The Corbett administration’s new policy on food stamps is misguided.
The policy, which went into effect May 1, places limits on the amount of assets families can maintain if they want to qualify for food stamps.
Under the new rules, households with people under age 60 are limited to $5,500 in cash or certain other assets. Those who are disabled, or 60 or older, are capped at $9,000.
The Corbett administration says it wants to restrict food stamps to those who truly need help and to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse in the program.
That sounds good.
After all, who can be against helping the truly needy? Who would oppose eliminating waste, fraud and abuse?
However that is not what the new policy will do.
The new restrictions are unnecessary and could hurt thousands of Pennsylvania residents.
There is no evidence of any significant abuse of food stamps in Pennsylvania, according to federal officials that oversee the program.
Similar to the state’s new photo identification laws, the state’s Republican governor and his fellow GOP legislators have manufactured a crisis that does not exist as an excuse to impose their conservative agenda.
Also, the new rules send a terrible message to poor and low-income people: Don’t save any money or build any assets or you will lose your benefits.
The policy could have the unintended consequences of trapping more people in poverty.
The administration’s new policy comes at a time when many Pennsylvanians, like many other Americans, are struggling to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of people on food stamps in Pennsylvania and across the nation because of need, not because of some onslaught of people seeking to get over on the system.
The new policy will also create new red tape and costs to the state as understaffed and overworked country assistance offices seek to enforce the asset test.
Many of those who now apply for food stamps—now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—are already subject to an asset test for other welfare benefits.
Pennsylvania will join only 13 other states that have asset tests. Most states are moving away from asset tests on food stamps.
Pennsylvania has moved backward.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)