LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan’s nearly 1.8 million recipients of government food assistance are going to have to get by with less aid starting Friday.
That is when extra benefits that were part of the 2009 federal stimulus program end nationwide.
Michigan spends on average $263 a month for each food stamp case, which can include individuals or families. Come Friday, the average Michigan family of four with no income will likely receive $36 less a month, according to the state Department of Human Services.
Don Gilmer, who is on board for the Michigan League for Public Policy, said those affected by the cuts will include children and veterans.
“This is the wealthiest country in the world and we don’t take food away from those that don’t have adequate resources to obtain food,” Gilmer said.
Cuts will vary depending on income, household size and expenses, but Michigan might feel the pinch particularly hard because it has a higher percentage of residents who rely on federal food aid than most states.
“It’s not a state decision, but it’s one we have to abide by,” said agency spokesman Dave Akerly.
Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO, Gilda Jacobs said, going forward, most participants will receive about $1.40 per meal — which is not enough.
“We should not be cutting food stamp funding for people in the hardest hit areas in America, who are struggling to find work. And in Michigan,” she said, “we’ve not yet turned the corner and we have so many people that are still struggling to make ends meet.”
After the cuts are made, SNAP participants will receive about $1.40 per meal.
Starting in 2009, the federal stimulus pumped $45.2 billion into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, increasing what would have been a monthly benefit of $588 a month to $668 for a household of four without any income. In November, that same family will start getting $632 a month, about a 5 percent cut.
In Michigan, cash assistance to buy food is added to debit cards once a month, so some recipients will notice the decline earlier in November and others later in the month. Akerly said recipients can call 888-689-8914 to see exactly how much their assistance is dropping, but they should wait until after their November benefits are loaded onto their Bridge cards.
“We’d hate to get into a situation where people got through the (checkout line) and it says you don’t have enough. We encourage people to check,” he said.
The cut comes as Congress is debating a separate reduction in the roughly $80 billion-a-year program in an effort to find savings in the budget. The Republican-led House voted to cut almost $4 billion a year. The Democratic-led Senate would cut around $400 million a year.
Advocates for the poor in Michigan, who are planning to highlight the issue with the media on Thursday, say the House bill would push states to kick families out of the food stamp program, remove a waiver allowing nondisabled childless adults to get benefits even if they are unable to find work, and eliminate help for the working poor with higher child care and housing expenses.
“With less food already on the table due to the Nov. 1 changes, more cuts from Congress would jeopardize Michigan’s fragile economic recovery and hurt the jobless, children, low-income elderly, those with disabilities and veterans,” said Jacobs. “Michigan has higher poverty and unemployment than before the Great Recession and food assistance is a basic and very effective way to help.”
Jacobs said she fears even more cuts as the House and Senate are working on a Farm bill.
She said they’re working with their partners to try to minimize cuts.
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