ONTD Political

New Asset Test For Pa. Food Stamps Set To Begin

7:22 pm - 05/02/2012
Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania Public Welfare Department will start asking food stamp recipients next week to prove they don't have significant personal assets in order to qualify for benefits.

Advocates for the poor say the new policy will be expensive to administer and hurt families for whom the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program can be a lifeline. It goes into effect Tuesday, but it will be about six months before the department knows how many have lost benefits.

"The majority who will lose benefits — the significant majority — are seniors and people with disabilities," Julie Zaebst, policy center manager for the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, said Friday. "In our experience, many of those folks are saving for medical expenses and funeral expenses."

The asset test is designed to prevent food stamps from going to anyone under age 60 with certain assets worth more than $5,500. The threshold climbs to $9,000 for those 60 and older. The rules pertain to cash, stocks and bonds, but not to pension plans, retirement accounts, home values or life insurance.

About 1.8 million Pennsylvanians in 880,000 households currently receive food stamps, and Public Welfare spokeswoman Carey Miller said the new rules are projected to affect less than 1 percent of them. The average recipient gets $35 a week in food stamps, and the maximum monthly benefits for a family of four is $668.

"A way for us to ensure that individuals who have readily available resources will first deplete that before relying solely on public assistance," Miller said. "This is our way of trying to preserve the benefit for those who have no additional means or resources."

Miller said agency employees were sent a memo outlining the policy and their duties, but the transition was expected to be aided by the fact that many recipients already get other benefits for which there was already an asset test in place.

"At this time, the welfare offices are significantly understaffed and burdened by paperwork," Zaebst said. "So we definitely have concerns about anything that would add red tape."

Officials have said about 4,000 families will be affected.

Zaebst noted the money was coming from the federal government, so cutting people off the rolls will not help the state's budget picture.

"So that money's going to essentially sit in D.C. rather than flowing into the Commonwealth once this policy goes into effect," Zaebst said.

The gross monthly income limit for a family of four to qualify is $2,890, or $3,726 for households that include elderly or disabled people.


I wasn't sure what other tags to put.

Don't you just love how you have to be completely flat broke before the commonwealth will deign to even consider helping you? And by love, I mean seething hatred.

tsaraven 3rd-May-2012 01:16 am (UTC)
When I applied for SNAP in NC the limit was $3000 (not counting cars and home). We had to time our application for one month before we got our tax refund that year, which would have disqualified us. I'm sure people would say, 'So use that money for food!' like we weren't poor enough to be desperately awaiting that money to get new tires for the car so it could pass inspection, clothes, and other important stuff done too. Right now we are living off of unemployment, but the Pell Grant money my spouse is getting every 6 months will disqualify us by having too much in checking at once (also, you have to reapply for NC SNAP every 6 months and give them 2-3 months worth of your checking/savings statements). :/

I really don't know why they are so stingy anyway. When we got them for 6 months, we were a family of 3 living on $21,000 a year and they only gave us $106 a month. My spouse got a 50 cents an hour raise at work and we no longer qualified at the 6 month point, ha.
vvalkyri 3rd-May-2012 09:06 am (UTC)
Re the Pell grant money, is there any way to get them to send it to the school so it doesn't show in checking? That really sucks.

(I know little about Pell Grants, but
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Re the Pell grant money, is there any way to get them to send it to the school so it doesn't show in checking? That really sucks.

(I know little about Pell Grants, but <a href="Students may use their grants at any one of approximately 5,400 participating postsecondary institutions."</a> seems to imply it's not supposed to be living money anyway.)
tsaraven 3rd-May-2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
The part of it left over from tuition and books is supposed to help with living expenses (and school expenses that pop up over the length of a course like "surprise you have to buy this!" moments) and we are supposed to keep it. Because of the special unemployment program my spouse is in, the school actually did get the money to begin with (it's sent straight to them), used it to pay for his tuition, and then refunded us the rest about a month later. It's under $3000 left, but that combined with the $700-1000 we might have in our checking at any given time to pay bills with will put us over the limit.

One of the other annoying things about food stamps is that they only count certain bills. They don't count credit card payments as a monthly expense, so while we had to say we had X number of dollars in the bank, we weren't allowed to submit that the money was going towards credit cards (that we had used to buy FOOD with of course) so to them we did have "extra" money in the bank. Only our mortgage, phone, power and car bills counted to subtract from the money we actually have on hand monthly. Now that we don't have income from a job, that Pell grant help is essential to helping us stay afloat and out of bankruptcy by paying the minimum payments...of course it's all extra spending money to them.
vvalkyri 3rd-May-2012 04:42 pm (UTC)
oy :(
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