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Michigan removes means test for food stamps

Lottery winners once again eligible for SNAP benefits. They’ve taken advantage before.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a law that removes Michigan’s means test for food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Senate Bill 35 passed in identical forms in both the House and the Senate, then was signed into law by the governor. It’s now known as Public Act 53 of 2023.

Read it for yourself: Senate Bill 35

The means test had been the law in Michigan for a decade, since Gov. Rick Snyder signed a welfare reform package in April 2012. It owed to media reports of literal Lotto winners who continued to receive food assistance.

As MLive reported at the time:

The legislation was introduced in light of news that a Bay County man continued to receive food assistance after winning $2 million in the "Make Me Rich!" Lottery game in 2010. Last month, a $1 million jackpot winner was found to be on food stamps, but was later kicked off the program once officials learned of her situation.

The Michigan Department of Human Services started an asset test last fall that requires food stamp recipients to have no more than $5,000 in assets.

That was 2012. The numbers have since changed; the test is now $15,000. A Senate Fiscal Agency analysis explained the current rules:

Currently, Michigan FAP applicants are required to meet Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program requirements and are subject to a $15,000 asset check to receive the Program benefits. Some claim that the asset test requires households that need food assistance but are over the asset limit to deplete their savings to qualify for benefits and it has been suggested that the asset test requirement be removed.

Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, leads the House Republicans. Hall said the problem is not with food assistance in general, but giving help meant for the needy to people who might not need it.

“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.”

The House Fiscal Agency analysis claims “the bill would likely have no fiscal impact,” despite its opening wide the door of eligibility.

“Currently, eligibility determinations are driven by the income-based assessment,” the fiscal agency writes, “and the elimination of the asset test would likely only have a nominal impact.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.