They tried the easy way, and it was crickets from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

Now, after weeks with no response from Whitmer’s Office of Global Michigan, Republicans in the state House of Representatives want Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler to do it the hard way.

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“We are writing to formally request an audit of the Office of Global Michigan’s newcomer rental subsidy program,” Republican House Leader Matt Hall and Rep. Jamie Thompson wrote in a letter to Ringler on Thursday. “This is a program that aids individuals such as refugees and asylees who are new to our state, and ensuring its efficacy and integrity is of the utmost importance.”

Whitmer’s newcomer program to provide immigrants with $500 per month in taxpayer-funded housing subsidies has faced questions from Republicans about lax eligibility requirements and loopholes that have so far gone unanswered.

The letter to Ringler followed a week after Hall and Housing Subcommittee Republican Vice Chair Joe Aragona highlighted concerns about the program funded by the state’s Housing and Community Development Fund. The duo, who initially requested information on the program on March 27, noted last week Office of Global Michigan Director Poppy Sias-Hernandez promised answers to their inquiries by April 1, but that never happened.

The newcomer program, created last year, allows those with pending asylum applications to apply for the subsidies, including defensive asylum applications. Republicans have pointed out those defensive claims constituted 97% of all asylum claims in fiscal year 2023, and have raised concerns about who is receiving the subsidies and whether they qualify.

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“Gretchen Whitmer’s rent subsidy program makes handouts available to illegal aliens who were caught in the country and then claimed asylum to avoid deportation,” Hall, of Richland Township, said last week. “They could get a year of taxpayer-funded housing – an incentive to stay in the country and in Michigan after making a frivolous asylum claim. Michiganders shouldn’t have their dollars taken to reward those who broke our immigration laws.”

Other concerns raised by Republicans center on eligibility and employment criteria, and loopholes available to avoid them. They’ve noted available exemptions for required full-time work that allows applicants to opt out by citing short-term or long-term incapacity. Another exemption allows applicants to forgo the program’s income verification requirement by citing “cash payments” as a valid reason for not providing documentation. Still other concerns revolved around how the program verifies identification and immigration status.

“On its face, this appears to be a wide-open door for people who are in the country illegally completely bypassing the verification to access the limited funds,” Republicans wrote in a letter to Sias-Hernandez.

The Thursday audit request asks Ringler to focus in on five specific areas of the program that align with information previously requested from Sias-Hernandez: how the program is verifying identification and immigration status; the timing and sufficiency of eligibility evaluations; terminations of benefits for those ineligible; how the program verifies employment; and how the program aligns with federal funding requirements.

“It is essential that we uphold transparency and accountability in the administration of public funds, especially in programs designed to support vulnerable populations,” Hall and Thompson wrote to Ringler. “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.”

Republican lawmakers previously noted Democrats approved legislation last year to automatically deposit $50 million in annual tax revenues into the fund that feeds the program every year.

Questions about the newcomer program arise as numerous crimes committed by illegal immigrants make headlines across the state, from two murders in Kent County in just the last year, to others arrested for soliciting sex from minors in Shiawassee County.

“Joe Biden refuses to secure the border and faithfully execute our laws. Gretchen Whitmer is offering taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens who got caught after entering our country,” Hall said. “These politicians must stop aiding and abetting illegal aliens and get serious about securing our border and keeping people safe.”

The audit request follows a 2024-25 budget proposed by Whitmer that would slash funding by 28% for Ringler’s office, which has repeatedly exposed mismanagement in her administration.

Last month, a performance audit from the Office of the Auditor General found Whitmer’s Liquor Control Commission cost taxpayers nearly $1 million when it lost track of more than 62,000 bottles of state owned liquor – about 20% of the commission’s inventory value.

Another OAG report from December showed the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency make $245.1 million in potentially improper payments during and after the pandemic to folks who were dead, behind bars, or did not qualify, including UIA employees, according to The Detroit News.