Misperceptions about Department of Human Services assistance programs

Before you believe, consider the source and whether or not there are facts and bias.

Beliefs about folks in poverty are shaped by layers of complex influences within families, communities and the broad culture. Examples include, personal experiences, hear say, political bantering and news and media reports. Some, but not all of these influences are based on facts, or checked for accuracy.

Unpacking the misnomers around the term “entitlement” will shed light on the realities of assistance programs and clients receiving benefits. Both client and public may be taken aback by the criteria needed to apply for state and federal assistance programs. No case is automatic and each one is reviewed with accompanying documentation.

All assistance programs have eligibility requirements, including:

1. Income (earned and unearned)

2. Assets (cash or property owned)

3. Expenses

4. Residency

The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) website states the eligibility for the Food Assistance Program is based on the financial situation of all members in a household. Everyone who lives together, purchases and prepares food together is considered a member of the same household group. The verification process for this takes between 30 and 60 days.

Michigan State University Extension partners with DHS to deliver nutrition education programming to adults and youth receiving assistance statewide. As part of the planning and implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education, annual fact sheets created by the Michigan League for Public Policy on each county’s statistics regarding unemployment, median income and rates of poverty have been useful in determining local needs. Information from this data has helped, for example the Traverse Area Poverty Initiative create goals and community sessions around the issues facing the region residents.

 As political storms brew and die down around the U.S. Farm Bill, particularly around the assistance portions, remember to comb for facts and bias in reporting and opinions before coming to conclusions.

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