Coming Soon: Fresh Veggies for More SNAP Recipients
More low-income people should have access to fresh produce. The United States Department of Agriculture is expanding its support for farmers markets to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) benefits.
Last year, $4 million from Congress through the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriates Act of 2012, helped bring in wireless equipment to farmers that were not accepting SNAP benefits. Now action by the USDA expands eligibility for grant funds to include direct marketing farmers, along with farmers markets. The money would be used to buy or lease equipment or pay for wireless access. Funds are available to states through September 30th of this year.
For more information on this story go to www.fns.usda.gov/pressrelease2013/fns-000813
A SPECIAL EVENT: Feel the Beat and Help your Neighbors on July 11!
The Center for Civil Justice and the Saginaw County Bar Association Social Committee invite all members of the Saginaw Bar, the Auxiliary, as well as your friends and colleagues, to boogie to the beat, celebrate summer, and support a good cause - right after work on Thursday, July 11. CCJ and the SBCA are presenting "The Beat of Justice" at the Andersen Enrichment Center at 120 Ezra Rust Drive from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Enjoy the gardens and the eclectic mix of live folk-rock and blues music provided by Madame Dev and The Gypsy Wagon. The Gypsy Wagon will be joined by several special guests, including some from the local medical community's band: The Which Doctors. The event includes a silent auction.
CCJ would like to thank Meijer and the Saginaw County Bar Association for donating $500 each to our special event.
Proceeds will help support CCJ's advocacy on behalf of vulnerable people in the region, especially on issues related to hunger and access to healthcare. Tickets are $25 per person and include light refreshments and a drink ticket for the cash bar staffed by Cork and Ale. Call Nycole at 989-755-3120 or send an email to email@example.com for more information and reserve your seat now! We hope you'll join us in person, but donations in lieu of attending would also be gratefully accepted.
You can also click here to get your tickets!
Grant Will Help Protect Genesee County Families Striving to Build Economic Security.
Thousands of Genesee County families need a helping hand when their world is turned upside down due to unemployment, illness, or the death of a family member. Unfortunately, families that should be eligible for short term help with food, healthcare, utilities or other basic needs are often frustrated by changing and confusing rules or erroneous decisions. These families, and the community organizations that try to help them, will be able to get answers and help from the Center for Civil Justice, thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. The CFGF has awarded CCJ a one year grant of $20,000 from the Poverty Fund I to be used for the Family Economic Security Project in Genesee County.
Click here for the full story.
Time is Running out for Eligible Michigan Adults to Apply for Health Coverage
If you're a low-income Michigan adult without children and without health insurance, you can now apply for the state's Adult Medical Program (Plan A) through April 30th. The program is for adults aged 18 to 64 with no minor children at home and no or low income: $335 a month for a single person; $425 a month for a married couple. If working, a single person is allowed an income of $618 a month while a married couple is allowed an income of $765. You must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident for five years.
The Adult Medical Program (Plan A) pays for basic medical care: annual physical exams, diagnostic and treatment services, outpatient services, emergency services, prescriptions, immunizations and injections. There may be low co-pays. You must apply by getting an application from your local Department of Human Services office or online at https://www.mibridges.michigan.gov/access/. If you have questions about the program call the Center for Civil Justice at 810-244-8044. Open enrollment for this Adult Medical Program ends April 30!
Medicaid Expansion - what it means for Michigan Families, Businesses, Healthcare Services and Taxpayers
The Health Benefits - If Michigan accepts Medicaid expansion, our state would receive $2 billion in federal health care dollars, enough to pay for health care coverage for 400,000 Michiganians. The expanded Medicaid plan would allow hardworking Michigan residents to get the healthcare they deserve. While many Michigan children receive healthcare through Medicaid and MIChild, the expansion would help their parents stay healthy and get treatment for chronic problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, or treatment for mental health problems like depression. Plus, when you're healthy you're better at your job and are more successful in school and other training programs.
We can't afford to refuse the resources that will help us rebuild our state - Medicaid expansion is also good for the state's economy. It would bring in about $3 million by supporting our healthcare system and expanding employment by as many as 13,000 to 26,000 jobs. The state would also save between $275 million and $285 million dollars by not spending money on non-Medicaid mental health, corrections
and some Medicaid expenditures.
The Healthcare System Benefits - The federal money would allow Michigan to ensure healthcare dollars are spent more wisely by avoiding costly and unnecessary emergency room use which drives up the cost of private insurance by shifting costs to those who are insured. It would also assure access to preventive care and treatment for chronic conditions before they become more serious and require hospital care or result in long-term disability. It would also prevent the gap in medical coverage for people who are low-income but are still above the limit to qualify for Medicaid.
The Business Benefits - Medicaid expansion would also help protect employers with low-wage workers from penalties. Some employers with low-wage workers who buy health coverage through the exchange are subject to penalties if their workers
receive federal subsidies.
We can afford expansion - One half of the state's savings created each year under Medicaid expansion would be put into a Health Savings Fund - to pay for the expansion starting in 2017 when the federal funding will begin to drop to 90 percent. And if at any time the expansion is no longer economically advantageous for Michigan, we no longer have to participate.
New Study Shows Michigan Families Can't Afford Enough Food
One in five residents are saying they didn't have enough money for food last year, according to a Gallup poll. Our state is ranked number 20 on a list of states with the highest food hardship. A new reporter released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) shows that nationally the food hardship rate was 18.2 percent in 2012, compared to Michigan's food hardship rate of 20.2
For more details on this story click here.
A Mom Keeps a Promise to her Son so "No Other Mama Goes Hungry"
"I never thought that I would be so poor that food would be out of reach for me. But it all happened."
Tara Marks was a stay-at-home mom taking care of her two-year-old son when the baby's father walked out on them. She says she could hardly keep food on the table and had to ration food so that she and her baby Nathan could eat. Then there were the times she said there was barely enough food for Nathan. That's when she finally reached out for help. She says it changed her life. Tara applied for and received SNAP benefits (food stamps). She said it allowed her to fight her way out of poverty. "SNAP was a critical factor in my success. having SNAP benefits allowed me to focus energy on school so that I could support us. I no longer stressed over purchasing food."
Tara shared her story February 13, 2013 in Washington D.C. at a Senate Budget Committee Hearing on the impact of federal budget decisions on families and communities. She wouldn't have been heard had it not been for Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA). Senator Murray also took the opportunity to talk about how her parents and her six siblings struggled with poverty when her father became ill and could no longer work. "I know the support we got from our government was the difference between seven kids who might not have graduated from high school or college and the seven adults we have grown up to be today - all college graduates, all working hard, all paying taxes and all of us contributing back to our communities. In my book the taxpayers got a pretty good return on their investment."
Senator Murray and many agencies like the Center for Civil Justice are fighting for individuals and families who find themselves on that tough road through poverty. Programs like SNAP are essential to the survival of millions of people and cannot be tossed aside. A balanced budget is not more important than the lives of individuals, children and families.
At the end of her witness statement Tara explained to the committee that she did eventually tell her little boy about those tough times and how she went without food so Nathan could stay healthy. Nathan said, "I would have shared by food mama." A bit later he added, "no mama should ever go hungry."
Tara attended the hearing to keep her promise to her son. "I am asking you to fund SNAP - and protect it from cuts - so that no other mama (or child, or dad, or grandparent) goes hungry."
Two representatives from CCJ will be visiting members of Congress on March 5 after the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington D.C. to urge them to protect SNAP in budget negotiations.
For each of the past ten years, CCJ's Food and Nutrition Program Helpline has informed thousands of people about the federal food programs for which they are eligible, provided answers to questions, and solved problems with getting accurate and timely help. CCJ's Helpline also answers questions about food programs from community organizations such as churches, emergency pantries and shelters. Call the helpline at 1-800-481-4989 if you have questions or need help.
To read more about Tara's story and to read more about the Senate Budget Committee Hearing, click here.
New Rules on Snacks and Beverages Could be Coming to a School Near You
Big changes could be coming for vended foods sold at school to encourage healthier options. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking the next step to protect the nutritional needs of children under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. It's trying to eliminate unhealthy foods in vending machines, snack bars, and "a la carte" lines in cafeterias sold outside the federally reimbursed school meals program. Instead, schools would have to offer more snacks with low fat dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and more water and lower calorie beverages. If the proposed standard change becomes a rule, schools would have at least one school year from date of publication of the final rule to implement the standard.
Creating standards for healthier options in competitive foods sold in schools will promote the health of all school children; low-income children will especially benefit from these stronger standards. Nutrition standards are an essential ingredient in the fight against childhood obesity. 18.2 percent of Michigan youth ages 10-17-years-old are overweight and 12.4 percent are considered obese. That's compared to the U.S. percentage of 15.3 overweight and 16.4 obese (National Survey of Children's Health, 2007).
The proposed standard changes would include exemptions for fundraisers and other school-related activities that are held half an hour after school ends. The USDA is looking for public comments until April 9, 2013.
You can read the entire Proposed Standards Rule and give your comments at: www.regulations.gov.
Expanding Medicaid Could Actually Save Michigan Money
February 4, 2013 – Flint, MI - Imagine your child having an asthma attack in the middle of the night and you don’t have a rescue inhaler or a doctor to turn to. What if you’ve been feeling ill for months but can’t find out what’s wrong because you don’t have health insurance? By the time you end up in emergency, it may be too late to cure what could have been a simple problem. Tens of thousands of people in the United States have died prematurely because they didn’t have health insurance or access to preventive care.
Medicaid expansion in Michigan could help more than 470,000 residents avoid that same fate. It’s available for all states to adopt under federal health care reform – the Affordable Care Act. The expansion would help low and moderate working adults and their families get the healthcare they need to stay healthy and productive, but Governor Rick Snyder has to give the nod to pursue it in Michigan. He’s expected to reveal his decision Thursday as part of his budget priorities announcement.
Advocates say Medicaid expansion could actually save the state money in the long run. Michigan Consumers for Healthcare says it could save the state as much as $2 billion dollars over a decade. The Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation says over ten years Michigan could see a net savings of about $1 billion. The Michigan House Fiscal Agency put the total savings at $1.1 billion over ten years. The savings are partly due to reduced emergency room visits and by catching conditions earlier. The expansion would also include improvements in care delivery and coordination.
“Our experience with the Genesee Health Plan (GHP), which is a program that has been locally funded by taxpayers, shows the health benefits and cost savings resulting from access to preventive healthcare,” says Terri Stangl, Executive Director of the Center for Civil Justice, an advocacy group that is calling for Medicaid expansion.
GHP is a community-sponsored healthcare program for eligible low-income residents in Genesee County who do not have health insurance. With the installation of GHP, plan officials saw a 51 percent initial decline in emergency room visits and 15 percent fewer hospital stays. The plan also helped get people involved in wellness campaigns with a 78 percent improvement in physical activities, 53 percent improvement in eating habits, a 17 percent reduction in smoking and 82 percent improvement in self monitoring for diabetics. There was also an increase in mammography screening rates for low-income women from 760 a year to more than 5,000.
“The expansion of Medicaid is essential to helping the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens,” said Linda Hamacher, President and CEO of the Genesee Health Plan. “Without the expansion those in most need will be excluded from access to health care and many will die from curable diseases. The healthcare safety net is currently overwhelmed.” Hamacher cites Martin Luther King, who said “of all forms of inequity, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”
The federal government would pay for Medicaid expansion for the first three years of the program and then individual states would have to pick up 10 percent of the tab. Last year 1.92 million people were on Medicaid in Michigan.
Adults with Disabilities at the Highest Risk of Going Hungry.
Flint, MI - February 5, 2013 - A new national study reveals that adults with disabilities - more than any others - are going hungry - and sometimes for days at a time. The United States Department of Agriculture has found that one out of three households (33.5%) that include adults with disabilities don't have access to food. That's nearly three times the rate of hunger reported by other households (12%).
In Michigan, 264,706 people receive some kind of federal assistance due to serious and permanent disability. According to the USDA study, many of these households are struggling to put food on the table for themselves and their family. Households that include an adult with disabilities are more than three times more likely to go for longer periods of time without any food at all (7.3% of such households compared with 4.6% for households without disabled adults).
The USDA study highlights the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly called Food Stamps) to vulnerable people, at the same time the program is under increased scrutiny in Congress. SNAP is the most significant program that provides food to low-income people, including those with disabilities. Nearly two million people in Michigan are at risk of going hungry if SNAP benefits are cut. Those with disabilities are most vulnerable because they are least able to work and earn more money to pay for food.
New Facts about SNAP
One in five people in Michigan are getting help to feed themselves and their families. New information out about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, shows that it’s the nation’s most important anti-hunger program.
SNAP helped almost two million residents in our state – that’s about 18 percent of the population. More than 47 million people in the United States are getting help through SNAP – 15 percent of the total population.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, almost 64 percent of all Michigan SNAP participants are in families with children; about 48 percent are in working families and almost 27 percent are in families with elderly or disabled members.
Almost three-fifths of those who receive SNAP benefits in our state are children or adults living with children.
Last year in Michigan, the average monthly SNAP benefit for each household member was $135.84 that’s an average monthly SNAP benefit per person per meal of $1.51.
Moody’s Analytics estimates that in a weak economy, $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity which m eans that SNAP benefits pumped about $2.98 billion into Michigan’s economy in 2012.
Center for Civil Justice Receives Grants to Help Feed the Hungry
The Center for Civil Justice was awarded two grants to help advance its anti-hunger work. CCJ received a grant from the Washington, D.C.-based Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and a grant from Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
“Sometimes it is hidden behind closed doors, but hunger is a serious problem in Michigan. Many of our people struggle with hunger on a daily basis and CCJ works to ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors – including seniors, working families, children, individuals with disabilities and those who are homeless – have enough food to get by,” said Center for Civil Justice Executive Director Terri Stangl.
The FRAC grant will support CCJ's outreach efforts to increase public awareness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or ‘Bridge Card’) and child nutrition programs. CCJ will partner with FRAC to advocate for key changes in federal, state and local policy and to strengthen the role of federal nutrition programs.
“MAZON’s generous support helps us reach out to and advocate for low-income people in Michigan who are unable to provide food for themselves and their family,” said Stangl. “We have calls coming into our statewide helpline everyday with people saying they can’t meet their basic needs and are worried their children will have to go hungry. This donation helps us ensure that families know about and receive the food for which they are eligible under the law.”
For more information on federal food programs call CCJ’s statewide Helpline at 800-481-4989.
UPDATE on 60-Month Time Limit Lawsuit – January 23, 2013
In November 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments from the Solicitor General for the State of Michigan and the Center for Civil Justice representing the plaintiff class of families denied or terminated from Family Independence Program cash assistance due to the 60-month time limit policy issued by the Department of Human Services (DHS) in November 2011, on two questions:
(1) whether DHS properly implemented the 60-month limitation on Family Independence Program cash assistance benefits without rulemaking under the Administrative Procedures Act (MCL 24.201 et seq.), and
(2) whether DHS had the authority to implement the 60-month limitation on Family Independence Program cash assistance benefits and whether this limitation conflicts with any provisions of the Social Welfare Act.
In December 2012, the Michigan legislature passed a 60-month time limit law, known as SB 1386, during the "lame duck" session. Governor Snyder signed the bill into law on January 9, 2013, and it is now known as Public Act 607 of 2012. You can read the law as amended by this Act at: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/publicact/pdf/2012-PA-0607.pdf.
On January 10, 2013, the Michigan Attorney General's office filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to allow DHS to implement the new law. CCJ filed an answer to the state's motion and the state filed a reply to CCJ's answer on January 23, 2013 (with a motion to allow the reply). CCJ and the Attorney General's office disagree about the meaning and effect of the new law.
CCJ will post additional information as soon as it is available.
New Insight into Adequacy of Food Assistance Program Benefits
People standing in line at any of the nation’s food pantries can tell you – so can others who come away from the grocery store with a smaller bag of food for the same price – programs for low-income people who are hungry are just not doing enough. But now there’s even more muscle behind that statement. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) have found that the benefit levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps in Michigan, are too low and there are flaws in how the benefits are calculated.
SNAP is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), serving more than 46 million low-income Americans per year. The USDA asked the IOM and the NRC to look into the program to determine if it’s providing enough assistance. The committee found that certain individual, household, and environmental factors influence whether or not the SNAP allotment is adequate for certain individuals and families and should be re-evaluated.
The IOM/NRC report states that whether or not SNAP funding is adequate depends on whether participants have the time to buy and prepare meals and whether they live near a fully equipped grocery store and have access to healthy foods. So, the IOM/NRC Committee recommends that the U.S. D.A. take these things into consideration when determining the adequacy of SNAP allotments in the future.
The committee’s report also stated that other things should be added to the equation as well: how families spend their household dollars on food and the amount they spend, plus the cost for housing, medical care and other living expenses which all vary by region.
The Food Research and Action Center reacted to the report by saying “Since inadequate benefits in SNAP harm health, early childhood development, and learning, fixing the problem is essential to the nation’s social, economic, and fiscal goals.” FRAC also points out that the IOM/NRC report shows that proposals in Congress to cut SNAP benefits by billions of dollars would worsen health and hunger for struggling children, seniors and working families and that as Congress starts fresh on a Farm Bill this year, protecting and strengthening SNAP must be a top priority.
In conclusion, the IOM/NRC Committee stated SNAP’s adequacy can be defined, but it requires identifying the factors that impact SNAP participant’s ability to meet the program goals. The report stated that “ultimately, this effort could help to provide SNAP participants with greater opportunities to become more food secure and to have access to a healthy diet.”
Click Here to see the Report.
Michigan Gets "A" for Effort on National School Breakfast Scorecard
Nationwide and in Michigan, only about half the kids who are eligible for the federal free school lunch programs also participate in free breakfast programs, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The Center's new report says Detroit Public Schools is an exception. It has managed to put breakfast in front of nearly 80 percent of kids who also qualify for free lunches.
Click here to read the entire article.
New Report Shows the Need for Food Assistance is Increasing
There is new evidence that shows cuts to SNAP would have dire consequences for low-income families.
Click here to read entire press release.
Click here for the entire U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homeless Survey.
The Center for Civil Justice is joining other advocacy agencies across the country in asking people to show their support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps.
The battle continues this year to keep SNAP strong for senior citizens people with disabilities, single moms and many of our neighbors and friends.
The Food and Research Action Center is asking everyone to call the Capitol to urge Congress to protect and strengthen SNAP. Any cuts to SNAP would hurt low-income people who need these benefits to survive. You can also voice your opinion by dialing the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 1-866-220-0044 or 1-877-762-8762.
One in Five Michigan Residents Don’t have Money for Food
Flint, Michigan, November 20, 2012 - Michigan has one of the highest percentages of households receiving federal food assistance in the nation.
Anyone with questions about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility, please call 1-800-481-4989 or use CCJ’s calculator at www.foodstamphelp.org.
Issue Alert regarding FIP and Truancy: please click here.
For Questions and Answers regarding the new DHS School Rule for FIP Families: Click here.
The Center for Civil Justice helps vulnerable people – including children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly – access the critical programs and services they need to find safety and stability in times of crisis. These programs meet the most basic needs for food, shelter, utilities, and healthcare, as well as work.
The Center for Civil Justice monitors and improves Michigan’s safety net programs so they work for the people they are supposed to help. The Center for Civil Justice has a long and accomplished history of watching out for and solving problems with Michigan’s safety net and we take pride in the quality services we offer to people who have nowhere else to turn.