LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Thousands of people in West Michigan will be required to work or volunteer to keep their federal food assistance benefits beginning next year.
The state announced Tuesday that the federal government is reinstating work requirements for about 14,000 able-bodied adults without dependents in Kent, Ottawa, Oakland and Washtenaw counties. The change is expected to affect approximately 4,500 Kent County residents and 620 Ottawa County residents.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says it is sending notices to those impacted this week.
The change takes effect Jan. 1. Those affected will have three months to meet the following requirements before they lose their food benefits:
- Working an average of 20 hours per week each month in unsubsidized employment.
- Participating for an average of 20 hours per week each month in an approved employment and training program.
- Participating in community service by volunteering at a nonprofit organization.
State officials say the Michigan Talent Investment Agency and Michigan Works are ready to help those affected by the reinstated requirements. Recipients can use their three-month grace in any amount during a three-year period, according to MDHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton.
Federal officials began waiving the work requirements in 2002 because of Michigan’s high unemployment rate. The four counties are being phased out of the waiver now because of their lower unemployment rates. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services expects to end the waiver statewide by October 2018 or sooner.
The state says able-bodied adults are recipients between age 18 and 49 who do not have a disability or other circumstances that prevents them from working.