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Food stamps, other state assistance seeing more applications during stay home order

Posted at 7:08 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 06:49:03-04

LANSING, Mich. — Coronavirus hit Michigan harder than most states, straining the state's unemployment system. Thousands of people are also getting other help from the state.

"It would've been difficult to feed five kids three meals a day because they are gone for two meals during the school year," said Toccara Bennett.

Bennett applied for food stamps after her business closed because of the stay-home order. She's thankful other assistance is available.

"With three growing boys and two girls, it would've been very difficult. Without them, it would've been rough. It definitely would've been rough," said Bennett.

Nearly 1.5 million Michiganders were getting food assistance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in April.

That's up from 1.2 million a year ago.

MDHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton said applications during the COVID-19 pandemic has doubled.

"We expect that to continue to go up. We have additional people in the month of May who are receiving food assistance," said Wheaton.

Other assistance programs, like the Family Independence Program which provides cash to families, are also seeing more use.

That program went from having a little more than 35,000 people enrolled in February to more than 50,000 in April.

With an increase like that, Wheaton said the department was expecting system failures like the unemployment department was seeing.

"We've been pleased how well our system has performed and how well our staff have performed and being able to step up and provide these additional benefits to people," Wheaton said.

"Without the food stamps, I'd probably have to lean on my mom a lot more right now. It would definitely be a tight, tight struggle," Bennett said.

Wheaton said people don't have to worry about MDHHS programs running out of money because it call comes from the federal government.

MDHHS is encouraging anyone who thinks they might qualify for assistance to go ahead and apply online.

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