Whitmer's welfare agency delays aid change to comply with state law

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration is delaying a policy change that could allow more Michigan residents to receive food and cash assistance.

The one-month delay is required to comply with state law, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a Friday statement.

The increased limits will now take effect on Dec. 1. At an Oct. 17 press conference, state officials had announced the limits would shift Nov. 1.

Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, speaks at a press conference in Lansing on Oct. 17, announcing increases to asset limits for food and cash assistance.

The Whitmer administration had to notify the Legislature 30 days before changes to the new asset limits take effect, said Robert Gordon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services. 

"Because the families we serve often face urgent needs, we move with urgency too," Gordon said in a statement. "We also need to follow applicable laws and regulations."

While the administration can unilaterally increase the asset limits, the Michigan Senate will hold a committee hearing on the issue Thursday.

The policy changes will increase the asset limit for the state's food assistance program, which Michigan calls the federal Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

The current asset limit for the program in Michigan is $5,000, which was set by Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder's administration. Under the Whitmer administration's change, the limit would jump to $15,000, and vehicles would be removed from the asset check.

Under the changes, the asset limit for the state's cash assistance program, known as the Family Independence Program, will increase from $3,000 to $15,000.

And the asset limit for state emergency relief, which provides assistance in situations threatening health and safety, such as utility shutoffs, will increase from $500 to $15,000. The Whitmer administration had increased that limit on June 1 from $50 to $500.