States have moved away from requiring strict assets to qualify for food stamps. However, recently states have been resuming old practices and requiring asset limits to determine who can receive aid. Last year, Michigan made it harder for thousands of food stamp participants to be eligible for food stamps. The new limits placed restrictions on what people could own. Pennsylvania also recently changed its asset test to make it harder to receive aid, placing new restrictions on those who currently receive government help.
The new restrictions are supposed to decide who is truly needy and also started after budget cuts left the states strapped for cash. There are also thousands of new participants in federal programs due to the unemployment across the country and recent downfall of the economy. State leaders suggest that the limitations are to protect citizens and provide more assistance to families who really have nothing.
”We’re asking tough things, but we had a huge budget deficit and we had to work through that,” Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder stated. “We always try to help the people in the greatest need.”
However, the new restrictions have left burdens on many families that fall between the cracks, such as Renee Moore, who owned a 2010 Buick Enclave that was too much to get by the new limits in Michigan. With less than $1,000 in the bank and a Ford Explorer with 300,000 miles, the Buick Enclave is the family’s only valuable car. Her Buick Enclave cost the family two months without food stamps.
Advocates for poor families have fought the limits in both states, and while the limits have been changed to accommodate more assets, they are still harsh and threaten thousands of families to be at a loss for any aid that would greatly benefit them. In Michigan, families like the Moores were stuck in the lull as lawmakers decided how much was too much to own.
The limits were just changed this past fall. Originally, recipients were not allowed to have more than $5,000 in the bank or own cars that were worth more than $15,000. That’s when Moore, her husband and her children lost the $419 in monthly food assistance because of the Buick Enclave that they inherited from Renee’s mother, who had died.
Moore is in college, currently pursuing an associate’s degree and internship to get a job. Her husband Is working in the construction industry but has seen fewer and fewer jobs. The loss of assistance for several months just created an even bigger problem. Moore says that she doesn’t want the government’s help and that she is trying to get her own job, but right now it is the only way that the family survives.
Michigan has decided to let families exclude one vehicle and apply for food stamps as long as their second vehicle is also not worth more than $15,000 and they don’t have more than $5,000 in assets. The Moores along with about 1,500 households were able to qualify again for aid after the guideline was alleviated.
The new regulations in Pennsylvania will take effect May 1st, which means that households will not be able to have more than $5,000 in eligible assets, which includes checking and saving accounts and cash on hand, boats or planes. One car and a home are excluded, as are life insurance policies and pension plans, family savings accounts and personal property.
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