Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Gov. Grinch Warms Up? If Only

The Corbett Administration relents (a bit) on its much-maligned asset test. So why does it still feel like Harrisburg is at war with the poor?

Gov. Grinch Warms Up? If Only

Food for thought: Gov. Corbett reads the paper and listens to bloggers. And he really doesn't like being scolded by the ghosts of governors past. How else to explain the sudden thawing on one of his signature insults, the asset test for food stamps?

After publicly declaring war on the poor by suggesting anyone who'd managed to save a few bucks doesn't deserve help buying groceries, the Corbett administration relented, ever-so-slightly. This, after Mayor Nutter and federal officials ripped into the mean-spirited sanctions. And after former Gov. Ed Rendell broke longstanding tradition and marched back to the Capitol to tell his successor he looks like a creep.

(Why Corbett is so focused on food stamps remains somewhat of a mystery, since the program is funded with federal, not state, dollars. Officials and advocates for the poor have repeatedly pointed out that adding new hurdles will only cost the state money to oversee and administer.)

According to the Associated Press, those seeking and receiving food stamps can now have as much as $5,500 in the bank (as opposed to $2,000); households with an elderly or disabled family member could have a $9,000 safety net.

Below, the official press release:

HARRISBURG - The Department of Public Welfare has submitted its final plan to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to reinstate the asset test for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The final proposal sets the limits at $5,500 for households (age 59 and under) and $9,000 for households with older Pennsylvanians (age 60 and above) or disabled individuals. 

This final proposal reinforces the department’s efforts to provide the state's most vulnerable residents with the services they need while ensuring public dollars are spent wisely.

The final levels are above federal thresholds and adjusted for inflation, making them significantly higher than the asset-testing levels enforced by the previous administration. Pennsylvania last had an asset test in 2008, when the limits in place were $2,000 for a household and $3,250 for a household with an elderly or disabled individual. 

The SNAP program takes into account both income and assets when determining an individual or family’s eligibility. Certain assets are exempt from the measurement, including but not limited to one’s home, primary vehicle, educational savings accounts and pension plans. 

“Reinstating asset testing to the SNAP program is an important first step toward preserving limited taxpayer resources for the truly needy,” said DPW Secretary Gary D. Alexander. “The asset test ensures every public dollar we have goes directly to those who need it most."

Asset testing is a common practice for public assistance programs, in Pennsylvania and other states. Currently, Pennsylvania uses asset testing for TANF, General Assistance, and certain Medical Assistance programs and until 2008 asset testing was used for the SNAP program.    

“This is an important reform that ensures individuals use the personal resources available to them before accessing limited public funds and benefit programs financed by taxes,” said Alexander.

 

-- Monica Yant Kinney

About this blog
Blinq is a news commentary blog featuring contributions from Inquirer Metro columnists Karen Heller, Kevin Riordan and Daniel Rubin.

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