Michigan House Republicans
Rep. Thompson demands accountability for taxpayers as Whitmer’s “newcomer” program takes shape
RELEASE|April 15, 2024

State Rep. Jamie Thompson, of Brownstown, is seeking transparency and answers for taxpayers regarding a new subsidy program from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Thompson and Michigan House Republican Leader Matt Hall have asked the nonpartisan Office of the Auditor General (OAG) to review Whitmer’s Newcomer Rental Subsidy Program, which offers up to $500 in rent assistance per month to various immigrants, including people who entered the country illegally and filed defensive asylum claims to avoid deportation.

A letter sent to the OAG by Thompson and Hall requests an audit to examine eligibility determination and other processes within the program to see what safeguards are in place and whether the eligibility criteria exceeds federal requirements.

“It is essential that we uphold transparency and accountability in the administration of public funds, especially in programs designed to support vulnerable populations,” the letter states. “By conducting this audit, we can identify any potential areas for improvement and ensure that the Office of Global Michigan’s newcomer rental subsidy program is effectively serving its intended purpose.”

Thompson said that very little information has been made available regarding the program or what guardrails exist within it, creating the possibility for loopholes and an abuse of taxpayer dollars.

“Many people who will be funding this program with their tax dollars are struggling with their own budgets or their mortgage or rent payments. They deserve to know if this program is actually serving those most in need, or if people who knowingly broke our country’s immigration laws are getting support instead,” Thompson said. “We have also recently seen tragedies and crimes involving illegal aliens impacting neighborhoods and families throughout our state. We can’t afford to double down on bad policy that has led us to this point.”

The audit request seeks several key answers about eligibility requirements and the determination process, including:

  • Verification of immigration status and identity: The Newcomer Rental Subsidy program requires applicants to provide photo identification and proof of immigration status. The letter asks how the program is confirming that immigration and identification documents are valid. The ID options include an “alternate identification document” and any “government-issued identification document,” even as some local governments issue IDs for illegal immigrants.
  • Regular reevaluations: Recipients can participate for up to 12 months, and program documents indicate that it reevaluates household eligibility after three, six, and nine months. The letter asks whether the quarterly evaluations are taking place and if those evaluations are sufficient to determine if a recipient is still eligible.
  • Benefit termination: The letter asks whether the program is terminating benefits from recipients who are no longer eligible, whether because of a change in immigration status, residence, employment, or income. This is especially important in the problematic cases of defensive asylum seekers, who entered the country illegally and who may easily lose eligibility if their pending asylum application is denied or abandoned.
  • Employment program verification: Participants are required to work full time or participate in an employment program, although the program allows several broad exceptions. The letter seeks to examine if the program has a sufficient process in place to verify that someone is working, enrolled in an employment program, or meets a valid exemption.
  • Immigration eligibility requirements: Officials from the Office of Global Michigan have claimed to the press that the eligibility criteria — including the allowance for individuals with a pending defensive asylum application to receive benefits — are entirely based on federal requirements because the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is partially funding the program. However, the ORR’s website does not include the broad “individuals with a pending asylum application” criterion that the Whitmer administration does. The legislators are asking the auditor general to determine if the OGM’s eligibility options exceed what the federal government requires.

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