Rendell joins opposition to asset test for food stamps

    Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and a group of State House Democrats say putting food stamp recipients through an asset test would be a “bureaucratic nightmare.”

    The state Department of Public Welfare has proposed checking the assets of food stamps recipients to make sure the benefits aren’t going to people with more than a few thousand dollars in the bank and second cars or similar assets.

    Rendell, who says checking the incomes of food stamp recipients is plenty, said going through assets would involve the state in untold administrative rigmarole.

    “The banks would require, probably, a written letter so that they’re not violating some confidentiality act, or some federal act,” Rendell said. “You’d have to get the money, tally it up. They’d have to find out about the cars, they’d have to blue-book the cars, and for (Kelley) Blue Book you have to know make, year, and condition.

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    “I don’t know how you do that,” he said Wednesday. “It would be brutal.”

    Not true, countered a spokeswoman for the public welfare department.

    She says the agency already has asset information on many existing clients enrolled in other programs, and extending the asset test to the food stamps program wouldn’t be a big undertaking.

    Rep. Mike Gerber, D-Montgomery, said asset-testing food stamps applicants could cause some people to go hungry and be malnourished, putting greater strain on the state’s health-care system.

    “The fact is, folks, that if one wants to look beyond the human cost, if one isn’t feeling compassionate the day they may implement this program, they certainly should be looking at the economic impact of the program and realizing it just doesn’t make sense,” Gerber said.

    The test would withhold federal food assistance benefits for seniors or the disabled with more than $3,200 in savings or similar assets.

    For all other households, the upper limit would be $2,000 in assets.

    Rendell said the asset test is a solution in search of a problem.

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