On February 9, 2011, it was announced that university students in Michigan will have to meet stricter restrictions when applying for the Bridge Card program in April 2011.
As of now, 15,000 college students are receiving about $200 a month from the food assistance program mainly due to the fact that they are college students. In April, college students will only be eligible for the Bridge Card if they meet other requirements, such as caring for a child or working 20 hours a week. Department of Human Services made a statement on the recent policy changes: "We're ready to extend a helping hand to any citizen who is truly in need- including college students who care for young children and are taking the right steps toward becoming self-sufficient."
Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder has been working with other Republican lawmakers to make these changes within the federal guidelines for who can qualify for the electronic food stamp program. One reason for these recent changes have been because of reports that students are taking advantage of the program, using the money to purchase alcohol and other party supplies (though alcohol sales are not covered).
Ingham County, home of Michigan State University, is ranked highest in the county-by-county breakdown of Bridge Card recipients. Central Michigan University's county, Isabella County, is the second highest population.
Approximately 26,000 students in Michigan are receiving the Bridge Card, 3% of Michigan's college student population but just 2% of the total program's recipients. The question that is being asked by people who support students receiving the government aid is how much of a difference will it make? Terri Strangle, executive director of the Center for Civil Justice said, "Even of that two percent, a large number of them are parents with kids and adults going to school to get job skills. I'm hoping they don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Snyder and other Republican lawmakers stand by their decision. State Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville stated, "This action will put a stop to this waste of taxpayer money."
The Office of Inspector General has uncovered $5.17 million supporting food stamp fraud, which is a 32% drop from 2007. They also found with their investigation there are no more food stamp fraud cases among college students than other categories of recipients. Judy Putnam, spokeswoman for Lansing-based Michigan League of Human Services commented on the topic, "We just don't know how much of a problem this is."