Reps. Irwin, Driskell Urge More Food Assistance for Michigan

Press release
LANSING — State Representatives Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline) introduced resolutions today asking Gov. Rick Snyder and the U.S. Congress to reverse policies limiting Michiganders’ access to federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps. Irwin’s resolution calls for the governor to leverage Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to qualify people for increased SNAP benefits. Driskell’s resolution urges Congress to restore funding cut from SNAP and the $1 per household LIHEAP threshold to trigger increased SNAP benefits. Almost all of Irwin and Driskell’s Democratic House colleagues co-sponsored the resolutions.

“SNAP provides vital resources to people who can’t otherwise afford enough food, while increasing revenue for retailers and farmers,” Irwin said. “Why wouldn’t we do everything we can to bring those federal dollars into our state?”

Congress changed the LIHEAP to require more than $20 in home heating benefits per household to trigger increased SNAP benefits, up from the previous $1 threshold. However, the majority of governors whose states were affected by these changes to “Heat and Eat” programs have taken steps to apportion more heating assistance funds to ensure that their residents do not suffer reductions in SNAP benefits. Snyder did not. Increasing LIHEAP assistance to Michigan residents would result in a net increase of federal funds flowing to Michigan because additional SNAP funding for the state would far exceed the costs of increasing LIHEAP assistance to meet the new $20 threshold.

“SNAP is a win-win. It helps those in need, and it stimulates the economy,” Driskell said. “Congress should be strengthening this program to help our families and our state.”

In 2014, Congress cut SNAP funding by $8.7 billion over 10 years. Of those funds, $183 million would have gone to Michigan SNAP recipients and, from them, to Michigan food retailers and farmers. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that every dollar spent on SNAP generates $1.79 in increased economic activity. This means the $183 million Michigan will see in SNAP cuts will amount to $328 million in lost economic activity.

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