The Snyder administration is defending their decision for Michigan to become one of only four states that will not act to forestall cuts to food stamps this November, by claiming it was either food assistance or heating assistance — but not both.
Earlier this year, Republicans held the Farm Bill hostage to achieve cuts to the national food stamp program by closing a loophole that allowed recipients to receive an additional allowance if they also participated in a federal heating program — termed “heat and eat.”
Sixteen states, including Michigan, would have been affected. All but four took action to retain the current level of assistance.
Republicans are crying foul, although the states are simply following the provisions of the GOP Farm Bill, which now mandates a minimum of $20 per year in heating aid — up from the $1 perviously required.
Spokesperson for Michigan’s Department of Human Services, Bob Wheaton, said of the decision that they didn’t want to “create a new loophole even beyond the loophole that previously existed.” The purported concern was that they couldn’t spare the federal heating assistance dollars, especially in such a northern climate.
However, Maine — one of the 12 states that will increase heating assistance to the new $20 minimum, says it won’t cost that much at all. Maine has a mean temperature several degrees below that of Michigan. Peter Merrill, Deputy Director of Maine Housing, said they expect the decrease in heating aid will amount to only $4 per year per affected household.
Granted, Michigan has a much larger population living in poverty, and of the 170,000 currently receiving food assistance, about 34,000 will lose some benefits — which will average a decrease of $76 per month for a family of four.
A good number of those affected will be veterans. Michigan has 680,000 veterans, and ranks 46th in terms of veterans care — spending 75 cents on the dollar compared to the national average. Food security is a nation-wide problem for current and former service members. In the article “Food Lines from Front Lines”, Insurance News describes it this way:
A lot of these families are making difficult choices between food and paying for utilities, or food and transportation and medication. It’s not just a food shortage – it’s struggling to make ends meet and making difficult trade-offs.
Children will also be negatively impacted by Michigan’s refusal to patch the assistance gap. Gov. Snyder’s Michigan Dashboard shows about 25 percent of children in the state live in poverty. (Update: new census figures released 9-18-14 indicate a childhood poverty rate in Michigan currently at 23.8 percent, with the overall poverty rate remaining the same — 17 percent)
From the Dashboard:
That’s over half a million hungry kids.
Yep, more Pure Michigan for you.