The restructuring and restrictions being made to the Bridge Card Program is a major topic of interest in Michigan, especially amongst college students. Since Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) has taken office; he has made decreasing food stamp distribution a top priority. Before Snyder, most college student who applied for the program would qualify to receive $200 a month from the government program. Now restrictions have been put into motion, including the recipient has to be working at least 20 hours a week or has to be supporting a child. These new guidelines will exclude the 28,000 college students who were previously beneficiaries of the program.. These adjustments have raised a few questions. Is this new policy really going to save Michigan any money? Have other states had to deal with a major food stamp distribution decrease? If so, how have they dealt with it?
When considering numbers, it is hard to see how the new policy will save Michigan money. Many of the adjustments are directed toward decreasing the number of college students who use the welfare program because some believe students only use the money to buy junk food and alcohol. While this may be true in some cases, it is hard to justify this change seeing as only 2% of the total bridge card recipients are college students. However, while there are other states who have looked closer at the used of the Bridge Card and the Food Assistance Program, Michigan seems to be the only one who has taken action against college students who are beneficiaries of the program. One main reason for this is that due to the flexible Michigan policy that enabled all college students to qualify until now.
So why is Snyder the only governor who seems to be making these drastic changes? What people don't know is the average population of college students on the food assistance programs is about 2,000-3,000, putting Michigan well over the nation's average. The Michigan Department of Human Service sees this move as one of many that will reduce Bridge Card recipients to those who truly need it.
To go with the extensive amount of college students on the program, Snyder wants to focus on filtering out fraud. Some argue that Bridge Card fraud has already improved by 32% since 2007 at $5.17 million before Snyder had even put the policy changes into place. It is being questioned by people how much of a problem this really is. If college students are filtered out of the system, there are still 98% of the current beneficiaries to fund. This makes one wonder if these renovations are even necessary or economically sound.
In response, the Department of Human Services believes that it is necessary not only for economic changes within social services, but for changing the image that has been induced by such lenient policies as well. The DHS is hoping that their positive contribution to the public will be highlighted and people will respect their mission of helping those in need instead of being a hand-out organization.
While people have challenged Snyder's new innovations for social programs, the DHS feels that these changes are a key factor in moving Michigan's economy forward. Snyder and the Department of Human Services feel that restructuring and restricting the food assistance program will improve the economy and the image of the federally funded program. In the end, it is change. Maybe the change that Michigan needs.