousands of Michiganders who are trying to do the right thing and trying to get by,” he said.

Vehicles will also no longer be counted as an asset for food assistance.