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Pennsylvania Makes It Easier To Collect Food Stamps

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Tuesday that it will end a program designed to limit food stamps based on how much assets a person owns.

Known as the “asset test,” it was was signed into law in 2012 by then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, to cut down on fraud and waste by tying federal food stamp benefits, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to the amount of assets a person owns. Now, following through with a campaign promise by current Gov. Tom Wolf, the state will end the test starting Apr. 27.

Those opposed to the test have argued it creates a barrier for those struggling with hard times because it penalized the poor for saving money, and it has also created unnecessary administrative costs for the state. Eleven other states have instituted similar tests.

“The elimination of the SNAP asset test will save millions in state funds and better protects Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable,” a press release from the department said.

Currently 1.83 million residents of the state receive food stamps, according to the DHS. Despite claims that the program is limiting access for those in need, according to The Coalition Against Hunger, slightly more residents received assistance from 2013, a year after the asset test was instituted, to 2014. Additionally, from 2007 to 2014, the amount of residents receiving food stamps went up by 55.4 percent.

“The anticipated state savings from eliminating the asset test are $3.5 million annually,” the press release continued. “This will also remove unnecessary administrative burdens and costs to the commonwealth, as well as increased errors that could potentially result in federal sanctions for the state.”

State House Majority Leader Dave Reed, a Republican, however argues getting rid of the test completely as opposed to adjusting it is simply a bad move.

“But certainly I think a lot of our members, including myself, believe, you know, if somebody’s sitting on a hundred, two hundred, three hundred thousand dollars worth of assets, there’s a real question out there whether they should be eligible for food stamps,” Reed told the local CBS affiliate.

Local advocates argue the move is great news and will help those that are truly struggling.

“This is great,” Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project HOME, told Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s such a critically needed and significant move that will really impact the lives of so many Pennsylvanians struggling to make it each and every day.”

Currently under the test, people 60 years and older and those with disabilities are disqualified to receive food stamps if they have more than $9,000, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For those younger than 60, the threshold is $5,500 in assets.

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