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Gov. Whitmer announces effort to reach out to families who are not aware they may be eligible for food assistance benefits, expected to help up to 5,000 families
LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) today announced the launch of MI Benefits Center, an innovative approach to assist Michiganders in applying for much-needed food assistance, connecting families to benefits, lowering the cost for Michigan families.
"My top priority every day is to make life easier for Michigan families by delivering change that makes a difference in their lives, and the MI Benefits Center is the latest innovation to help us lower food costs for Michigan families," said Governor Whitmer. "By delivering additional relief to Michigan families on their grocery bills, we can ease financial burdens for Michiganders, drive down costs, and put more money in people's pockets, putting Michigan first."
The MI Benefits Center will have a team of highly trained benefits specialists provide personalized phone-based application assistance to remove barriers that prevent some Michiganders from accessing food support that is critical to their health and vitality. MDHHS is partnering with Benefits Data Trust, a nationally recognized leader in improving access to public assistance programs by conducting data-driven outreach and application assistance, as well as by providing policy assistance to states nationwide.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and philanthropic organizations, in the next year the MI Benefits Center will invest up to $1.2 million to support Michiganders. Projections are that the outreach specialists will help process 5,000 successful food assistance applications through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), resulting in approximately $1.1 million a month - or $13.2 million annually - in additional direct benefits to families and $1.7 million in monthly economic stimulus for the state.
Recently, the MI Benefits Center began mailing letters to older adults and others who are likely eligible for food assistance benefits but are not enrolled in the program. The letters will direct individuals to call a toll-free phone number for free assistance or to apply directly at www.michigan.gov/MIBridges.
It is important to note that the phone number is only for people who receive letters from the MI Benefits Center. Michiganders who don't receive a letter can apply for food assistance and other public assistance benefits at www.michigan.gov/MIBridges.
When people who receive the letter call into the MI Benefits Center, they will be connected with a benefits outreach specialist who will screen them for benefits, offer to assist with the collection of required application documents, and submit applications on their behalf. This personalized attention may help relieve pressure for people who struggle with the application, streamline the process and increase the success rate of those applications.
"We know that Michiganders in need often face multiple hurdles to access the support services that will help them feed their families," said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. "Our goal is to reduce and eliminate those hurdles as much as possible. This outreach effort is our latest effort in the past few years to ensure everyone who qualifies for support can gain access."
"Making it as easy as possible for people and families to access assistance to meet their food, education, health care, and other needs is essential to improving Michigan's health outcomes and economic future," said Trooper Sanders, a Michigan native and chief executive officer of Benefits Data Trust, which also provides outreach and application assistance in six other states. "We know that streamlining benefits works, and we are grateful for the opportunity to support the state of Michigan's larger initiative to improve the lives of Michiganders by connecting them to benefits."
Originally published by The Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer on December 6th, 2021.