food stamps

American Panel

Four years into the recovery from the Great Recession, what kinds of jobs are most available?

A recent report from the National Employment Law Project finds the poor economy has replaced good jobs with bad ones. 

Additionally, a recent analysis done for Bridge Magazine looked at the fastest-growing jobs in Michigan. Bridge's analysis found that many full-time workers will be paid so little that they'll qualify for food stamps.

We keep hearing that companies in Michigan are looking for workers to fill  high-skill, good-paying jobs. Is this not true? 

Stateside's Cynthia Canty spoke with Charles Ballard and Gilda Jacobs. Ballard is an economist at Michigan State University and Jacobs is the president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. 

Listen to the interview by clicking the link above. 

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Even as more Americans than ever before rely on food stamps, the Farm Bill just passed by the Senate would cut the funding to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by more than $4 billion over the next 10 years. The House version of the bill includes $20 billion in cuts.

Nationwide, more than 47 million people receive federal food assistance, and 1.7 million in Michigan. So, we wondered what these possible cuts mean to them.

Terri Stangl is the executive director of the Center for Civil Justice in Flint, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed committing up to $350 million of state money to guarantee city of Detroit pension benefits and to keep Detroit Institute of Arts' art off the auction block. On today's show, we spoke to Daniel Howes about what this cash infusion would mean. 

And, the recently passed farm bill is cutting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding by more than $4 billion over the next 10 years. We looked into how this cut will affect people in Michigan who rely on food assistance.

Also, we heard Andy Soper's  story of failure from Failure:Lab Grand Rapids.

First on the show, Michigan's unemployment rate dropped to 8.4% last month. That December number brings the state's 2013 average jobless rate to 8.7%.   

That's down from 8.9% the year before.

And that means Michigan's annual jobless rate has gone down now for three years in a row.

But are these numbers a good indication of how Michigan's overall economy is faring?

Ballard joined us today to help us answer that question.

Courtesy photo / Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank

The food bank that supplies food pantries in 40 Michigan counties had a record year.

Last year Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank got more food donations and distributed more food than ever. More than 25 million pounds went to food pantries in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

The food bank’s CEO Ken Estelle says demand is up. Unlike during the recession, he says most people looking for free food these days are employed.

Pneedham / Flickr

  Starting this Friday, families who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are going to have to tighten their belts even moreA temporary boost in food stamp funding will expire on November 1, meaning SNAP recipients will see their benefits shrink.

What does that mean here in Michigan in terms of dollars and cents? Is the economy recovering enough in Michigan that people will be able to weather the loss in benefits?

Melissa Smith is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy. She talked with us about the impact of the food stamp cuts in the state.

Listen to the audio above.

Charles Blow, a New York Times columnist who himself grew up in semi-poverty, noted over the weekend that the United States is seeing a rapid explosion of billionaires – and of children who are going to school hungry. Not surprisingly, the hungry children part of the equation is truer in Michigan than in most other states.

In fact, one quarter of our children are now below the poverty line, which, by the way, is currently $23,550 for a family of four.

If you have any idea how four people can survive on that amount, you are smarter than I am. That number, by the way, has gone up more than five percent over the last six years.

The Great Recession may officially be over, and bank profits and the stock market are skyrocketing. But there’s very little sign of that affecting those who are poor. Actually, things have been getting worse for them, and are about to get worse still in Michigan.

Food stamp debit cards back to normal in Michigan

Oct 13, 2013
www.macombcountymi.gov

Michigan's debit card-style food stamps program is working again after a technical problem crashed the system in 17 states.

State Human Services Department spokesman Dave Akerly says Michigan's Bridge Card system is back up Sunday.

He says that Xerox provides technical services for the Bridge Card program and similar food stamps programs in 16 other states. He says the problem began Saturday and Xerox fixed it late in the day.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe says the outage was unrelated to the federal government shutdown.

Technical problems stop Michigan food stamp purchases

Oct 12, 2013
User mytvdinner / Flickr

Michigan residents in a federal food program are being denied purchases with their debit-style cards because of technical problems.

Dave Akerly, a spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, says it's a problem Saturday between retailers and Xerox, the company that provides high-tech services. The glitch extends beyond Michigan to at least 16 other states.

Grocery cart
user mytvdinner / Flickr

The federal shutdown is hitting struggling Michigan families where they live.

At first, panicked calls flooded into Washtenaw County health services, says Karen Lewis.

She helps run the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), which help low-income moms get milk, bread, vegetables and fruit for their kids.

Every month, the county serves some 5,000 families who look to WIC, says Lewis.

Detroiteasternmarket.com

Federal authorities are charging nine people with food stamp fraud in Detroit.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies swooped down onto more than a half-dozen businesses in Detroit’s popular Eastern Market area earlier this week.

They were looking for evidence that retailers were engaging in the illegal practice of exchanging cash for food stamp benefits.

beancounter / Flickr

Nearly one in seven households in Michigan couldn't afford enough food at some point during the last year.

According to a report by the Michigan League for Public Policy, this number represents a 45 % increase in food insecurity over the last decade in Michigan.

Farm in rural Michigan
user acrylicartist / MorgueFile.com

2013 has become the year America focuses on its farms.

That's because the federal Farm Bill expires at the end of September and the House and Senate are trying to get a new bill passed.

But getting that done has become one of the great legislative challenges of the year.

The House and Senate have each passed their versions and the differences between the two are big.

For one thing, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has been stripped right out of the House version, while the Senate version calls for cutting about $4 billion from nutrition assistance.

And, what are the differences in the two Farm Bills that really hit home for the farmers of Michigan?

People around the world and right here in Michigan are rethinking money in order to ease financial woes, and they're doing it with local currency. On today's show we found out what it is, and where it's working.

And, we headed up north to a resort town where a vacation can lead to putting down roots and building a business.

Also, one of the co-founders of The Artist Lounge joined us to tell us about how her business is breathing new life into Pontiac.

And, the Farm Bill and food stamp programs expire at the end of September. We took a closer look at what this means for Michiganders receiving federal food assistance.

Also, we spoke with Micki Maynard about what she thinks the future of personal transportation will look like.

First on the show, a State Senate panel has voted to make more than 300,000 Michiganders eligible for Medicaid in 2014. And that's not all: the GOP-led Government Operations Committee said yes to two alternative plans.

So, from the Senate ticking off Governor Snyder by adjourning without voting on the House-passed Medicaid expansion plan to this Senate Panel serving up not one, not two, but three Medicaid proposals, it's a lot to keep track of.

We turned to Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing reporter Jake Neher for a little help in sorting this all out.

Brandon Shigeta / Google images

The federal Farm Bill is the focus of the latest political battle on Capitol Hill. And in that fight rests the future of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

1.7 million people here in Michigan and 47.5 million people nationwide receive federal help to buy food. Spending and participation in the food stamp program is at an all-time high.

Funding for the food stamp program is part of the big five-year Farm Bill. Both the House and Senate have approved Farm Bills, but there's a big gulf between the two versions.

The Senate's version would cut about $4 billion from food assistance programs. Senate Democrats say that would root out waste but not strand people in need.

The House version would have cut much deeper, around $20 billion. House Republicans say now that the economy is recovering, food assistance can be cut back, and they maintain that President Obama's expansion of food aid during the recession went well beyond what was truly needed. GOP House leaders stripped food aid out of its farm bill to get it passed.

So now what? The clock is ticking, because the Farm Bill and food stamp programs expire at the end of September.

What does this all mean for those Michiganders who receive federal food assistance?

Melissa Smith is a senior policy analyst for the Michigan League of Public Policy, a Lansing-based group that focuses on social services. She joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says she’ll take whatever version of the farm bill she can get from the Republican-led U.S. House. The chair of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee says time is running short to get something signed into law.

Stabenow has been working for a few years to pass a new version of the massive farm bill.

Debbie Stabenow maintains a lead over Pete Hoekstra in a new Michigan poll.
Office of Senator Stabenow

The Farm Bill would cut the funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, by more than $4 billion over the next 10 years. And the House version of the bill has about five times as many cuts.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is the head of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, and the champion of the Farm Bill.

The Senator joined us today to discuss some of the concerns surrounding this bill.

Listen to the full interview above.

Brandon Shigeta / Google images

Even as more Americans than ever before rely on food stamps, the Farm Bill just passed by the Senate would cut the funding to SNAP by more than $4 billion over the next 10 years.

The House version of the bill includes $20 billion in cuts.

Nationwide, more than 47 million people receive federal food assistance and 1.7 million in Michigan. So, we wondered what these possible cuts mean to them.

Terri Stangl is the executive director of the Center for Civil Justice in Flint, and she joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

The U.S. Senate has passed its 2013 Farm Bill, a huge piece of legislation - totaling almost a trillion dollars. We'll found out just what's in the bill, and why, as Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow likes to say, "Michigan is written into its every page."

And, we got an update on the Detroit mayoral race after one of the front-runners got kicked off the ballot.

First on the show, we continue our look at the Great Lakes. Yesterday, we talked about the state's "blue" economy, using our water resources to create jobs and boost industry here in Michigan.

So, today, let's turn to some encouraging news about our lakes from the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. They've just released an interactive map that pinpoints success stories across the region, efforts to restore the lakes with projects funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

To get an idea of what these success stories are and the challenges to the lakes that still remain, we turned to Andy Buchsbaum, the director of the National Wildlife Federation's regional Great Lakes Office.

Liz West / Flickr

Michigan ranks third highest in the nation for the percent of households that receive food stamps. That’s according to U.S. Census data. Oregon and Tennessee top the list.

The data show nearly 17 percent of Michigan households have at least one person who receives food assistance from the federal government.

Karen Holcomb-Merrill, with the Michigan League for Human Services, said about two million people receive aid to buy food.

“That’s a really huge number when you consider that the population of the state is under 10 million,” said Holdcomb-Merrill.

But she said that number has gone down since the beginning of the year.

“One of the reasons for that is that the Department of Human Services changed their rules and their polices with regards to college students receiving food assistance,” said Holcomb-Merrill. “And as a result of that, about 30,000 college students were dropped from food assistance earlier this year.”

Holcomb-Merrill said some college food pantries are now struggling to meet the need of low-income college students.

She expects the number will go down with new eligibility rules for food aid. The rules disqualify people with too many assets from getting assistance.

Holcomb-Merrill says several states have scrapped similar rules because they prevent many people who need help from getting it.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says a state agency is reassessing whether cars and trucks should be counted as assets for people receiving food stamps.

The state Department of Human Services last month began telling applicants with assets of more than $5,000 in bank accounts, second homes or vehicles with market values of more than $15,000 they'd no longer be eligible for assistance.

The Michigan League for Human Services says many people applying for food stamps are recently unemployed and requesting help for the first time.

Applicants say they need their cars to get to school or job interviews so they can get back on their feet financially.

Snyder told reporters Tuesday that criticism of the vehicle limit is a "valid issue" and that DHS officials are reviewing the policy.

daisybush / Flickr

Since April, about 30,000 college students were dropped from Michigan’s food assistance program. The Department of Human Services’ new eligibility requirements knocked off more than expected.

Brian Rooney is with DHS. He says Michigan’s rules did not align with the rest of the country.

"If you were going to college then we would count that as an employment-in-training program and you didn’t have to be working part-time, you didn’t have to be a single parent, you could be a single, average college-aged student going to school full-time and qualify for food assistance," Rooney said.

Sydney Watts is a full-time student at Central Michigan University. She says she and her roommates are concerned about losing their benefits.

"It’s hard. It’s very, very hard. I will occasionally eat out with friends and stuff, but other than that it’s Ramen noodles or just crap food because we can’t afford anything. So when all my roommates move back and everything, I don’t know what we’ll do," Watts said.

Rooney says one in five Michiganders is receiving food assistance. He says more people will be cut in October when qualifications are asset-based rather than income-based.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan will get $3.3 million from the federal government for its past work toward stopping errors in state-administered portions of the food assistance program.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture award Thursday.

Stabenow says Michigan will receive the additional federal cash as a reward for improvements made during the 2010 fiscal year related to stopping payment errors.

Stabenow said the money should be used to make further improvements in the system to prevent fraud and other abuses in the food assistance program.

Stabenow also called for continued efforts at the federal level to stop fraud and abuse in the program.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The state provides food-assistance to low-income residents who qualify through the Bridge Card Program. The card operates sort of like a debit card instead of more traditional food stamps. They were adopted to make it easier for the state to run the program and reduce the stigma associated with using food stamps.

State Representative Tom Hooker is one of the bill’s sponsors.

“We’re aren’t trying to take food away from little kids and old people and people who are suffering. That’s not the goal of any of these bills.”

qmnonic / flickr

A new report says the need for food assistance in Michigan is still on the rise, even as unemployment declines.

Judy Putnam is with the Michigan League for Human Services, which conducts the quarterly economic report. She says money for food assistance comes from the federal government, and is money well spent.

“This is money that’s spent in local grocery stores, so it doesn’t go into a black hole, it actually goes into the local economies. It’s really considered one of the most effective economic stimulants that you can find. You get a lot of bang for the buck.”

Putnam says if the state eliminates the Earned Income Tax Credit for working poor families, that could create more need for food assistance in the coming years. 

Brandon Shigeta / Google images

Michigan College students needing food aid will now have a harder time getting it. The state Department of Human Services will take bridge cards away from college students who don’t meet federal guidelines for food assistance.

Some lawmakers say many students who don’t really need the benefits are abusing the program.

Ingham County has the highest number of college students receiving food assistance through the Bridge card program. Michigan State University is in Ingham County.

Nate Smith-Tyge is the Director of the MSU student food bank, a service only for MSU students.

"We’ve seen an increase in the number of people we serve over the past couple of years. You can pretty much tie it directly to the economic downturn we’ve experienced here in Michigan. We do a distribution every other Wednesday, we’ll serve between 275 and 300 people, and that includes students and their dependents."

Allegations of abuse of the program have been largely unsubstantiated. Smth-Tyge says,

"I’d say that there probably is abuse, but I don’t think that you should let the outliers indicate how you determine policy. There is a real demand. We see it on our campus and I’ve talked to people trying to start food-banks from as far away as Schoolcraft Community College in Livonia to people at Grand Valley State and I think there is a real food demand for people as they attend college."

The State Department of Human Services says an unknown number of students will become ineligible for food aid April 15th.

- Sarah Alvarez, Michigan Radio Newsroom