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Food Stamps


Last Wednesday, an announcement came that the asset limits in Pennsylvania for the food stamp program were being lowered. A total of 4,000 households are expected to lose food stamps under the revised proposal by the state Department of Public Welfare. The plan has gotten immense criticism from Democrats, which has created the urgency to lower the asset limits before these families lose their aid.


Older and disabled citizens with more than $9,000 in assets would no longer be able to qualify for food stamps under the plan that was submitted Wednesday to federal officials. Those who were under 60 would be disqualified if they had more than $5,500 in assets. The asset test is for savings and checking accounts, cash, stocks, bonds and additional vehicles. These are where the limits are drawn for families across America and decide how much a family will be eligible to receive.


The new asset test would exclude a person’s home, surrounding land, household goods, burial plots, life insurance and pension plans and a primary vehicle, among other various smaller assets. The Corbett administration initially proposed a limit of $2,000 for a household and $3,250 for a household with an elderly or disabled inhabitant. However, the state agreed that the asset limits should be raised to account for inflation and cost of living.


The asset test was dropped in 2008 would take effect on May 1st. Under the new guidelines, the state DPW estimates that 1.448 households of people younger than 60 and 2,575 households with disabled persons, in addition to elderly residents, will be at a loss. There are 1.8 million households that receive food stamps in Pennsylvania.


This decision has been a long time in coming. Last year, there was talk of bringing back the asset test. Last December, the administration notified federal officials that it planned to reinstate the asset test at the levels effective in 2008, a limit of $2,000 for a household and $3,250 for a household with an elderly or disabled person.


While Democrats have advocated for the poor, the asset test has continued to be a source of concern. Not only will it remove necessary aid but it will require over 1 million of working hours to check all households for assets, something that the state’s resources simply can’t afford. Ken Regal, co-director of Just Harvest, a Pittsburgh organization for the poor and hungry in Allegheny County, said that the proposal simply places poor people at odds with their government, stating that “What the asset test fundamentally says to poor people is unless you’re risking destitution, we don’t believe you really need help.”


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