The food stamp program has been revamped, pushing some students out of the grocery line.
The program is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The program provides assistance on a temporary basis to lowincome families and individuals, according to the state Department of Human Services.
However, the food stamp program has not stamped its sign of approval on all students. FoxNews reported that 30,000 students were dropped from the program because they were no longer eligible to participate.
Michigan Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan said in the article that the move was an effort to reform the state’s welfare program.
There were also reports of students who did not need food assistance and were abusing the program.
Under the new rules, students who do not work at least 20 hours per week became ineligible for food benefits.
A few exceptions remain, such as parents caring for small children, single parents,and students who are enrolled in a work training program.
Before April 1, 2011, if you were a student enrolled part-time in an accredited institution, you became eligible to apply for the food assistance program.
In Michigan, food assistance comes in the form of a debit card called a Bridge card. Money is loaded onto the card to be swiped at a card machine in a supermarket.
One MCCC student, Shari Boles, is an example of how the change is affecting students.
“I have an understanding they need to fix it, but they’re doing it the wrong way,” said Boles, an adult student who is completing her education at MCCC.
In addition to being severed from food aid, she has also been bumped from a free cell phone program – a federal government program that provides a free refurbished phone to assist individuals with finding employment and for emergency use.
Shari said she has worked nearly all of her life. While in school, she held two jobs to cover expenses with rent, bills and tuition.
She also said that many workplaces do not guarantee 20 hours per week on a consistent basis.
“I feel like I’ve put my fair share in the system, and I need help,” she said.
Boles became unemployed and tried to get a position that would fulfill the 20-hour requirement.
Boles said that many employers who say they work with college students change their position -you may work 60 hours one week, or barely 18 hours another.
“That’s pretty hard when you are a full-time student, or frustrating if you are part-time,” she said.
When Boles was in the process of finding a job, she consulted Michigan Works – a workforce development agency that assists job seekers throughout the state.
“I was at Michigan Works all the time,” she said.
She said she filed approximately 200 applications there. Her last full-time job was working at a hospital as a certified nurse’s aide.
Boles said the nature of the work there has taken a toll on her body. She has now found an assistant manager’s position at her apartment complex.
In addition, the mother of two adult sons currently shares an apartment with her boyfriend.
“We’re not living rich,” she said about her present living conditions.
“In fact, at one time we were almost homeless. We just started to get on our feet,” she said.
“What upset me the most is when I applied in October 2012 it took them (Department of HumanServices), three months to completemy application, and by thetime I was notified that I did not qualify as a student, I had already started my winter classes.
With the class hours spread throughout the day and week, it was very difficult to find an employer to work around my hours,” she said.
As tuition rates have risen and employers are slashing hours, the student demographic is feeling the economic pinch.
“Everything is affecting everything.That’s a group that won’t speak up,” she said.
Boles said she does not understand why the Department of Human Services would target students when they will be ‘giving back’ toward the economy after graduation. DHS administers food aid, cash assistance, and
“No one should have to make a choice of either worrying about starving or getting bad grades,”
Despite her hardships, she continues to move forward.
“I also want to let people know not to feel sorry for me. I can survive! I worry about the younger students who don’t know where to find help.
Two main places to start would be the Monroe County Opportunity Program, and the Monroe Salvation Army,” she said.
Not only has she voiced her complaints to her caseworker about the issue, but has also contacted government offices in Lansing.
Despite the rants, she offered solutions to the ongoing problem.
“I would look at the student’s credit hours,” she said.
She mentioned that caseworkers should not only look at employment status, regardless of hours,but consider volunteer work as an alternative.
Valerie Culler, director of financial aid, said she is aware of the issue.
“It’s an unknown variable,” she said.
“It seems like the sort of thing that puts up a roadblock. We’re supposed to be about moving barriers and this is a roadblock,” she said.
Culler offered alternatives as to whether or not a student should receive food aid.
“Perhaps they should take into consideration good progress,” she said.
Culler said if students are excelling in their studies and are on pace to graduate, perhaps that should be considered.
Government leaders should account for those possibilities, she said.
“It’s not that unreasonable to think that type of information can be exchanged,” she said.