If you’re poor and live in Michigan, you just can’t catch a break from the current Republican administration under Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI). Beginning next month, many Michigan residents on food stamps will lose their benefits under a new law that tightens eligibility requirements.
Seizing on any excuse to kick people out of the program, Republicans have mandated that recipients’ assets be scrutinized, in addition to their income, which has traditionally been the only measure that was considered when deciding eligibility. People with cars worth over $15,000 could be disqualified:
Michigan has determined food assistance eligibility based only on income for roughly a decade. A new policy will include a review of certain financial assets starting Oct 1.
The requirements will affect new applicants right away and existing recipients when their cases come up for review, which typically happens once every six months.
Those with assets of more than $5,000 in bank accounts or some types of property would no longer be eligible for food assistance. Other assets that would count against the cap include vehicles with market values of more than $15,000 and second homes, depending on how much is owed on the properties.
Nearly 2 million people — or 20 percent of Michigan’s population — depend on food stamps. The number of recipients has increased by more than 40 percent since the recession started.
Opponents of the new requirements point out that they punish poor people who try to save up money in their bank accounts and discourage them from saving more, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Gilda Jacobs, CEO of the Michigan League for Human Services, said the change may “force some deserving families to sell assets, like cars, they bought when times were better.” “If we’re trying to make sure people are viable and can stand on their own, why are we going backwards?” she asked.
The stricter requirements also unfairly impact the staggering number of Michigan residents who are essentially trapped by their homeownership and are struggling to get by because they owe more in debt on their homes than the houses are worth.
The Associated Press notes that Snyder’s administration has been trying to kick people off the food stamp rolls since taking office, as “the state removed about 30,000 college students from its food assistance program earlier this year when it began enforcing federal guidelines.”