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Pa. Raising Food Stamps Asset Limits

Friday, 03 February 2012 08:55 AM

Pennsylvania officials have raised asset limits for people who receive food stamps, but some critics still complain that recipients should not return to having to go through asset tests at all. Pennsylvania has not has an assets test for food stamps since 2008, when then-Gov. Ed Rendell eliminated it because of the declining economy, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
At that time, the assets limit was $2,000, and late last year, Pennsylvania officials proposed a return to the limits that were abandoned back in 2008. State Secretary of Public Welfare Gary Alexander said instead, after reconsideration, the state will increase the originally proposed limit on assets from $2,000 to $5,500 for “able-bodied” households.
The new limits will go into effect on May 1. The state will not count a recipient’s home, primary vehicle, pension or educational savings in the asset limit test, and a second vehicle is exempt if it is worth less than $4,600.
"We need to be able to preserve this program for the neediest," Alexander said.
The department outlined its plan for asset tests to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in December. SNAP benefits, which subsidize food purchases, serve about 1.8 billion in Pennsylvania. The maximum monthly amount of food stamps for a family of four is $668 a month.
Alexander said the state Welfare Department and Gov. Tom Corbett decided to raise asset limits on their own, not because of a federal request. The new limits better reflect the rate of inflation, said Alexander.
The program’s critics, though, say the state shouldn’t return to the asset test at all, because of the impact it could have on families and the cost of checking people’s accounts.
The limit “is certainly better than where it was at $2,000, but the question I have is, why all of a sudden we have to do it to begin with?” said Democratic state Rep. Dan Frankel. “The cost to administer the asset test, in my view, is likely to cost more than there are opportunities to save money.”
Democratic state Rep. Jake Wheatley also disagrees with testing food stamp recipients’ assets, saying “it's a backwards policy that most other states ... have already understood that in a time like this, when ... many of our citizens make do with the best they can, that to do something like this is crazy.”
Thirty-five other states don’t have assets tests, with some leaders, like Rendell, ending them during the recession. Meanwhile, four other states have raised the minimum allowable assets to $5,000 or more.

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