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Common Questions about Public Assistance


    Questions about Applying for Assistance

    How do I apply for benefits from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)?

    To apply for benefits submit an application to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The fastest way to apply is online at MI Bridges. You can also apply in person at your local MDHHS office.

    What is verification?

    Every applicant must verify (prove) important parts of his or her application. This means you may have to show things like:

    • state identification cards

    • driver licenses

    • passports

    • immigration documents - like permanent resident card

    You will likely be asked to provide proof of your income from the last 30 days and proof of your housing expenses - like a lease or rent receipt.

    MDHHS will send you a Verification Checklist that lists the documents you need for your application to be processed. For most benefit programs a MDHHS specialist will contact you to set up a conference to verify your application (these are usually by phone).

    You can also use the conference as an opportunity to learn about your rights. Ask the MDHHS specialist any questions you have about the application process or your public benefits.

    How long will it take to start getting benefits?

    How long the application process takes depends on which public benefits you apply for. Here are some common public benefits programs and the application timelines:

    • Food Assistance Program (FAP) –30 days (If you are homeless or have little to no money, you might be able to get emergency food assistance. Emergency applications are processed within 7 days).

    • Family Independence Program (FIP) –45 days

    • Child Development and Care Program - 60 days

    • Medical Assistance (MA) – 45 days, but a disability-related application can take up to 90 days.

    • State Disability Assistance (SDA) –60 days

    • State Emergency Relief (SER) –10 days

    The fastest way to apply is online at MI Bridges. You can also apply in person at your local MDHHS office.

    Questions about Different Programs

    What is the Family Independence Program (FIP)?

    The Family Independence Program (FIP) is cash assistance for families with dependent children. A dependent child means any child under 18 years old. An 18 or 19 year-old can also be considered a dependent child if he or she is a full-time high school student and expects to graduate before age 20. You may also be eligible for cash assistance if you are a pregnant woman or have a child in foster care that is expected to return to your home within a year.

    What are work rules for the Family Independence Program (FIP)?

    Once you begin receiving cash assistance you must follow work rules. You must complete a Jobs and Self-Sufficiency Survey and develop a Family Self-Sufficiency Plan (FSSP). The FSSP will list the work activities that you must do to get FIP. If you break work rules without good cause MDHHS may:

    • Deny your application

    • Stop cash assistance for your whole family for three months for the first time; six months for the second time; and for your lifetime for the third time

    • Count all penalty months toward your 48-month state lifetime limit

    What are time limits for the Family Independence Program (FIP)?

    There are both state and federal time limits for FIP cash assistance. In Michigan the limit is 48 months over your lifetime. The federal limit is 60 months over your lifetime. There are very limited exceptions to the time limits.

    If you have questions about time limits and whether you may qualify for an exception, you should talk to a lawyer. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. You can use the "Find a Lawyer" section on this page to look for legal help in your area.

    What is the Child Development and Care Program (CDC)?

    CDC is a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) program that helps pay for child care expenses while you are:

    • Working

    • Going to school, or

    • Getting medical treatment

    Before you apply for CDC make sure you have a child care provider who accepts payments from the MDHHS.

    Are there income and asset limits for the Child Development and Care Program (CDC)?

    There is no asset test for CDC, but there is a household income limit based on household size. There are exceptions to the household income limit.

    The household income limits do not apply if the childcare expenses are for:

    • A child living in foster care

    • A child getting FIP, or

    • A child with a current protective services order

    Will the Child Development and Care Program (CDC) cover all of my childcare costs?

    If you get CDC, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will not cover all your childcare costs. What MDHHS pays is not based on what you are charged. MDHHS has set rates based on the age of your children and the type of childcare provider (child care center, family and group homes, unlicensed provider).

    MDHHS pays a portion of its rate based on your income. For example, if you live in a household of three people and your gross household income is $1,990 per month, MDHHS pays 70% of the MDHHS rate for your childcare costs. You must pay the other 30% of the MDHHS rate, and the difference between the MDHHS rate and what your provider actually charges.

    Although CDC does not cover all of your childcare costs, the amount that it does pay can be very helpful for your monthly budget, so you should consider applying even if you are not sure how much will be covered. You can view the CDC Income Eligibility chart to estimate how much childcare CDC will pay for your family.  

    What is State Emergency Relief (SER)?

    SER helps people who need money quickly for an emergency. It’s for low-income households that can usually meet their needs but that are facing unexpected situations. It is not a solution to ongoing or chronic financial troubles. For example, SER can help:

    • Prevent an eviction

    • Stop a utility shut off, or

    • Pay for a burial

    It is important to apply for SER even if you believe your application will be denied. Many other emergency relief providers will not process an application for assistance unless the applicant has already applied for SER.

    Are there income and asset limits for State Emergency Relief (SER)?

    Yes, there are income and asset limits for SER. If you are near or at the income limit you may have a co-payment. A co-payment is an amount you must pay before get SER money. The income limit test may cap how much money you can get.

    Assets are cash, personal property, or real property. Some assets, like your home, one car, and personal and household goods, don’t count toward the SER asset limit. A household with more than $50 in cash assets must pay the amount over $50 toward the emergency (except for burial services).

    What is State Disability Assistance (SDA)?

    SDA is cash assistance for eligible disabled adults and seniors. The caretaker of a disabled person may also qualify for SDA. A person who can’t work for more than 90 days due to a severe mental or physical disability is disabled for purposes of SDA.

    What is Medical Assistance (MA)?

    Medicaid and other Medical Assistance programs are health insurance for low-income individuals and families. Their purpose is to ensure health care is available to people who could not otherwise afford it.

    Michigan has many health care programs for children, families, and adults who meet eligibility requirements. Each program has income limits and some have asset limits. Once you are enrolled, MA programs work just like other health insurance programs.

    What is Healthy Kids?

    Healthy Kids is a Medicaid health care program available for low-income children under 19 and pregnant women of any age. There is an income limit, but no asset test. There are no monthly premiums for the program.

    MIChild is another health care program available for children up to age 19 who are over income for the Healthy Kids Medicaid program. There is an income limit, but no asset test. There is a $10 premium per month.

    You can apply for these programs at Healthy Kids.

    What is Low-Income Family Medicaid (LIF)?

    Low-Income Family Medicaid (LIF) is for low-income families with minor children. There are income and asset limits. Families that get cash assistance (FIP) are automatically eligible for this program.

    What is the “Healthy Kids for Pregnant Women” Program?

    Healthy Kids for Pregnant Women is a Medicaid health care program for low-income pregnant women. Coverage includes the month the pregnancy ends and two calendar months after that. It covers these months regardless of the reason the pregnancy ends. There is an income limit for this program, but there is no asset test. You can apply for these programs at Healthy Kids for Pregnant Women.

    What is the “Group 2 Pregnant Women” Program?

    The “Group 2 Pregnant Women Program” is a Medicaid health care program for women whose income exceeds the limit for the “Healthy Kids for Pregnant Women” Program. A pregnant woman whose income is over the limit may have to pay a deductible. She may incur medical expenses that equal or exceed the deductible and qualify for this program.

    What is Maternity Outpatient Medical Services (MOMS)?

    The MOMS program gives pregnant women immediate health coverage. It covers outpatient prenatal care.  The MOMS program provides immediate prenatal care while a Medicaid application is pending. Other women who may be eligible for MOMS include:

    • Teens who, because of confidentiality concerns, choose not to apply for Medicaid, and 

    • Non-citizens who are only eligible for emergency services

    Prenatal health care services will be covered by MOMS and/or Medicaid for the entire pregnancy and for two months after the pregnancy ends. There is an income test for all persons except teens, but there is no asset test. 

    To enroll in the MOMS program, contact your local public health department to find a “Qualified Agency” to help you apply for MOM’s. Note: MDHHS cannot enroll in MOMS.

    What is “Under 21 Medicaid”?

    Young adults who can no longer get Medicaid as part of a family may be eligible for Medicaid until turning 21. There are income limits and an asset test. If income is over the limit, a person may incur medical expenses that equal or exceed the excess income and still qualify for this program.

    What is Medicaid for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled?

    In general, anyone who is elderly, blind, or disabled is eligible for Medicaid. Elderly means 65 or older. Income and asset limits apply.

    If your income is above the limit, you may still qualify to have Medicaid pay for some of your medical expenses. This depends on how much over the income limit you are and how much your medical expenses are.

    What is the Adult Benefits Waiver?

    On April 1, 2014, the Adult Benefits Waiver, also known as Adult Medical Program or AMP, changed to the Healthy Michigan Plan. This program provides insurance coverage to childless adults in Michigan, whose income is at or below 35% of the federal poverty level.

    Apply for the Healthy Michigan Plan with a local MDHHS offices.

    To learn more, visit MDHHS or the Healthy Michigan Plan. 

    What is the Medicare Savings Program?

    If you get Medicare and your monthly income falls below 100% of the poverty guidelines, Medicaid should pay for your Medicare premiums, coinsurance, and deductibles. This is called the Medicare Savings Program.

    If you earn between 100%-120% of the federal poverty guidelines, Medicaid will pay for Medicare Part B premiums.

    If you earn more than 120% but less than 135% of the poverty guidelines, Medicaid will pay the Medicare Part B premiums if there is enough money available. Asset limits still apply.

    Are there income and asset limits for Medical Assistance (MA)?

    Income limits include money you earn and income from things like child support, disability benefits, unemployment, or other sources. MA rules sometimes excuse money from being counted as income. For example, if you work, a percentage of the money you earn will normally not be counted.

    There are no asset limits for medical assistance programs for eligible children or pregnant women. Most other types of MA have asset limits.

    Assets include cash, personal property, and real property. Real property is land and the things on it. Personal property includes investments, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, trusts, and other property.

    Some types of assets are not counted toward MA asset limits, including the home you live in and your car.

    Questions about Eligibility

    Do I have to be a United States citizen to qualify for public benefits?

    Your family must have at least one citizen or qualified legal immigrant for some public benefits programs. You can qualify if other family members do not have legal immigration status. You must live in Michigan to qualify for public benefits here, and your family cannot be getting cash assistance from any other state.

    Are there income and asset limits for the Family Independence Program (FIP)?

    Yes, there are income and asset limits for FIP. Income limits are based on the size of your household. Some of your expenses are considered. Assets are cash, personal property, or real property. Some assets, like your home and car, do not count toward the FIP asset limit.