Michigan Department of Human Services: Food Assistance Program to comply with federal guidelines
Attending college not an approved exception

Contact: Gisgie Dávila Gendreau, public relations director, (517) 373-7394

Feb. 9, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - College students will no longer be able to take advantage of taxpayer-paid food assistance unless there is a true need, Michigan Department of Human Services Director Maura D. Corrigan announced today.

"We're ready to extend a helping hand to any citizen who is truly in need - including college students who care for young children and are taking the right steps toward becoming self-sufficient," Corrigan said. "But those who don't meet federal guidelines won't be able to take advantage of what is meant to be a temporary safety net program."

Under federal guidelines, college students do not qualify for food assistance except in very limited circumstances. Attending college by itself is not an approved exception, a policy the department will enforce starting in April.

"DHS is a good steward of taxpayers' dollars and diligently complies with the rule of the law," Corrigan added. "This announcement illustrates Governor Rick Snyder's and our commitment to integrity in the state's welfare system while meeting our mission to serve Michigan's vulnerable children, adults and families."

The Food Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, serves almost 1.9 million Michigan residents, including more than 805,000 children. DHS administers this federally funded program and must follow federal guidelines for eligibility. Benefits are determined based on income, household size and other criteria, and can only be used to buy food.

Benefits are accessed through the Bridge card, which works just like a debit card and requires a personal identification number, or PIN, to access benefits.

Corrigan credited state Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, with bringing attention to the issue and working to ensure integrity in the Food Assistance Program.

"College students who do not really need assistance have been allowed to take advantage for far too long," Agema said. "Preventing Bridge card abuse will make sure assistance only goes to those who truly need help. This action will put a stop to this waste of taxpayer money."

For more information about DHS, visit www.michigan.gov/dhs and follow DHS on Twitter @MichiganDHS.