Pennsylvania’s Governor Corbett recently announced plans to implement an asset test requirement for the state’s food stamp recipients. Beginning in May of 2012, people will need to prove that their assets (including savings' accounts and second cars) are below $5,500 ($9,000 for seniors) in order to receive food stamp benefits.
This unfair policy will result in more than 4,000 families losing their food stamp benefits and likely create longer delays for people who desperately need food stamps.
Implementing asset tests taxes an already overburdened system. Many food stamp recipients already wait upwards of 30 days to receive their benefits--adding an asset test will likely increase that waiting period, forcing families to go without the foods they desperately need. Many people also maintain a savings account in order to pay taxes, property fees and medical bills. This policy will force residents to choose between staying financially afloat and feeding their families. Plus, applying for food stamps is already a difficult system to navigate--an asset test will only make it more confusing. For every household the Governor considers too "wealthy" to receive food stamps under this rule, more than 200 other food-stamp households will face a new burden to prove just how poor they are.
I understand just how bad asset tests are--I’m a food stamp recipient myself. I’m an 87-year-old Torresdale resident and former business owner, and I applied for food stamps for the first time last September. For the past 25 years, I’ve been living on my $1,000-a-month Social Security check. Living on this meager income was extremely difficult, and I could not afford to buy items like fresh fruits and vegetables. Oftentimes, I went hungry because I couldn’t afford to eat. I even fell seven or eight times last year, which my doctor thinks could be the result of malnutrition.
There are many other people in Pennsylvania just like me who need food stamps to survive. Implementing an asset test will make it harder for hungry families to receive the food they need.
What’s worse is that asset tests aren’t cost-effective, and Pennsylvania doesn’t need them. The state has an extremely low rate of food stamp fraud at only one-tenth of one percent. As U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently noted, implementing these asset tests will cost more state money than it saves, forcing Pennsylvania to spend taxpayer dollars when we simply can't afford it.
Asset tests don’t make sense for anyone. Please join me in urging Governor Corbett and the Department of Public Welfare to halt the planned asset tests immediately.
To learn more about Ms. Boss and PA's proposed asset tests, check out this NBC story here.