More Michigan families could qualify for food assistance for women, children
- A family of four can now make $55,500 and still qualify for the federally-funded Women, Infants and Children program
- The threshold represents 185 percent of the federal poverty guideline this year
- In 2021, more than 323,000 people qualified for the benefits
LANSING — More Michigan families can now qualify for federal food assistance for mothers and children after the state loosened the requirements on household income level.
Under a threshold changed Thursday, a family of four making no more than $55,500 a year — 185 percent of the federal poverty guideline of $30,000 for a family of four — can now qualify for the federally-funded Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
The program gives mothers and children under the age of five healthy food and nutritional tips. Women who are about to give birth, just gave birth or breastfeeding may qualify, and citizenship is not required.
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Prior to the Thursday change, a family of four had to make $51,338 or less to qualify.
Michigan officials did not indicate how many families would benefit from the change, but state tax records indicate 160,760 tax filers made $50,001 to $55,000 in 2020, the last year of data available.
The state’s change followed an annual change earlier this year in federal income eligibility guidelines, which determine who qualifies for federal food assistance, including WIC, reduced price or free school meals and other benefits.
The increase in household income threshold comes amid record inflation, as food prices rose by 7.7 percent between April 2022 and April 2023, data shows.
Michigan WIC Director Christina Herring called the state’s change to the household income threshold “significant” in a Thursday statement.
“This is good news for Michiganders as more families may now be eligible for this important program that provides valuable nutritional education and healthy foods.”
The state’s WIC program provides benefits to more than 200,000 women and children each month, according to the state’s website.
In 2021, more than 323,000 eligible women, infants and children — including almost 84,000 women and almost 240,000 children — were enrolled in the program, according to a state report.
In 2022, nearly 80 percent of families lived below 150 percent of the then-federal poverty guidelines, which meant less than $41,625 for a family of four, another state report shows. More than 60 percent of all babies born in Michigan received WIC benefits, the report says.
Families who qualify for the program can receive food benefits for milk, cheese, eggs, cereals, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, among others. The WIC agency also helps guide women through breastfeeding their babies, offer health counseling and give referrals.
Those who wish to apply for the benefits can contact their local WIC agency or call 211 to start the process.
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