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Lansing — Michigan is offering food assistance benefits to low-income students in post-secondary career and technical education programs who are struggling with hunger due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

Before this week, students in the programs who attended school at least half-time were not eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, unless they worked at least 20 hours week, cared for a child or are not able to work. However, the requirements were changed this week because many students in the programs have lost their jobs — and their SNAP eligibility — because of the pandemic.

“Hunger was a problem for students before COVID-19, and it is a far greater challenge today,” Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “Because of this policy change, thousands of students will no longer need to choose between dropping out of school and getting critical food aid. The change will help Michigan students put food on the table in today’s crisis, it will help Michigan be more competitive economically as the economy recovers.”

The state health and human services and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity worked together to change the policy, officials said.

As a result, students in the post-secondary career and technical programs are now eligible for SNAP benefits if they enrolled at least half-time in classes that are part of the Perkins Postsecondary Career and Technical Education Program, according to the department. The program provides funding to 28 community colleges, three public universities and one tribal college to support pathways to careers that require two-year degrees or certification.

Officials estimate nearly 90,000 students in the program are eligible for food assistance.

To qualify, students must meet all requirements of the Food Assistance Program, which the state administers, and provide school documentation that outlines their major and program or course of study.

For information, log on to www.michigan.gov/MIBridges.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez

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