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Whitmer signs bill repealing state food stamp asset test

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(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed Senate Bill 35, which eliminates the state asset test to determine eligibility for food stamps.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said state and federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program asset tests are duplicative and change depending on the governor. For example, former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder set the asset test at $5,000, but in 2019, Whitmer boosted that limit to $15,000.

That means a family can have up to $15,000 in assets in a savings account and still be eligible for assistance. Whitmer’s changes removed vehicles from the asset check. About 36 states have removed asset tests altogether for SNAP.

“Before this bill, Michiganders with more than $15,000 in assets- including the value of their vehicle and savings- would not qualify for food assistance,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This forced people who might have been laid off or just need a little breathing room to make impossible choices to quality [sic] for SNAP. Food benefits must be accessible for Michiganders who need them without illogical tradeoffs. I am proud to get this done and grateful for all the organizations, advocates, and legislators—including Senator Irwin—who fought hard to make it happen.”

The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency says the bill would likely have no fiscal impact because the federal government funds the program. Currently, eligibility determinations are driven by an income-based assessment

Irwin welcomed the bill signing.

“I’m glad that we will use national eligibility standards rather than spending state taxpayers’ money to block residents from the help they need to feed themselves and their families,” Irwin said in a statement. “Our safety net works better if it can catch people before they hit the ground; now families who face financial difficulties won’t be required to deplete all their savings and risk losing everything before they can get food assistance.”

Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Monique Stanton says the change will cut red tape for the more than 700,000 Michigan households receiving food stamps and for government workers.

“Plus, the move will help stimulate local economies by ensuring families have enough money to buy food at their local grocers,” Stanton said in a statement.

House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, said Snyder enacted the state asset test after a man continued to receive food stamps after winning $2 million in the lottery.

“Michiganders are always ready to support people who need temporary help to get back up on their feet, but Democrats are turning the food assistance program on its head,” Hall said in a statement. “Without this test measuring people’s wealth, even lottery winners and other millionaires could rake in food stamps paid for with our tax dollars that should be going to those who truly need help feeding their families. Offering food stamps to the rich does nothing to put food on the tables of Michiganders in need.”

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