Center for Employment Opportunities Celebrates SNAP Reform in Passage of Budget

For Immediate Release: September 24, 2020

Contact: [email protected]


With final adoption of the budget, Michigan will no longer restrict people with felony drug convictions from accessing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”)

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) applauds the Michigan legislature for implementing a critical food justice reform through passage of the budget today: removing the state restriction that places a lifetime ban on accessing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for those formerly convicted of drug-related felonies in Michigan. CEO also urges Governor Whitmer’s endorsement of this change through signing the budget.

CEO began advocating for this reform more than a year ago, and along with 24 other organizations sent a letter to Governor Whitmer, Lt. Governor Gilchrist and state legislative leadership to ask them to change the state's policy that permanently bars people with two or more felony drug convictions from accessing SNAP benefits in Michigan. More recently, CEO became a member of the Hungry for Justice coalition, a broad and diverse statewide coalition of criminal justice reform organizations, disability advocates, and others who have joined in solidarity to ensure equal access to food for all who call Michigan home.

This reform comes as a relief at a critical time of food insecurity for thousands of Michigangers with felony drug convictions in their history. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of providing vital assistance to the most vulnerable Michiganders. Food security is one of the most crucial resources at this time along with additional support provided through the Employment & Training program component of SNAP, as many individuals have lost - and will lose - their jobs due to COVID-19. The effects of the pandemic have proven greatest for Black Michiganders, reinforcing racial disparities in the state that are already prevalent in the criminal justice system.

The inability for Michiganders with felony drug convictions to access SNAP has made it difficult for vulnerable individuals and families to access this resource, and for service providers to leverage this funding effectively in order to continually serve people during this crisis. CEO has experienced this firsthand in Detroit, as we provide immediate employment to individuals coming home from incarceration and help our participants enroll in SNAP so that they can access employment and training resources through the SNAP E&T program.

This reform will support individuals coming home to communities deeply impacted by COVID-19, successfully reconnect them to Michigan’s workforce, and reduce their likelihood of returning to jail and prison. Lifting these eligibility restrictions for SNAP is an opportunity to make transparent, data-driven, equity-informed decisions around COVID-19 that centers the needs of those who are most hard hit by this pandemic: impoverished communities of color that are overrepresented in the criminal system.

Food justice is not just a human rights issue, it is a criminal justice and racial justice issue. But too many Michiganders continue to go hungry unnecessarily. This policy change is an important step forward for the state, but more work needs to be done. We strongly urge the passage and adoption of Senate Bill 1006 by Senator Jim Ananich, which would further cement this change in statute, and will push for further reforms to improve access to SNAP in the future.

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) is the largest national provider of employment services for people coming home from incarceration. CEO is 501(c)3 nonprofit and currently operates in 30 sites across 11 states.