LANSING, Mich. (WJMN) – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Governor Gretchen Whitmer have announced the launch of the MI Benefits Center which will assist Michigan residents with applying for food assistance, connecting to benefits and lowering the cost off food.

“My top priority every day is to make life easier for Michigan families by delivering change that makes a difference in their lives, and the MI Benefits Center is the latest innovation to help us lower food costs for Michigan families,” said Governor Whitmer. “By delivering additional relief to Michigan families on their grocery bills, we can ease financial burdens for Michiganders, drive down costs, and put more money in people’s pockets, putting Michigan first.”

MI Benefits Center will have a team of benefits specialists that can help provide application assistance over the phone to remove barriers that some people have from accessing food support. MDHHS is partnering with Benefits Data Trust for the service. Benefits Data Trust works to improve access to public assistance programs by conducting data-driven outreach and application assistance and provides policy assistance to states nationwide.

MI Benefits Center will invest up to $1.2 million with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and philanthropic organizations. Outreach specialists are projected to process 5,000 successful food assistance applications through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That will result in about $1.1 million a month in additional direct benefits to families, or $13.2 million annually. It will also result in a $1.7 million monthly economic stimulus to the state.

Recently, letters were mailed from the center to older adults and others who are not enrolled in a food assistance program but are likely to be eligible. Letters will direct individuals to call a toll-free number for free assistance or to apply directly at www.michigan.gov/MIBridges. If individuals call the number, they will speak with an outreach specialist who will screen them for benefits, offer to assist with the collection of required documents and submit applications on their behalf. The help may relieve pressure for people who struggle with the application, streamline the process and increase the rate of those applications.

“We know that Michiganders in need often face multiple hurdles to access the support services that will help them feed their families,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “Our goal is to reduce and eliminate those hurdles as much as possible. This outreach effort is our latest effort in the past few years to ensure everyone who qualifies for support can gain access.” 

“Making it as easy as possible for people and families to access assistance to meet their food, education, health care, and other needs is essential to improving Michigan’s health outcomes and economic future,” said Trooper Sanders, a Michigan native and chief executive officer of Benefits Data Trust, which also provides outreach and application assistance in six other states. “We know that streamlining benefits works, and we are grateful for the opportunity to support the state of Michigan’s larger initiative to improve the lives of Michiganders by connecting them to benefits.”