Critics Urge Administration to Reconsider Planned Food Stamp Asset Test

The Rendell administration did away with the state’s food stamp asset test in 2008.  Four years later, Governor Tom Corbett says restoring it would ensure food stamp dollars are used for those who truly need them.  “I think it’s incumbent if you are to get money from the government, than you should demonstrate your need for that,” Corbett said on Radio PA’s Ask the Governor program.

“I believe it’s incumbent for the people of Pennsylvania – those who are on welfare and those who are not on welfare – that we test for eligibility to make sure only those people who are eligible under the guidelines are entitled to get that.”

But an asset test would send the wrong message, according to Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center Interim Executive Director Laura Tobin Goddard.  “We know that having small savings, encouraging people to save, does help them to become self sufficient,” she says.

The proposed asset threshold for non-senior households would be $2,000.  Homes, retirement savings and first vehicles would be exempt.  Second vehicles would be exempt up to a value of $4,650.  Governor Corbett says there’s room for discussion about the thresholds, but their proposal simply returns to the asset test numbers that were in place in 2008.

The final decision rests with the US Department of Agriculture, which can either approve or reject the Department of Public Welfare’s request.  State House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) has already written Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him to deny the administration’s request.

In part, that letter reads: “Despite the Corbett Administration’s assertions that reinstating the asset test will aid in Pennsylvania’s effort to root out “fraud, waste and abuse,” the fact is that few such problems exist with SNAP in Pennsylvania.  In fact, statistics show that Pennsylvania’s fraud rate in the program is among the lowest in the nation – a mere one-tenth of one percent.”

In a separate letter to Governor Corbett, Dermody urges him to reconsider the “ill-conceived” proposal.