HARRISBURG, May 1, 2012 — State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, along with her Democratic colleagues in the Senate and House, today denounced the reinstatement of an asset test on Pennsylvania’s 1.8 million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.
Under the Corbett administration’s plan, starting today any SNAP recipient under the age of 60 who has more than $5,500 in savings and assets, including cash, stocks, bonds and money in checking and savings accounts, no longer qualifies. Individuals who are over 60 or disabled who have $9,000 in savings and assets no longer qualify.
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“This is a sad day for Pennsylvania because the Corbett administration has targeted struggling individuals, including children and the elderly for no good reason,” said Kitchen (D-Phila.), the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. “The Department of Public Welfare has not produced any proof that this asset test will save the state any money, and Pennsylvania has a nearly non-existent SNAP fraud rate.”
The error rate on SNAP recipients is under 4 percent, which is in line with the national error rate, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“This asset test is unmoral and it’s a continuation of policies that do not respect the citizens that this administration is supposed to serve,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Phila./Montgomery). “An asset test will not save the state any money because it’s a federal program. In addition, Pennsylvania has one of the lowest food stamp fraud rates in the nation. It’s a solution in search of a problem.”
Nationally, more than a quarter of SNAP participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Statewide, more than 146,600 households have at least one person 60 or older receiving SNAP, and in Philadelphia, 36,700 households with at least one person 60 or older receiving SNAP.
“It is unconscionable for Pennsylvania to require an asset test for our older citizens who are already struggling to cover the increasing costs for medications, utilities, groceries, and transportation,” said state Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Phila./Montgomery). “Any asset test will further discourage them from applying for assistance to purchase the foods they need to maintain adequate nutrition and good health throughout their twilight years.”
“The SNAP program provides nutrition — a fundamental need for our most vulnerable citizens,” said state Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna). “We should not be implementing a policy that entices people to choose between nutrition and saving a little money because for many, that savings is the only insurance they have in the event of a crisis.”
Pennsylvania utilized an asset test until 2008, when the Rendell Administration ended it citing both the recession as well as its disproportionate effects on senior citizens. Nationwide, 35 other states do not have an asset test on SNAP recipients.
“This is nothing more than another attempt by the administration to score political points,” said state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Phila.). “We must not place further burden on the backs of people who are already hurting and can’t protect themselves.”
“The administration must be held accountable for reinstating a test with no proof that it will save the state any money or reduce a fraud rate that is already miniscule,” said state Sen. Mike Stack (D-Phila.). “This test has been implemented in a spirit of meanness by an administration that simply does not care about struggling men, women and families.”