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Government officials call for action to help unemployed Michiganders who lost food assistance

34,000 Michiganders have lost food assistance after receiving federally backed unemployment insurance benefits. The House-passed Heroes Act includes an intended fix for this situation.

On May 22, Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus, along with Governor Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI),  called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to act to ensure that Michiganders receiving federally-backed unemployment insurance benefits do not lose access to other emergency aid, including food assistance.

The The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in March, extended unemployment insurance and included a four-month, $600 increase in benefits. However, under current law, unemployment benefits are considered income for some assistance programs, including for food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As a result, approximately 34,000 Michiganders have lost their food assistance benefits after receiving unemployment insurance.

The Heroes Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week, includes a Kildee-introduced provision to exclude UI benefits from being counted as income to determine eligibility for SNAP and other means-tested programs.

According to Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, 1.7 million Michiganders have applied for UI benefits, representing approximately one-third of the state’s workforce.

“Michiganders out of work because of this pandemic should not have their unemployment benefits count against their ability to get food assistance,” Kildee said. “During this health and economic crisis, we must make sure Michiganders have a strong social safety net to fall back on. Senate Majority Leader McConnell must immediately take up The Heroes Act to support Michiganders affected by this pandemic”.

“No Michigander should worry about how to put food on the table for themselves and their family, especially during a pandemic,” Whitmer said. “This is a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before, and we must work together to do everything we can to support working families during this time. Senator McConnell should do the right thing and take up The Heroes act to ensure those who have lost their jobs don’t lose access to food assistance. Families across the country are counting on it.”

“In the midst of this crisis, thousands of families in Michigan are struggling to feed their families – many facing this challenge for the first time in their lives” Stabenow said. “Michiganders should not have to choose between feeding their families and unemployment benefits to help them keep a roof over their head. It is critical that Congressman Kildee’s provision become law.”

“This pandemic has been extremely devastating for Michigan working families, children and seniors who rely on food assistance to help put food on the table,” Peters said. “Ending this support due to expanded unemployment assistance is simply wrong. I’ll be working with my colleagues to fix this issue so that Michiganders have the resources they need to get through this health and economic crisis.”


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