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An Overview of the Food Assistance Program (FAP, or Food Stamps)


    The Food Assistance Program (FAP, also known as Food Stamps) helps eligible families buy food. Monthly benefits are placed on a Bridge Card. A Bridge Card is like a debit card for food. A Bridge Card can be used at most grocery stores and markets. There are some restrictions on what you may buy with your Bridge Card.

    Who is Eligible?

    Eligibility for FAP is based on your household size, monthly income, and assets. All members of your household who buy and prepare food together are counted. Children younger than 22 who live at home will be part of their parents’ FAP household.

    Income and Asset Limits

    Your family income can be up to 200% of the poverty level, depending on your expenses. Certain expenses are taken into account when determining family eligibility, such as child support payments or medical expenses for disabled and elderly family members.

    Your family must have less than $5,000.00 dollars in assets to be eligible for FAP. Assets are cash or any property you own. Some assets are not counted, like your home and retirement accounts. If you are already eligible for the Family Independence Program (FIP), State Disability Assistance (SDA), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you are exempt from the asset test.

    To learn more about FAP income and asset limits, read Income and Asset Limits for the Food Assistance Program (FAP, or Food Stamps).

    Eligible Immigration Status

    To be eligible for FAP, your household must have at least one citizen or immigrant with "acceptable status." If some household members are not eligible because of their immigration statuses, it does not mean the entire household will be ineligible. To learn more about immigrants eligible for FAP, read Food Assistance for Immigrants.

    If You Are a College Student

    Some college students are eligible for FAP. In order to be eligible, you must be “in student status” and meet certain criteria. You are in student status if you are between 18 and 49 years old and enrolled in a post-secondary education program at least half-time.

    If you are in student status, in order to be eligible, you must also meet one of the following criteria:

    • Receive cash assistance (Family Independence Program, or FIP)

    • Be enrolled in higher education program as a result of a special state-sponsored program

    • Be physically or mentally unfit for employment

    • Be employed, work at least 20 hours per week, and be paid for your work

    • Be self-employed, work at least 20 hours per week, and make the equivalent to federal minimum wage for your work

    • Participate in an on-the-job training program

    • Participate in a federally funded work-study program during the regular school year

    • Provide more than half of the physical care of a FAP household member younger than six

    • Provide more than half of the physical care of a FAP household member between six and 11 years old, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has determined adequate child care is not available to

      • Enable you to attend school and work at least 20 hours per week, or

      • Participate in a work study program

    • Be a single parent enrolled full-time in school whose dependent child is younger than 12

    The criteria can be complex. If you want to know whether you qualify for FAP as a college student, you can contact your local Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) office. Your local legal services may be able to help you. Use Find a Lawyer to find legal services near you.

    If You Are Homeless

    You may be eligible for FAP if you are homeless. In fact, you may be eligible for expedited services. This means MDHHS must process your application and either issue benefits or a denial letter in seven days. Delays are common. If you don’t receive your benefits shortly after the seventh day, try calling your caseworker. If you can’t get a hold of your caseworker, your local legal services may be able to help you. Use Find a Lawyer to find legal services near you.

    You do not need to have a permanent address to get FAP. If you are staying at a shelter, you can list it as your address. You can pick up your Bridge Card at MDHHS, or have it mailed to a shelter, church, or a trusted friend’s address. You may be eligible for FAP even if you are staying at a shelter that provides meals. You can get FAP even if you don’t have a place to cook. FAP can be used to buy nutritious foods that don’t have to be cooked, like bread, cheese, canned meat and fish, fruits, and vegetables. You can also buy pre-packaged and prepared foods, like salads and sandwiches, at a grocery store.

    You might be able to get FAP even if you don’t have a driver’s license or other form of ID. If you are staying at a shelter, shelter staff can tell you about this. Your local legal services might be able to help you. Use Find a Lawyer to find legal services in your area.

    How Do I Apply?

    To apply for FAP, you can submit an application to MDHHS. The fastest way to apply is online through the MDHHS website, MI Bridges. You can also apply in person at your local MDHHS office. Your local MDHHS office will give you a general application form, but it may be easier to print an application form and fill it out completely before going to MDHHS. MDHHS will either approve or deny your application within 30 days (unless you qualify for expedited services).

    When you apply, you will be asked to prove important parts of your application. This means you may have to show documents like a birth certificate, social security card, state ID card, driver license, or passport. You may also need to take documents that show your income and expenses, like bank statements and proof of rent (such as a lease). These expense documents must be less than 30 days old.

    A MDHHS specialist will contact you and set up a conference to go over your FAP application. Bring your important documents to this conference. The conference is also an opportunity to learn about your rights. Be sure to ask the MDHHS specialist any questions you have about the application process or your public benefits.

    You can use the Food Stamp Calculator to see if your household qualifies for FAP. The calculator will also give you an estimate of on the benefit amount you could get.

    Can Someone Else Apply for FAP for Me?

    Yes. Anyone who applies for or receives FAP can designate an authorized representative. If the authorized representative is part of your FAP household, they can be any age. If the authorized representative is not part of your FAP household, that person must be 18 years old or older. The authorized representative can fill out the application for the household, attend the interview, and give MDHHS the information it needs. It is very important that an authorized representative be someone honest and reliable, who has full knowledge of your household’s income and expense information.

    You can designate a person as your authorized representative in your application for FAP. If you are already receiving FAP, you can use Form 247. After that person is designated, you can tell MDHHS in writing at any time that you don’t want that person to be your authorized representative anymore.

    Getting FAP

    Once you are approved, you will receive a Bridge Card. A Bridge Card is like a debit card that can be used at most grocery stores and markets. There are some restrictions on what you may buy with your Bridge Card. If you need to order a new Bridge Card, call 888-678-8914.

    A program called Double Up Food Bucks allows you to stretch your food dollars for more fruits and vegetables. For example, if you spend $10.00 using your Bridge Card at a participating farmers market, the program gives you another $10.00 to buy fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Michigan. To learn more, visit the Double Up Food Bucks website.

    Can Someone Else Use My FAP to do My Grocery Shopping?

    Yes. If you have an authorized representative, you can request an extra Bridge Card for them. Never give your own Bridge Card or PIN to another person to use.

    A separate Bridge Card will not be created for your authorized representative unless you ask for one. The authorized representative’s Bridge Card will have both your name and their name on it. The card will also have the letters ARFS on it. This shows it is the authorized representative’s card. The card, along with a separate PIN, will be mailed to you, not the authorized representative.

    Reporting Changes

    Report to MDHHS any changes in your household size, income, or assets. You must report the changes within 10 days of the change. If you do not, your benefits could be reduced or suspended. The easiest and most reliable way to report changes is online using MI Bridges. You can also call MI Bridges at 888-642-7434 or use DHS Form-2240 to report changes.

    Retroactive Benefits

    If MDHHS wrongfully terminates or decreases your benefits, you might be eligible for retroactive benefits. If you are, this means you could receive a supplement to make up for your lost benefits.

    If you believe you should get retroactive benefits, you can contact your caseworker or request a hearing. You can use the Do-It-Yourself MDHHS Hearing Request to complete your request. Make a copy of the completed request to keep for your records.

    You can fax, mail, or drop off your request in person. If you fax your request, be sure to keep the fax confirmation for your records. If you choose to mail your request, you may want to send it certified mail. Be sure to direct it to a hearing coordinator, not your caseworker.

    If you drop off your request, sign the log book in the office lobby. If you have a camera phone, take a picture of your signature in the log book for your records. You could also ask the person who takes the request to stamp your copy as proof of when you dropped it off.

    If you have questions about retroactive benefits, your local legal services may be able to help you. Use Find a Lawyer to find legal services near you.