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Michigan expands food assistance to low-income college students

Governors plead for food stamp flexibility amid pandemic
Posted at 11:59 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 11:59:14-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan will expand eligibility for food assistance benefits on Thursday so that college students struggling financially during the pandemic can get help buying food, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

“College students should not have to choose between furthering their education and putting food on the table – especially during a pandemic,” Whitmer said. “I am pleased that we are able to work with the Biden Administration to help college students in Michigan who are working hard to pursue their dreams.”

Under a temporary change approved by the federal government, college students may be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program if their families are estimated to be unable to contribute to their college costs or if their college considers them eligible for a federal or state work study program – regardless of whether they’re enrolled in such a program.

More than 200,000 more Michigan college students could become eligible under the new rules.

Students are considered to have no family contribution to their college expenses if they have an estimated family contribution of $0 on their federal student aid determination through FAFSA.

Before the change, college students wouldn’t be eligible unless they were working 20 hours per week or met certain exemptions.

“Many Michigan college students lost their jobs due to no fault of their own as a result of the pandemic,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said. “Expanding access to food and making it easier for our residents who are in need to apply for help are priorities of the department. Even before the pandemic, many students struggled to afford enough food while paying for college. These new changes will help students complete their education and reduce their food insecurity.”

Expanded eligibility will last until 30 days after the expiration of the federal public health emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benefits could be as much as $234 per month for college students who buy and prepare their food alone.

Half-time students aren’t eligible unless they meet certain requirements, including working an average of 20 hours or more per week, participating in a state or federal work study program, having a disability or being a parent of a child under age 6.

Even if students live at home with parents who qualify for an receive food assistance, they’re not counted in the household unless they meet one of the exemptions.