For many college students, finding the means to put food on the table isn’t always easy. Between necessities like gas, rent, tuition and the extras, getting the correct amount of nutrients in their body is often the last place their money goes. But with a Bridge Card, many students have found a way to buy food without breaking the bank. Recently, however, possible abuse of the card has become an issue.
The Michigan Bridge Card is a food assistance program funded by federal money through the Department of Human Services. In order to receive a card, a person must fill out an application and then undergo an interview. The Department of Human Services then examines income and bank accounts as well as shelter and utility expenses before determining eligibility.
In Marquette county alone, 7,412 out of 65,496 people receive food assistance, which is about 11 percent of the population. Recently, numerous state representatives have urged the Michigan auditor general to review the system because they believe too many college students are misusing it.
Bridge Card users are not allowed to buy alcohol, tobacco or non-food items with their benefits, but college students find ways around that. Complaints have been made to representatives that students will do things like buy cans of soda, empty them, cash in the returnables for money and use it to buy beer. This action is classified as fraud and considered illegal.
Another problem being tackled by the legislature is that many students who are still listed as dependents of their parents on tax forms are claiming to be independent in order to receive benefits. Some of them are simply using the Bridge Card to buy food so their money can be spent on other luxuries.
The Department of Human Services claims Michigan lost $5.87 million in 2008 from users taking advantage of the system. While many low-income families are struggling to feed their children, some college students use this program as a way to get some extra cash. Without a doubt, some students do actually need the assistance. Going to school full time does not leave a lot of time to work, and lots of students don’t have family support behind them. But the Bridge Card should be used as a last resort, not as an easy way to buy booze or more expensive food.
So before you get a Bridge Card, take a careful assessment of your situation. You don’t need to eat a steak every night for dinner on the government’s dime while some students can’t afford to eat dinner at all.