Federal work requirements are being reinforced for Livingston County residents that want to continue receiving food assistance benefits.

The federal government waived work requirements for more than a decade for able-bodied adults without dependents but now with an improved economy and jobs available, the requirements are being enforced. It does not affect people with families or children. Approximately 16,000 people are potentially affected by the change in ten counties, which includes approximately 1,190 people in Livingston County. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services administers the benefits and started sending out notices this week to notify people of the upcoming change. The changes are effective January 1st and individuals will have three months from that time to find a job or meet the other requirements.

MDHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton tells WHMI people will be affected but the good news is that the economy is better, more jobs are available and the department is prepared to help people in meeting the requirements.

Able bodied adults are defined as recipients ages 18 to 49 who do not have a disability that prevents them from working or who meet other federal criteria that exempts them from the requirements. Individuals can continue to receive food assistance by working an average of 20 hours per week, each month in unsubsidized employment or in an approved employment and training program. They can also qualify by participating in community service by volunteering at a non-profit organization.

The state has been implementing the work requirements in phases. Livingston is among ten identified in the second phase. Counties identified in the first two phases can be attributed to their low unemployment rates and better job situations. The waiver is expected to be phased out statewide by October 2018 or sooner. The state says phasing out the work requirements goes along with the MDHHS goal of assisting Michiganders in finding employment to “achieve self-sufficiency, end generational poverty and realize their dreams.”

Those impacted should speak to their MDHHS case specialist or visit www.michigan.gov/foodassistance. The link is provided. (JM)