Hughes, Kitchen and Cohen protest the reinstatement of food stamp asset tests

Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare estimated that 36,000 of the 1.8 million Pennsylvanians who receive food stamp assistance will lose their benefits on May 1, when a statewide asset test is reinstated.

This includes anyone receiving assistance through the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

In response, State Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Pa.) joined State Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D-Phila.), Congressman Bob Brady (D-Pa.) and State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Phila./Montgomery) to protest the state’s proposal at the SHARE Food Program’s headquarters on W. Hunting Park Avenue on Thursday morning.

Under the proposal, those under the age of 60 who have more than $2,000 in savings and assets would be disqualified. A limit of $3,250 would be set for people over the age of 60.

The asset test affects two percent of those enrolled in SNAP but the requirement would make it difficult for those living in poverty to break the cycle, said Rep. Cohen. He added that placing heavy restrictions on SNAP increases the state’s cost to support those people, since the program is federally funded.

In a letter to Gov. Corbett, Rep. Brady said, “The proposed asset test will hurt low income families, increase administrative burden on state workers and deprive local businesses of revenue.”

“The impact of this proposed asset test will be both devastating and counterproductive,” he added.

“We need to take a look at welfare as a whole,” said Jay Ostrich, Director of Public Affairs at the conservative Harrisburg-based think tank Commonwealth Foundation. “If Representative Cohen and others who are concerned about the state budget want its dollars going to the truly needy, then both sides need to identify this in a bipartisan manner.”

Thirty-five states have eliminated asset tests, but Governor Tom Corbett said he hoped to bring the requirement back in Pennsylvania to decrease SNAP enrollment and eliminate fraud.

“If people are ineligible for food stamps, that means they’re gonna be eligible for state programs, which state taxpayers pay for,” Cohen said. “It makes no fiscal sense, whatsoever, for the state to be using its power over the food stamp program to cut the federally paid benefits.”

Pennsylvania implemented an asset test for food stamp applicants until 2008.

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