Michigan lawmakers want to make it easier for people to apply for public assistance.
The policy change addresses assets a person can have in order to still qualify for food and cash assistance and State Emergency Relief. Starting Nov. 1, people can have up to $15,000 in assets and still be eligible for help.
That’s thousands of dollars more than they could previously have, and now the amount will be the same for all three programs. Currently, the caps are: $500 for State Emergency Relief; $3,000 for the Family Independence Program and other cash assistance programs; and $5,000 for food assistance.
“Getting help from the department is really hard,” says Robert Gordon, director of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). “It is too hard for people. We ask too much of them.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the move is necessary because, “A family struggling to keep their head above water shouldn’t have to become completely destitute to get a little help.”
The department is also trying to make the application process easier for applicants and MDHHS employees.
Instead of filling out an asset checklist and having department employees verify a persons’ assets, the department will take people’s word for what they own and how much money they have in most instances.
The department will accept an applicant’s statements of assets instead of requiring applicants to fill out an assets verification checklist. There are some instances where the department will verify, for example, if the person or family has more than $10,000 in assets.
Gordon says the risk of fraud is low.