Healthy Michigan adults without young children will be required to work for 20 hours per week – or go through job training or volunteer – to remain eligible for food stamps. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services brought this policy back to the state after it was waived from 2002 until now due to higher unemployment.
Work requirements have already been implemented in 14 Michigan counties. This change will apply it to all 83 counties.
“MDHHS is prepared to assist affected individuals in meeting these work requirements so that they can achieve self-sufficiency,” MDHHS Chief Deputy Director Nancy Vreibel said in a news release. “The good news is that Michigan’s economy is much-improved, and the job market is far better than it was when the state received the federal waiver.”
Able-bodied adults are people between the ages of 18 and 49 with no dependents and with no disability that prevents them from meeting the 20-hour minimum. Some exemptions to the requirement include someone who is pregnant, someone caring for a child under the age of 6, and someone who is incapacitated.
MDHHS is sending letters to nearly 70,000 people who may be affected by this change. The change goes into effect on October 1; however, it does not affect an individual until he or she applies for food stamps or is up for his food-stamps renewal. At that point, the person will have three months to find employment or receive a waiver from eligibility.
“There are other work engagement opportunities that allow someone to meet the work requirement,” MDHHS Public Information Officer Bob Wheaton told Watchdog.org. “One is participating for an average of 20 hours per week each month in an approved employment and training program. Another is participating in community service by volunteering at a nonprofit organization if that service is approved by MDHHS.”
Peter Ruark, senior policy analyst at the Michigan League for Public Policy, told Watchdog.org that such requirements have been in place for a long time and that recipients have historically worked. He said they expected this waiver to end with the economic improvements and said that most food stamp recipients already meet the working requirements.
Ruark noted that although the League is not against the work requirement, he said the DHHS should allow some flexibility for recipients who have other barriers to work, such as a lack of access to transportation.
“An example of hardship might be the scheduled closing of the prison in Gogebic County, a place in which there are very few jobs and a large number are in the public sector,” Ruark said. “The ripple effect of this prison closing will hurt the local economy in many ways, and if individuals apply for SNAP benefits to put food on their tables while they look for work, we hope Michigan will be able to show flexibility until they get back on their feet.”
Lindsay Killen, vice president for Strategic Outreach at Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said she expects this policy change to have a positive effect on the economy. The Mackinac Center is a Michigan-based, free-market think tank.
“There are more than 20 million able-bodied adults on food stamps and 28 million receiving Medicaid benefits nationwide, creating an unsustainable burden on taxpayers in Michigan…,” Killen told Watchdog.org. “When able-bodied adults on welfare are incentivized by work requirements to find and keep a job, they go back to work in more than 600 different industries and earn twice as much as they did when they were on welfare.”
Food stamps, she said, exist for the most vulnerable. These work requirements will “ensure that those most in need can have access to adequate and sustainable resources moving forward.”
Not everyone sees the food stamp work requirement in a positive light.
Sam Inglot, deputy communications director at Progress Michigan, told Watchdog.org that these policies create more hoops to jump through and “take food out of the mouths of hungry people.”
“Michigan needs to reverse course from the last decade of total GOP control and work to make sure corporations pay their fair share and every Michigan family is fed,” he said.