Rolling Out the SNAP Work Requirements in Michigan: The Washtenaw County Experience

Authors: SFSI Faculty Affiliate Lesli Hoey and Markell Miller
Published August 2018 by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Washtenaw County organization Food Gatherers

A new report released by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Washtenaw County organization Food Gatherers demonstrates the local impact of work requirements for those receiving food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP.

When work requirements were reinstated, researchers found that:

  • 1 in 6 organizations providing hunger relief saw an increase in clients who recently lost SNAP benefits. Among organizations that saw an increase in clients due to the loss of SNAP, more than 50% saw a noticeable increase in individuals asking to volunteer – one way people can meet SNAP work requirements – and more than 25% noted that food ran out more quickly.
  • Organizations that offered wrap around services (such as offering food assistance alongside housing and healthcare referrals or services) saw a marked increase in clients. This is likely tied to more people in Washtenaw County facing food insecurity. Compared to individuals who are food secure, people in this study who were experiencing food insecurity faced 9 times as many tradeoffs – such as deciding to buy food or pay transportation costs or utility bills.
  • Double Up Food Bucks redemptions in Washtenaw farmers markets dropped. Double Up was developed by Fair Food Network to match the value of SNAP spent on fresh fruit and vegetables in over 250 participating farmers markets and grocery stores across Michigan and now in 26 other states.

In January 2017, the State of Michigan was required to roll out work requirements in the four counties with low unemployment – including Washtenaw County – and made plans to phase in the policy statewide by October 2018. The report measures the burden of SNAP cuts between January 2017 and April 2018 on poverty alleviation institutions in Washtenaw County, such as community groups that provide food and housing assistance, government offices tasked with implementing the policy change, and private-public partnerships with farmer’s markets that leverage SNAP dollars.