Food assistance, a waste or necessary?

Boyne family in Lapeer County's Mayfield Township receives food assistance / Matt Horne

Around 10-million people live in Michigan. Nearly 2-million, almost 20%, receives money for food through government assistance.

More than $2-billion was distributed to Michigan residents in food assistance in 2009. This year, is on pace to be closer to $3-billion. That's more than Michigan's Department of Corrections budget.

More than $250-million went to families in September 2010 alone.

Every month, Michigan adds around 30,000 additional recipients.

Some abuse it, while others say it's a life-saver.

Candi Boyne, her husband James, and their four kids live in Lapeer County's Mayfield Township.

Candi stays at home while her husband James works in computer aided design.

They found out they qualified for government assistance when their second child was born.

"Six years we've had WIC assistance, and it's a life-saver," says Boyne. She says they pay their taxes, are honest in their dealings, and need the help.

"For us, it's point blank, without the assistance that we get from the state even though my husband works and he works more than 40 hours a week, it's still just doesn't necessarily cut it all the time."

James makes around $15 an hour. The family qualifies for $70 a month from WIC and a little more than $400 a month from the Bridge Card.

Candi says she's able to pay for all their food with the assistance.

NBC25 discovered another family of five (mom, dad, and three kids) that meet several other qualifications. They receive around $700 a month for food and say they can't spend that much.

However, whatever money isn't used through food stamps is banked to be used later.

Some say, that's too much and that assistance is supposed to help supplement, not pay for everything and then some.

In MidMichigan, Genesee County (111,851) has the most residents on food assistance. It's 4th in the state. It's followed by Saginaw County (47,784), Bay County (20,284), Midland County (11,577), and Tuscola County (10,283).

Michigan's Department of Human Services says assistance programs are not a waste of money, but rather good for farmers, distributors, grocery stores, and jobs. It's website says, "Just this one program could put an estimated $16-million in additional direct food dollars into Michigan communities each month and nearly $200-million into communities each year."

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says every $5 in food benefits generates about $9.20 in economic activity in communities.

Candi says, she had to swallow her pride before applying for assistance, but that her children are worth it.

She has this message for those quick to judge. "Put yourself in their shoes. What would you do if your family lost their job or had to take a pay decrease and you didn't make enough to feed your family?"

NBC25 asked the Department of Human Services who sets the amount of money people get in assistance. DHS says it's set federally, but they do not know who is responsible for setting those amounts.