US

Michigan’s Welfare Program Helpfully Offers Phone Assistance, All Forms IN ARABIC

The toll-free customer service telephone number for Michigan’s welfare payments system offers complete assistance in Arabic for welfare recipients.

The language is the third option on the Michigan electronic benefit transfer (EBT) customer service phone tree — behind English and Spanish.

The phone number to reach customer service for Michigan’s welfare programs is 888-678-8914. (Press “three” for Arabic, it says — in Arabic.)

The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services runs the program, which provides magnetically encoded debit cards and cash assistance for welfare recipients.

The webpage for Michigan’s food assistance program features a link to forms and publications available in Arabic, including the state’s official welfare application (DHS-1171) .

A few other documents, such as one entitled “How do I Apply for Food Assistance Benefits in Michigan,” are also available in the language spoken mainly in the Middle East and North Africa.

Michigan Department of Health & Human Services representative Bob Wheaton told The Daily Caller that the state provides telephonic and written welfare assistance information in Arabic because federal law requires it. States must provide such information in a language whenever its populations of speakers who are eligible for welfare reaches a certain threshold.

“All three languages have been options since we initiated those lines in 2001,” Wheaton said.

Thus, Michigan has been home to a critical mass of poor Arabic speakers for at least 15 years.

As of 2013, the state of Michigan employed 45 Arabic speakers to assist Arabic-speaking welfare recipients.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 9.1 percent of the residents of Michigan speak a language other than English at home.

Dearborn, Mich., home to a popular religious leader for Western recruits to the Islamic State, is about 40 percent Muslim by population. The Detroit suburb of Hamtramck recently elected a majority Muslim city council.

According to the Center for Public Education, 22.5 percent of Michigan’s K-12 students with limited English proficiency speak Arabic. The language is the second-most common among students who cannot speak English. Chaldean, a language spoken in parts of Iraq, Iran and Turkey, is third-most common among Michigan students at 5 percent. (Spanish is most common at 44.8 percent.)

Arabic is also the second-most commonly spoken language among students who don’t speak English in both Ohio and West Virginia. (Ohio and West Virginia only offer Spanish as an alternate language on their toll-free phone lines, though.)

Illinois, New York and California offer Arabic welfare assistance forms online.

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