Hitting rock bottom before you can eat– PA adds further restrictions on food stamps

12 Jan

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare announced this week that as of May 1, it will apply an “asset test” in determining eligibility for food stamps.  Eligibility for food stamps is currently based on (1) household income, (2) the number of people in the household, and (3) the applicant’s location. 

The new asset test will disqualify applicants under 60 who have more than $2000 in savings and other assets, and for applicants over 60 the asset bar is raised to $3250.  The applicant’s home residence does not count toward the asset test, nor does the applicant’s first vehicle, but any second vehicle worth more than $4650 will count toward the asset calculation.

Although the internet is glutted with anecdata over welfare queens on their taxpayer-funded gilded thrones, sucking down food stamp purchased lobster, the food stamp fraud rate in Pennsylvania is actually quite low.  Food stamp fraud draws ire, but it’s a mosquito bite, not a stab to the jugular.

I’m most troubled by the idea Pennsylvanians are ok with demanding people sell off their life’s assets–and completely hit rock bottom– before they can eat.  $2000 is an incredibly low number, and we’re talking about assistance for securing the most basic of life’s necessities.    Food banks are already suffering from dramatically increased demand and decreased giving.  This will only add to the demand that they are already struggling to service.

Pennsylvania already has controls in place for food stamp fraud.  When it comes down to it, even horrible, defrauding, terrible people still have to eat.  As money has grown tighter through the recession, the public has seemed quick to draw lines over who “deserves” what.  This line should not be drawn for food.

Although I can’t arm-twist the DPW into changing their mind, I will do my part by donating food and money to local food banks and organizations focused on fighting hunger.  I encourage you, too, to consider donating to one of these organizations:

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank

The Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry

Attorneys Against Hunger

Just Harvest (an advocacy group for hunger related issues)

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