Michigan eases ability to qualify for public assistance

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LANSING, MI (AP/WILX) -- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the state will make it easier for low-income residents to qualify for public assistance by raising the limit on the value of assets they can have.

The Democrat announced the changes Thursday.

Starting Nov. 1, asset limits for food assistance, welfare and state emergency relief will be $15,000. The cutoff currently is $5,000 for food stamps, $3,000 for cash assistance and $500 for emergency relief.

Gov. Whitmer says the changes will help families that are struggling to get ahead. She says Michigan's asset requirements are among the most restrictive in the United States.

“These asset test policy changes are important because right now too many Michigan families are struggling to get ahead,” said Gov. Whitmer. “This is about doing what’s right to help more families get the resources they need and building a stronger Michigan for everyone.”

State Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon says it is wrong to prevent families from saving money and also qualify for public assistance.

“People should be encouraged to save – not discouraged from saving – so that they can get out of poverty,” he said. “Michigan is unusual in saying that in addition to having a low income, families also have to establish that they have almost nothing in the bank to receive public assistance. Most states have moved away from stringent asset tests because they are hard to administer, they lead to higher administrative costs as people come on and off programs more frequently, and they discourage low-income families from saving to build a better future,” Gordon said.

In another change that will be effective on Nov. 1, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will accept a client statement of assets rather than requiring applicants to complete an assets verification checklist, according to a press release.

The release said that among states that still have asset tests for SNAP, most states allow individuals to self-attest.

For more information about public assistance programs available by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, click here.

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