End of SNAP test a major win

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill into law eliminating the state’s asset test for food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — a move that we here at the Michigan League for Public Policy are lauding as a major win for Michigan families.

Asset testing has for years forced Michigan families to spend down their savings to put food on the table during difficult financial times. Whether faced with a job layoff, unexpected medical costs, or other financial roadblocks, we strongly believe that families shouldn’t be met with unnecessary barriers to basic human needs as they work to regain their financial security.

Putting an end to the state’s $15,000 asset limit removes that barrier to food assistance for the 710,500 households that currently receive SNAP in our state — including more than 531,000 Michigan children — and ensures that other families in need of assistance are not left out.

More locally, here in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties, SNAP helped 4,716 households — including 2,572 children — per month on average during the last budget cycle.

We know that children need access to nutritious food to grow up healthy and strong, which is why dismantling hurdles to food assistance for Michigan families is so critically important. Food insecurity is particularly devastating for children as they are still in their developmental stages and it can, therefore, have serious implications for their physical and mental health, achievement in school, and future success in life.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, from 2019 to 2021, 19% of Michigan children younger than 18 were living in households that were food insecure at some point during the previous year. The repeal of the SNAP asset test will ensure that more of those children can get access to the food they need to be strong for school and play while their parents focus on the future.

Eliminating the asset test will also help reduce paperwork for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services frontline caseworkers who have such high caseloads that it can be difficult to give public assistance recipients the attention they need at times.

Additionally, the asset test repeal will help stimulate local economies by ensuring families have enough money to buy food at their local grocers as well as many local farmers markets. And, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy, it will also lead to greater participation in the financial mainstream, including more bank accounts opened by families with low incomes, which come with important consumer protections and allow families to save for emergencies and conduct basic financial transactions without large fees or interest payments.

We are grateful to state Sen. Jeff Irwin for taking SNAP seriously and reintroducing that commonsense legislation earlier this year. We also applaud the Michigan Legislature for its passage of the legislation and Gov. Whitmer for signing the bill into law, making Michigan the 37th state to eliminate the SNAP asset test.

The SNAP asset test went against our values as Michiganders by requiring Michigan families to live in a constant state of economic insecurity to receive the support they needed. We are thankful that our state leaders have recognized how that unnecessarily punished Michigan families and have effectively cut through the red tape for that vital food assistance. They have done right by Michiganders at a time when food hardship has only been compounded by inflation and the end of coronavirus-pandemic-era emergency allotments.

Monique Stanton is president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.


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