This New State Law Will Make it Easier for Michigan Families to Put Food on the Table

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said asset tests for food benefits forces people who may have been laid off to make “impossible choices" to qualify.

By Kyle Kaminski

July 13, 2023

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that ditches the state asset test for food assistance. The change is set to improve access to food and lower costs for thousands of Michiganders.

LANSING—New legislation signed this week by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer got rid of a state rule that blocked Michiganders from receiving food assistance benefits if they owned too much stuff.

Senate Bill 35, which was signed into law on Wednesday, officially eliminated Michigan’s asset limitations for those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. 

Whitmer said eliminating the “burdensome requirement” will help ensure more families are able to access the resources they need to put food on the table without bankrupting themselves.

“No one should be forced to sell their car or empty their savings account to feed themselves and their children,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Improving access to food assistance is a commonsense step already taken by 36 other states to lower costs for families.”

Before the bill, Michiganders with more than $15,000 in assets—which included the value of their vehicle and their savings accounts—could not qualify to receive food assistance benefits. 

The legislation signed this week officially removed that asset limitation altogether. Whitmer said the restriction forced people who may have been laid off to make “impossible choices” to qualify.

“Food benefits must be accessible for Michiganders who need them without illogical tradeoffs,” she said in a statement. “I am proud to get this done and grateful for all the organizations, advocates, and legislators—including Sen. Jeff Irwin—who fought hard to make it happen.” 

The legislation makes Michigan the 37th state to eliminate the asset test for food benefits. Irwin said the move will give more families financial stability by cutting back on bureaucratic red tape.

“We will use national eligibility standards rather than spending state taxpayers’ money to block residents from the help they need to feed themselves and their families,” Irwin said in a statement. “Our safety net works better if it can catch people before they hit the ground.”

Statistics from the Michigan League for Public Policy show that more than 700,000 Michigan households currently receive SNAP benefits, including more than 531,000 children. Still, one in nine Michiganders—or about 1.18 million people—are facing hunger, statistics show. Officials said the expanded access to food assistance could go a long way toward reducing that number.

“The asset test for SNAP went against our values as Michiganders. Now, instead of punishing families who have hit a roadblock, we can make sure they are able to put food on the table as they work to regain financial security,” League President Monique Stanton said in a statement. 

The kicker? A House analysis shows the change will likely have no impact on state finances—largely because the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will save time (and cash) by no longer having to process hundreds of thousands of asset tests annually.

Eligibility for food assistance benefits is based on the financial situation of all members in a household. Everyone who lives together and purchases and prepares food together is considered a member of the same household group. Click here for more eligibility details. 

READ MORE: Biden Plan to to Connect 200K Michiganders to High-Speed Internet

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Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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